Stepping Up Its Game

Pharma has stopped trying to steal second with its foot on first

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

All-Star season is in full swing here at Pharmaceutical Manufacturing. We’re excited to bring you what we think is a winning roster of technologies from the industry’s most respected and talented suppliers.

Personally, it’s my rookie season in terms of editing the All-Star Innovators issue. As a former Division 1 college ball player, there is nothing I love more than a good ballgame. I find it unfortunate that the sport of baseball gets such a bum rap. Critics (and even some players) lament that the game is slow, and the sport is overly straightlaced and full of antiquated “rules” of decorum.

I’m guessing the pharmaceutical industry can relate to this misconception. Critics repeatedly point out that the industry is historically risk-averse and slow to adopt new technologies. It is often said that the industry follows a precedence where facility designs and equipment gain regulatory acceptance and then all subsequent facilities play it safe and do the same — meaning no chances are taken, and positive change is hard to come by.

Without a doubt, this approach is being challenged as technology improves and drug manufacturers realize that operational excellence is the only path to take.

The 2016 Pharmaceutical Equipment Buying Trends from Nice Insight, clearly points to a huge jump in pharmaceutical equipment purchasing: a 69% increase in equipment budgets from 2013 to 2015. In fact, 21% of surveyed manufacturers have a budget of more than $100 million for equipment purchases!

What’s driving this increase? According to the survey, major drivers of the change include mergers and acquisitions resulting in capacity changes, the globalization of pharmaceutical supply chains, and changing pipelines requiring equipment innovation. As the pharma industry undergoes this significant shift, drug manufacturers are demanding faster, safer and more versatile equipment with new capabilities, and equipment manufacturers are stepping up to the plate. New technology is focused on delivering faster results, smaller footprints, more flexible designs and reduced maintenance

The All-Star Innovators the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing team has chosen for this year’s roster were introduced over the last 12 months. These players, through outstanding effort and resulting performance and other operational gains are being recognized for their technical innovation.

From monitoring systems that alert operators if a diaphragm in a seal assembly fails, to a fully functional, ready-to-run bioprocessing facility that can be delivered to your doorstep in as little as 14 months, to a capsule filler with an incredible output of 400,000 capsules per hour, this year’s suppliers are delivering the goods in a big way.

I’ve always loved it when major league players don the knee-high pants and stirrups that long defined the sport of baseball. Sometimes a little nod to nostalgia isn’t a bad thing. Pharma is starting to find the perfect balance — letting go of inefficient methods and integrating new techniques and technologies into processes that continue to stand the test of time. And it’s this balance that will bring about wins for the industry.

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