Improving manufacturing skills in a pandemic world

Nov. 6, 2020
E-learning has become an important part of the future of solid dose manufacturing

In today’s uncertain world, the upskilling of employees has never been more important. As businesses navigate through the stormy seas of the coronavirus and look for new ways of working productively, online learning has become an important part of the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing.

With an aging population and increased interest from developing countries, demand for pharmaceutical tablets is escalating. This in turn increases the competition to manufacture mass-produced tablets at speed. Companies need to ensure staff understand the processes required to produce large quantities of quality tablets quickly and efficiently. Tools to enable remote working and improve skillsets are instrumental to efficient production. Among them, electronic learning is proving to be particularly effective.

Why is upskilling important?

Tablet manufacturers must look for ways to make production more efficient and cost-effective but without detriment to the quality of the tablets produced. There are a number of solutions that can be used to optimize the manufacturing process and they all require upskilling the workforce who will be charged with implementing these solutions.

For example, upgrading capital equipment like high-speed compression machinery, or introducing innovative tooling like multi-tips are options that will improve production. But if staff are not appropriately trained for their work and cannot utilize equipment capabilities or understand how to resolve manufacturing problems, no amount of expensive equipment can increase productivity and produce quality tablets.

Tablet production in particular can introduce many challenges, and if it’s not executed properly, the quality of the final tablet and overall output can be hindered. If workers are not sufficiently skilled in identifying and resolving common tabletting problems like sticking or picking, then production will be affected. Training can enable operators to be more than just someone running the press. They can become experts in understanding the equipment and its processes, and problem-solve confidently where necessary.

In a fast-paced and fluid marketplace, well-trained skilled operators, technicians, supervisors and managers will make a substantial difference to overall productivity. Manufacturers should consider the technical expertise found within the workforce and follow this by looking at effective ways to fill any skills gaps. This proactive approach can positively impact the bottom line.

Technology as a training tool

The introduction of technology-enabled training is becoming more of a practical option for productivity improvement, particularly when training people in new skills sets or updating knowledge. E-learning is seeing huge growth through all industries including those in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical manufacturing. It has been reported that the e-learning market size surpassed $200 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to grow at over 8 percent CAGR between 2020 and 2026.

The learning landscape has changed and training that once took place in a classroom setting or through one-to-one tutorials is becoming less desirable or deliverable. Employers must put the safety of staff first and protect them from any possible COVID-19 risk. This means reducing contact with non-essential outside bodies and in-person programs and exploring digital alternatives.

Flexible learning

There are many benefits to online training with perhaps one of the biggest appeals being its flexibility. When working in a busy manufacturing environment it can be difficult to schedule clear blocks of time when training can take place.

Materials and tools are digital, which means employees can be trained at any time that’s convenient. This eliminates the time spent coordinating where and when a course will take place. A recent study found that skill absorption through e-learning typically requires 40 percent to 60 percent less employee time than learning the same material in a traditional classroom setting.

This remote style of training also offers support for those looking to further understand tabletting — including presses, compression tooling, or the management of the entire process. It can be done where and when it is needed and the user can also pause and resume their learning at any time, reducing the impact on operations.

The figures add up

Tablet manufacturers must produce tablets in the most economical way. Training staff in efficient processes will help keep costs down. E-learning provides an economical training solution which results in better performance and faster production. Revenue generated per employee is 26 percent higher for companies that offer training using technology, including e-learning, given that it enables companies to train more frequently.

Time saved from inefficient production processes and poor problem-solving through the upskilling of staff is essential in the fast-paced tablet manufacturing industry. If training is required in tooling maintenance for example, they may have to wait several months to receive face-to-face or seminar training from an expert.

If traditional training methods are used, updating and reproducing learning materials can be costly and time-consuming. Online training platforms can easily be revised with important information quickly and easily. Newly developed online learning also has the benefit of being engaging. Material can be delivered in a multimedia format incorporating animations, webinars and interactive content this creates a higher quality, more effective training experience for employees. Additionally, the information can be validated by interactive tests to ensure key points are understood.

Setting the standards

New regulations, requirements and operating procedures are introduced within the pharmaceutical industry regularly. Therefore any e-learning technology or resource should have the capability to incorporate any new updates and industry guidelines. One example is the Eurostandard educational suite. This advises tablet manufacturers on tablet tooling terminology, configuration and procurement. It also includes the latest technical specification compatible with ISO 18084 “Press Tools for Tablets.” Staff should be aware of these standards and trained in all aspects of them. E-learning is the ideal arena in which to do this.

Any online training platform should additionally have the option to encompass a wide variety of subjects relating to tablet manufacture to enable staff to expand their skills. This allows all ability levels to access the learning package and improve their expertise. Importantly, e-learning can be adapted to work for all levels, whether it is the director requiring updated information on standards, or an operator looking to improve their knowledge in the maintenance of tablet compression tooling.

Keeping track of training

Platforms are available that include newly developed courses designed using a hierarchical system. These give managers a full audit, and the ability to track and report employee development and certification. When the course has been completed, certification is given which coordinates with a company’s specific guidelines and standard operating procedures. This includes features like the scheduling of re-qualification after a period of elapsed time.

These specifically created e-learning modules can also be scaled up to roll out to as many employees as required. Dedicated training space or the engagement of experts in the field is no longer required if employees have access to a computer.

With a classified structure, courses can be used for comparison purposes across different departments, job roles, sites and even countries thanks to the software’s ability to translate information into several languages.

Improve skills, improve production

In tablet manufacturing, it is important to focus on productivity to ensure demand is met. There are different ways to enhance this, but installing the latest equipment or employing more experienced workers does not come cheap. Successful and progressive companies look at developing workers skills and utilizing the knowledge they already have.

Improving manufacturing skills is key to continuous quality improvement and increased productivity. The approach and attitude required to meet the needs of the evolving pharmaceutical industry has to change, particularly when working in a pandemic. Training that was once taught on-site is less desirable or deliverable in the current climate. However, it is not just the current pandemic that is changing this mind-set; finding the time available in a busy production schedule, or the correct information to upskill can also prove challenging. E-learning programs can combine comprehensive and flexible courses in a wide variety of disciplines with the convenience of taking place when and where it is required. It is an important method in which to bring staff in-line with new pharmaceutical manufacturing advances quickly.

If organizations have educated, well-trained and knowledgeable employees, it will have a direct impact on productivity.

About the Author

Alex Bunting Marketing Manager | I Holland