Forecast Looks Good for 2023

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Rapidly growing industry must overcome supply chain constraints.

The pharmaceutical industry registered $800 million in sales in 2020 and is forecast to grow at a 7.6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2026, according to Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Trends Shaping the Future, a whitepaper published in March 2022 by PMMI Business Intelligence, a division of PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

The pharmaceutical industry must keep pace with changing product formats and production preferences and overcome supply chain constraints. The shift toward higher-value injectables and customized runs for personalized medicine is driving the expanded use of contractors, while also pushing manufacturers toward more automated production lines (1).

The global pharmaceutical contract packaging is expected to grow at an even stronger pace than the industry overall with an 8.1% CAGR through 2027 to reach a value of $29.62 billion. These firms handle primary packaging and labeling and also provide secondary services, such as assembling and secondary packaging of vials, auto-injectors, and prefilled syringes. Forces driving usage of contract packaging service providers include a lack of in-house expertise and infrastructure and budget constraints. Contract packagers also can offer advantages such as the ability to accommodate multiple packaging formats, operate highly sophisticated facilities, and provide expert counsel regarding regulatory requirements (2).

Both contract packagers and in-house lines are moving toward higher levels of automation to address needs for higher throughput and offset labor shortages. This is translating into increased use of robotics, deployment of artificial intelligence, and implementation of turnkey systems (3).

According to the PMMI report, the most popular machine investment is in cartoning equipment, followed by bottling, palletizing, closing, filling/dosing, and labeling/decorating/coding systems. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical manufacturers want machines with features such as flexible/faster changeover, robotic control, and vision inspection. These organizations also want cleanability, easier maintenance, better preventative/predictive maintenance capabilities, and improved operator safety (3).

In addition, the pace of digitization is accelerating to meet regulatory requirements, particularly those related to the Drug Supply Chain Security Act and False Medicines Directive. Digitization also can help address cybersecurity concerns, achieve operational visibility, and support blockchain product tracking (3).


Another influence is the steady growth in the direct-to-consumer e-commerce channel, which is boosting the need for packaging safety, product integrity, and comprehensive labeling. Sustainability continues to receive attention. Consumers prefer sustainable products and packaging. To meet sustainability objectives, 67% of pharmaceutical manufacturers are lightweighting packaging, 53% are increasing post-consumer-recycled content, 47% are seeking more energy-efficient equipment, and 40% are changing packaging formats (3).

COVID-19 supply chain challenges have created shortages and delivery delays in packaging materials, raw materials, equipment, and parts. These delays and shortages have postponed both product launches and operational improvements. As a result, pharmaceutical manufacturers are seeking closer collaboration and cooperation with OEMs and suppliers of packaging and raw materials. To achieve this goal, pharmaceutical manufacturers want OEMs and suppliers to offer aftermarket service/support, integrate new machines, enhance equipment accuracy and reliability, simplify changeover, maximize machine flexibility, deliver parts quickly, and provide support for concept models to visualize equipment as well as for Installation Qualification and Operational Qualification (1).


1. PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, “Pharmaceutical Industry Increases Automation, Digitization,” Press Release, Aug. 15, 2022

2. Research and Markets, “Global Pharmaceutical Contract Packaging Market Report (2022 to 2027) - Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity, and Forecasts,” Press Release, June 7, 2022.

3. PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, “Pharmaceutical Manufacturing, the Future Ahead,” Infographic, Aug. 15, 2022.