Conveyor System Best Practices in the Pharmaceutical Sector

Written By: Bastian Solutions

After comparing its warehousing operations to industry best practices, Roche Diagnostics Operations (RDO) revealed opportunities to improve processes by standardizing across all warehouses and implementing a more automated material handling system. In doing so, Roche was able to increase pack rates, reduce operating costs, and gain better visibility of carton-level details.

Conveying products in the medical and pharmaceutical industry requires precision and control. With the variety of products in the industry, conveyor systems must provide durable, dependable transportation of anything from syringes, to pill bottles and surgical scrubs.

Working with Bastian Solutions, Roche Diagnostics implemented a conveyor system, picking technologies and Exacta supply chain software, helping the company achieve these best practices results:

  • Increased carton pack rates by 30%. The added cubing functionality of the Exacta warehouse management system determines the contents for each carton up front as well as how many cartons to use for the order and which size cartons to use, speeding up the pack process.
  • Reduced operating costs. Overtime and weekend work was reduced by 75% and an overall headcount reduction of 15% was achieved.
  • Access to increased carton level detail and statistics. The visibility provided by the Exacta warehouse management system and the Exacta warehouse control system tools increased the amount of information available to managers to oversee the operation.
  • Ability to manage peak demand throughout the year.
  • Positioned the operation for future growth.

Conveyors Designed to Clean in Place

Oftentimes in the pharmaceutical industry, conveyors must be designed specifically with cleaning requirements, ease of disassembly and maintenance, and required containment levels in mind. Options available include systems integration for batch and continuous processing, containment designs, and clean-in-place (CIP) designs. CIP is a method of cleaning the interior surfaces of pipes, vessels, process equipment, filters and associated fittings, without disassembly. In addition to pharma, industries that rely heavily on CIP are those requiring high levels of hygiene such as: dairy, beverage, brewing, processed foods, and cosmetics.

The benefit to industries using CIP is that cleaning is faster, less labor-intensive, more repeatable, and poses less chemical exposure risk to people. CIP has evolved to include fully automated systems with programmable logic controllers, multiple balance tanks, sensors, valves, heat exchangers, data acquisition, and specially-designed spray nozzle systems.

Stainless steel conveyors are also available when sanitary requirements are necessary and are designed for fast and effective sanitation, accessible for quick cleaning, and prevent cross-contamination. One of Bastian Solutions’ partners, Hytrol Conveyor Company, offers ultra-smooth finish stainless steel systems. As an answer to the skyrocketing price of stainless steel, Hytrol Conveyor Co. also builds powder coated mild steel systems that meet sanitary standards at lower cost.

As noted by Gregg Goodner, President of Hytrol Conveyor Co., the company also provides distributors and manufacturers with a variety of handling solutions. “Ours is probably the most recommended, specified, and purchased package handling system in North America,” said Goodner. He acknowledged the big areas of growth are food, beverage, and pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceutical conveyor systems

Current Good Manufacturing Practices

Pharmaceutical designs must be engineered to meet the rigid requirements of the industry, including current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) standards, as well as the use of FDA approved and certified materials of construction. cGMP are the practices required in order to conform to guidelines recommended by agencies that control authorization and licensing for manufacture and sale of food, drug products, and active pharmaceutical products.

These guidelines provide minimum requirements that a pharmaceutical or a food product manufacturer must meet to assure that the products are of high quality and do not pose any risk to the consumer or public. Good manufacturing practices, along with good laboratory practices and good clinical practices, are overseen by regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, in addition to other countries.

Pharmaceuticals Lucrative Industry with Strong Lean Requirements

Although a lucrative industry sector, all purchasing managers are seeking a lower cost pharmaceutical conveyor system option. By using automation controls, precision manufacturing, and line control, sanitation process costs can be reduced and the packaging of pharmaceutical and personal care products streamlined.

Bastian Solutions is quickly becoming a leader among pharmaceutical firms having also worked with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical leaders with distribution operations in Scranton, PA. This distribution center meets all eastern U.S. demands for vaccination products, and the company is developing leading positions in seven major therapeutic areas: cardiovascular disease, thrombosis, oncology, diabetes, central nervous system, internal medicine, and vaccines.

Every pharmaceutical firm faces business challenges and the large pharma companies are no exception. The Scranton, PA, distribution center was a new location to meet growing peak season vaccination demands. This meant improving the capacities to meet future throughput with plans for expansion. The facility also needed a more ergonomic packing area for order preparation, as well as improved product packaging and shipping methods to guarantee dry-ice packed items arrive under FDA mandated temperature requirements.

To achieve those goals, Bastian Solutions’ motorized roller conveyor with Hytrol E-Z logic intelligent photo sensor zero pressure accumulation were part of the distribution center technologies used. A multi-lane saw tooth merge, high-speed ProSort shoe sorter, and an inline Mettler Toledo scale and Metrologic scanner for manifesting were also implemented.

Material handling systems for the pharmaceutical industry

Looking to the Future of the Pharmaceutical Sector

Nicole Fisher, a contributor to Forbes magazine, suggested that one of the most significant pharmaceutical trends is in global innovation. She reported that while both North America and Europe continue to have the most life science Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications per year (41% and 31% share, respectively), major shifts are occurring. PCT applications–an international measure of innovative output–in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean are increasing, with the gap forecasted to continue closing.

This trend, in part, can be attributed to the shift from broad, chronic disease biological maturity in developed countries to developing countries. In turn, many advanced cities and companies are transitioning to specific, personalized biologics and care. For example, biosimilars are taking root in the U.S. and Europe, while diabetes has become a primary focus of the Middle East and North Africa.

The combined pharmaceutical material handling expertise of Bastian Solutions and Hytrol Conveyor Company, with global footprints, make this strong strategic partnership ideal and uniquely positioned to help pharmaceutical distributors and manufacturers meet increasing demand.

See more pharmaceutical, biotechnology and healthcare case studies >>

Bastian Solutions is an independent system integrator dedicated to helping our customers increase their productivity through proven automation, information systems, and sound operating procedures.

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  1. ABL Technology says:

    Excellent article, you shared very useful information about conveyor systems that was includes very important points about food and Pharmaceutical Sector. Thanks to shared such useful post and Keep up sharing such nice information with us.

  2. Pingback: machinery waste

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