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A guide to procuring pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment

Procuring pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment for your facility is one of the most important things you will do. From quality and speed to cost, the equipment you purchase will make all the difference to your business objectives and overall plant efficiency. Huge amounts of money are on the line every day, so as a pharmaceutical manufacturer, you can’t afford any glitches.

Partnering with an equipment provider who understands your challenges and can deliver the high-quality yet cost-effective solutions that you need is key. If done right, the investment you make in purchasing your pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment will give you peace of mind. It will let you focus on the other elements of your business, rest assured that your production line is efficiently churning its wheels to keep your business competitive.

To ensure you can make an informed decision, we have this handy guide on what to consider when investing in equipment for pharmaceutical manufacturing.

What does pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment include?

Several types of equipment are involved in the pharma manufacturing process, from heat exchangers, pure steam generators, centrifuges, cooling towers, dryers, granulators, capsuling and coating machines, to inspection equipment. The list can seem endless. And all of these need to meet the sanitary and quality standards mandated in pharma production.

With so many equipment models and suppliers to choose from, you have to assess potential quality and supply chain risks. But once you get it right, the sophistication of modern, well-designed pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment will greatly improve your plant’s efficiency by reducing maintenance requirements, minimising mistakes, reducing waste and streamlining production efficiency.

Potential challenges: What can you expect in your purchasing journey?

What should be at the top of your mind as you embark on this purchasing journey? Time, cost and quality.

Market conditions may create the need for rapid capacity increases before competitors. When timelines are constrained, pressures to increase overall capital expenditure may be high. These cost and time variables play a crucial role in your ability to deliver on the demands of the market. You will have to account for the delivery time of your pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment list, which can take weeks or months. And this delay may cost you by putting off production until then. Issues relating to customs, tariffs as well as installation, inspection, handling and maintenance should also be accounted for in your timelines.

The following points will serve as a guide to purchasing equipment for pharmaceutical manufacturing:

Research the market.

Know the equipment marketplace – where you can source the equipment you need at low costs, high quality, and with service and support for the region in which your plant is located. Whether you are buying new or used equipment, it can help to visit used equipment dealers or OEM brands to see a physical inventory of the available equipment, assess the quality and accurately predict total purchase costs.

Consider the reputation of the equipment supplier.

Make sure you are working with a trusted and reliable supplier of pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment.

Production scale.

Your production scale, as well as your equipment needs, will vary for research as compared to commercial production. Determine your requirements ahead of time to make your hunt for the right equipment more effective.

Product features.

What machines you buy will depend on what products you want to manufacture. Different products have different process requirements. For instance, find a cooling tower or an in-line drying system that best suits the material base, consistency and production temperature of the pharma product you want to produce.

Output capacity.

The output of your machines determines the production capacity of your pharma plant – the number of tablets or capsules or parenteral that can produced per hour. And the number of hours in a day that the machine can run efficiently. Assess all these factors while making a purchase.

Digital capabilities.

In today’s day and age, automation and machines with advanced digital capabilities are all important. Be it touch screens or all-access control, choose machines that support advanced tech to improve efficiency, increase production and make the entire process more easily manageable.

Cleaning ease.

With hygiene and sanitization standards higher than in any other industry, your machine should have an efficient CIP design or easy-disconnect features to make the cleaning process simpler. You don’t want cleaning to take precious time away from the production cycle.

Manufacturing redundancies.

Purchasing cost-effective backup equipment to provide manufacturing redundancies can help control costs and achieve higher efficiency by ensuring production doesn’t halt extensively for repairs or downtime.

Keep it simple!

Pharma production is part of the life sciences, not rocket science. While you don’t want your equipment to be so simplistic that it doesn’t serve the complex demands of the industry, your machines should be easy to use with proper training. Overly complicated operating procedures for your machinery increase the risk of serious errors.

Finally, cost. Consolidating the CAPEX requirements of all the products you want to produce and evaluating your ROI on the equipment you intend to purchase is the smart thing to do before making any big investments.

Customisation: to do or not to do?

Customised equipment for pharmaceutical manufacturing has a number of benefits. It will enable you to minimise the number of manual processes involved – speeding up production and eliminating chances of the introduction of unforeseen and unwanted variables. Customisation will also give you the added conveniences of more precise testing and analysis, fewer wasted materials and lower total cost per product. Over the long term, higher levels of automation drive higher process accuracy, repeatability and profitability in this highly competitive and fast-paced industry.

Should I rely on a used equipment dealer?

Procuring specialised pharma equipment customised to your particular needs is ideal, but there are some situations in which you might consider a used equipment dealer.

If you are struggling with a tight budget or even if you’re on a constrained timeline, secondary equipment dealers can get you to lower costs and faster installation turnaround time. Such dealers often have access to some of the top brands in the industry and serve as resourceful points of contact between buyers and sellers.

In pharma manufacturing, small differences in cost and time to market can have big consequences. Sometimes, the high cost of new equipment may not be financially viable, with a return on investment too low to justify new equipment purchases. Reduced costs can mean procuring an entire production line as opposed to just a single highly sophisticated machine. And with rapidly changing market dynamics, waiting around for months for a new machine to be delivered is just not feasible. Working with a used equipment dealer can help you meet the speed of business by acquiring critical equipment as quickly as possible.

Checking things off your pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment list: What NOT to do

This may seem obvious, but buying the cheapest pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment is not a good idea. While making savings on massive investments may seem like a business priority, quality is of utmost priority. Buying machines made of cheaper materials may prove to be a case of false economy; the cheap alternatives you find will likely be less hygienic, less durable, and vulnerable to corrosion, rusting or pitting.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record – hygiene is the foremost priority in pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment and processes. Purchase products in which 316 medical grade stainless steel is used to make all the components. Seek out suppliers who provide testing certification and who maintain transparency and material traceability.

Bonus tip

Sustainability is at the top of everyone’s mind, what with climate change wreaking havoc on the planet and pharma being a major global polluter. If you want your customers to think highly of you – seeing you as a forward-looking industry leader – invest in good quality, durable equipment that will survive the test of time and future-proof your business. Stainless steel is durable and recyclable, and process advancements mean that the amount of energy required to make it has reduced significantly. It is amongst the most environmentally efficient raw materials out there – make use of it!

At the end of the day, equipment sourcing is a strategy that can be leveraged to effectively reduce costs and risks and ensure that your business is competitive in the global market. Not only is good quality equipment good for business, but it is also a necessity for compliance. Investing fewer times but investing correctly can take a huge load off your mind, freeing it up to take on the other challenges and constant developments that face the pharma business.

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