When it comes to pharmaceutical manufacturing, quality control is always a top priority. Ingredients have to be mixed in the right proportions and packaged accurately down to the last milligram. This means manufacturing must have minimal exposure to human error, which explains why production entirely depends on automated motion solutions.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing can be divided into major stages – formulating or synthesizing the product, ensuring the proper dosage, packaging, labeling, and shipping. Quality control is enforced throughout all stages to ensure product effectiveness, protect consumer safety by avoiding over-dosage, and also make the product highly marketable for more profitability.
Formulating the Product
While determining a product’s formula and ingredients is done manually, actually creating formulations on a large scale basis is almost impossible without automation. Unfortunately, the larger the product batch, the higher the risk of wrong formulation due to human error, which is why quality control has to be done as early as the mixing process.
Pre-programmed sensors ensure the right ingredient proportions, while powerful motion solutions mix the substances and prepare them for the next stage. Each batch has to be exactly the same as the previous one and have to be tested after formulation before being divided into more consumable amounts.
Creating Consumable Amounts
Since proper dosage is important, products have to be properly measured before being put into bottles or blister packs. This means consumers expect to get the exact amount of dosage when they buy medicine. Being short a few milligrams can lead to a big discrepancy in dosage, especially for products meant for long-term medication.
To minimize waste and ensure dosage accuracy, filling valves have to be brought into proper position by line drives, actuators, and very accurate translation stages. Motor-controlled valves are used to limit the amount of liquid that flows into each bottle. For pills and capsules, automated cutting presses compact or chop down the pills to the ideal shape, while weight sensors detect if pills are of the right size and weight.
Contamination can be a huge problem for poorly-packaged medicine, which explains the demand for hygienic packaging solutions. Bottles are sterilized prior to filling and sealed by specialized bottling systems. To reduce contamination due to constant handling and speed up the packaging process, bottles are moved via a conveyor belt with minimal human interference.
For solid products such as tablets and capsules, the products are carefully aligned by channeled conveyor belts ready for sealing. The blister packs themselves have to be embossed and glued together by a machine to make sure they form an airtight seal. There is no room for error; a poorly-sealed blister pack may mean having to repackage an entire batch.
Labeling and Shipping
Because different products come in very similar packaging, labels must be distinct to protect consumers from taking the wrong medication. Demand for quality products also extends to the quality of labeling, which means each label has to be perfectly aligned, ensuring that the medication’s name, their batch numbers, and their expiration dates are clearly seen. To make this possible, labeling machines may use laser or infrared technology to ensure proper label placement.
To help speed up the shipping process, products are transferred in batches, ready to be placed in carton boxes. Ensuring the quality of the box and foam is rarely an issue, but it is still crucial in making sure the products get to the pharmacy or retail outlets without getting damaged along the way.
Just a brief look at the manufacturing process is more than enough to see the value of ensuring quality control in pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Quality made products lead to better results and customer satisfaction, which in turn develops brand loyalty and a boost in the manufacturer’s profitability. To sum it all up: making good medicine is good business.