Manufacturing: Tabletting and Capsuling Machines

Improving Machinery in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

IPT talks to Richard Stedman of ACG Engineering about the rise of connected and digitalised machines, and how these will improve pharmaceutical manufacturing in the future

IPT: Which pharmaceutical manufacturing innovation has had the most significant effect?

Richard Stedman (RS): I have been a consumer of pharmaceuticals for a great deal longer than I have been on the manufacturing side of the industry. I therefore greatly value innovations that make the life of the patient easier – those which help to reduce any suffering.
I believe that innovations such as fixed dosage combinations and modified release pills have been inspirational in terms of combatting patient reluctance around consuming multiple dosages.

IPT: What are ‘connected machines’ and how has their rise benefited pharmaceutical manufacturing?

RS: Connected machines focus on holistically improving total cost of ownership (TCO) through optimising equipment efficiency and performance. Numerous sensors collect data across various aspects, including the production process, overall energy consumption, maintenance and machine health. This combined information helps subject matter experts (technicians) to build curated dashboards to enable pharma manufacturers to effectively monitor their equipment. This, in turn, helps them to identify opportunities and adjust the process, improve productivity, reduce downtime and eliminate unnecessary energy consumption.
The goal of such machines is to help manufacturers maintain the processes of the equipment at optimum levels, helping to maximise overall productivity and, in doing so, improve TCO.

IPT: What are some of the most important aspects to consider when collaborating with other countries for equipment design?

RS: Firstly, process and communication are crucial. Clear and effective communication channels must be established, taking factors such as language barriers, cultural differences and time zones into consideration. Regular video conferences and meetings, emails and documentation exchange are all essential for successful collaboration. The process of collaboration must be clearly defined.
Secondly, understanding the regulatory requirements of the target country is vital. It’s important to have an appreciation of the fact that each country may have different standards and regulations for equipment design in the pharmaceutical industry. Compliance with these regulations is essential to ensure the safety, quality and efficacy of the final product.
Thirdly, intellectual property (IP) protection must be evaluated. Collaborating with other countries may involve sharing sensitive information and designs. Robust contracts, including non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and intellectual property protection measures, should be in place to safeguard proprietary information and the end user.
Fourth, technical expertise is critical. Collaborating with partners who have the necessary technical knowledge and experience in the pharmaceutical industry is paramount when it comes to designing high-quality and efficient equipment.
Lastly, cultural understanding and mutual respect are important. Being aware of cultural differences, customs and business practices can foster a positive and productive working relationship with international partners.
In conclusion, successful collaboration for equipment design with other countries requires effective communication, defined processes, understanding of regulatory requirements, IP protection, technical expertise and cultural awareness.

IPT: How are developments in pharmaceutical machines enabling tabletting and capsuling devices to maintain high standards of production?

RS: As has always been the ethos of the pharma industry, which underlies the cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices), quality remains of utmost importance. Every enhancement of the quality and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) in pharma manufacturing means more lives made better. Significant advancements in pharmaceutical machines have enabled tabletting and capsuling devices to maintain the highest standards of production. Such developments have been instrumental in improving the efficiency, precision and quality of tablet and capsule production across the industry.
One key development is the integration of automation in pharmaceutical machines. Automation has revolutionised the manufacturing process by reducing human intervention, thereby minimising the risk of errors and contamination. Automatic systems have been incorporated into tabletting and capsuling devices, allowing for precise and consistent dosing, filling and sealing of tablets and capsules. This has resulted in higher production rates and improved product quality, as automatic systems can consistently perform repetitive tasks with minimal variation.
Another significant advancement is the use of cutting-edge sensors and monitoring systems. These sensors provide real-time data on critical process parameters such as temperature, pressure and humidity, allowing for precise control and monitoring of the manufacturing process. This ensures that tablets and capsules are produced within the specified tolerances, maintaining high standards of quality and consistency.
Advancements in material handling and feeding systems have also contributed to maintaining high standards of production. These ensure that the right amount of raw materials is accurately measured, mixed and fed into the machines, resulting in uniformity in both the composition and weight of tablets and capsules.Additionally, improvements in machine design and construction have led to machines that are more hygienic and easier to clean, reducing the risk of cross-contamination and ensuring compliance with the industry’s strict regulatory requirements.
Developments in pharmaceutical machines, including automation, advanced sensors and monitoring systems, material handling and feeding systems and improved machine design, have resulted in increased efficiency, precision and quality in the manufacture of tablets and capsules. As a result, this has hugely benefited the pharmaceutical industry and, ultimately, the patients who rely on these medications for their health and well-being.

IPT: Where do you see the developments in pharmaceutical machine manufacturing heading in the next decade?

RS: I believe the future of pharmaceutical machine manufacturing will be characterised by a number of significant advancements and innovations.
First and foremost, automation and digitisation will continue to play a crucial role in the pharmaceutical machine manufacturing industry. We will witness the integration of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT), into pharmaceutical machines to enhance their efficiency and precision. This will result in increased productivity, reduced downtime and improved quality control, leading to higher yields and cost savings for pharmaceutical manufacturers and the lowering of TCO.
Moreover, there will be a growing emphasis on sustainability and environmental consciousness over the next decade. Pharmaceutical machine manufacturers will focus on developing eco-friendly machines that minimise waste, reduce energy consumption and comply with stringent environmental regulations. This will involve the use of renewable energy sources, the implementation of green manufacturing practices and the adoption of recyclable and biodegradable materials across machine components.
Furthermore, the trend towards personalised medicine and customised pharmaceutical products will impact pharmaceutical machine manufacturing. Machines that can handle smaller batches, accommodate varying formulations and enable rapid changeovers will be in high demand. Manufacturers will need to be flexibile and adaptable in order to meet the evolving needs of the pharmaceutical industry.
Regulatory compliance will continue to be a top priority in pharmaceutical machine manufacturing. Stringent regulations governing the production of pharmaceuticals, including tablets and capsules, will drive the development of machines that ensure compliance with good manufacturing practices (GMP), international standards and regulatory guidelines. This will involve robust documentation, validation and qualification processes to ensure the safety, efficacy and quality of pharmaceutical products.
In summary, the developments in pharmaceutical machine manufacturing in the next decade will be characterised by automation, digitisation, sustainability, customisation and regulatory compliance. The industry will witness the integration of advanced technologies, increased focus on environmental sustainability and the development of flexible and compliant machines to meet the industry’s evolving needs.

Richard Stedman is the CEO of ACG Engineering. With over 35 years of experience in the packaging, engineering and pharmaceutical manufacturing industries, Richard has led and transformed multiple businesses globally. Richard is committed to driving innovation and excellence in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. He is passionate about delivering high-quality products and services to customers and is dedicated to building a strong and sustainable future for ACG.