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why materials handling matters

Discover how a change in the way materials

are handled can give manufacturers of
pharmaceutical oral solid dosage (OSD)
products an ‘edge’ over their competitors.

why materials handling matters

The manufacture of Embracing and investing in new
technologies is one way to get
pharmaceutical oral solid ahead, and adopting lean, efficient
dosage (OSD) products
Embracing and investing in is a crowded marketplace
manufacturing procedures is
another. At a fundamental level,
new technologies is one way in which it can prove achieving efficiency can start at the

to get ahead, and adopting

outset of a project by considering
challenging to provide an the very design of a production
lean, efficient manufacturing ‘edge’ over competitors. facility. Careful planning can cut

procedures is another.
costs and reduce waste at all stages,
This is particularly so while at the same time ensuring the
production of quality products.
in the generic drugs
industries of emerging For both new entrants wishing to
economies, which are establish a position in the sector,
characterised by low and for established OSD producers
seeking to successfully expand
profit margins and high their product ranges, getting the
volume sales. end product consistently right is,
of course, crucial. In this article, we
take a look beyond the processes
involved in drug manufacture itself,
and instead turn our attention
to an often overlooked and
underappreciated factor of the
manufacturing process: that of
materials handling.



why materials handling matters

Materials handling matters Know the process(es)

Assembling a factory is not simply a question of ‘fitting it all in’; a complete At the start of any new production not only risks compromising the
line project, you’ll need to know productivity of a given product line,
understanding of the processes, equipment and space required to manufacture those what steps are involved in the but also limiting future potential for
products is critical. product’s manufacture. expanding capability and capacity.

“How are the materials For a pharmaceutical OSD producer, Of course, there is not a ‘one size fits
Careful consideration must also be Perhaps you plan to tip material into press outlet directly to the next
given to the ways in which powders, the press by hand, or maybe deliver stage of the pipeline, or do you
moved from one process commonly the focus of attention all’ solution to materials handling.
step to another?” is on the processing stages of Not only do different product
granules, tablets and capsules powders via a vacuum system? In require tubs, boxes or drums
granulation, compression, coating lines with different ingredients and
are handled and moved from one these cases, a single floor facility with to move tablets from one area
and packing. formulations have different materials
stage of the production process to a low ceiling height would suffice. to another? “What is the best
handling requirements, factors
another. Ignoring this element of the However, if drums or intermediate way to do this?” Often overlooked, or not considered such as building space constraints,
project can have a detrimental effect bulk containers (IBCs) are to be used This example considers only one
early enough in the facility design containment requirements, material
on the production efficiency and to feed materials in to the tablet stage of the process, and for only
process, are the questions: characteristics, regulations and
capability in the longer term. press, a taller room height would be one type of product, yet it illustrates
budget must also be considered to
needed to accommodate a gravity the many decisions that are taken
“How are the materials moved from arrive at the optimum facility design.
Take the example of the feed system. It may even be more concerning materials handling, and
one process step to another?”
compression phase: a tablet press efficient to feed materials down from the impact that these decisions
and suitable space to operate it in a dedicated materials handling floor can have on overall facility design
“What is the best way to do this?”
is required, but so too is thought above to a compression room below, and efficiency.
as to how powdered or granular so a two-floor facility, or a single
Without fully considering these
ingredients will be delivered into the one with a mezzanine level might be
fundamental questions when
inlet of the machine, and how the designed instead.
designing a facility, the manufacturer
compressed tablets will be collected
from it. More than the compression Of course, tablet compression is
process itself, the ways in which not the end of the story – how will
input and output materials are you move the pressed tablets to the
handled and moved can dictate the coating machine, or to the bottling
optimal production set-up. area? Can you couple the tablet


why materials handling matters

Types of materials
handling system
Though there are 1. CONNECTING THE DOTS: so can be effective in small, single-
continuous processing floor facilities. But it’s never that
many ways to move simple; there are some limitations
materials through the Put simply, continuous processing is with this approach:
pharmaceutical OSD a production line in which one stage
production line, three of of the process is directly connected • In practice, it is difficult to
to the next. establish a completely continuous
the most commonly used
process from one end of
methods are: Taking our example of the tablet the pipeline to another – batch
press again, a continuous process processes are almost always
1. Continuous processing here would involve directly coupling involved at some stage (e.g.
2. Manual handling the press to a coating machine, blending), which can introduce
3. IBC systems and the coating machine to a variations in the finished product. 2. MANUAL LABOUR: a particular tablet needed to be costs, and improving value for
packing machine, thereby creating a moving materials in containers packaged into blister packs and customers. Although manual
continuous line in which powdered • Some parts of a process are in bottles – tablets coming from handling is a more flexible approach
ingredients become tablets that inevitably quicker than others Manual materials handling involves one press could be collected and than continuous processing, it is not
are coated and packaged in one – connecting processes together an Operator physically collecting moved to two different packing necessarily a fully lean approach.
smoothly flowing process. means that overall productivity materials at the end of one process machines working in parallel, rather
is limited to the rate of the and moving them to the start of the than requiring two entirely separate Disconnecting processes means
An obvious advantage of this type of slowest step. next using tubs, boxes or drums. It continuous process lines. that there are many more steps
system is that it effectively removes can work well in single-floor facilities, involved in the overall production
the need for any materials handling • Should a fault in the pipeline especially when a vacuum transfer Another advantage of the manual line, and at each of these separate
at all, thus eliminating some of the occur, or if cleaning is necessary, system is added in to the equation. handling method is cost: not only are steps there is the potential to create
risk of waste. Materials moving then the entire system must be boxes or drums cheap to purchase, waste, for example:
through this continuous process shut down, creating an unavoidable A major advantage of manual they are also easy to use thus require
also have little opportunity to bottleneck in production. materials handling is that it can less technical training. Building costs • Physically moving materials
become contaminated, and remain be more flexible than continuous are also kept low since the factory does from one place to another can
well-contained as there are no • It is difficult to expand the processing. By uncoupling the steps not need to be so large or specialised. limit production capacity as
connections to be made along the capacity of a continuous from each other, not only can each the production batch is
line. Any given batch will be highly processing system – for example, process operate at its optimum Manual handling is not lean handled in many sub-lots and
consistent, making it a good choice if a greater quantity of tablets is speed without creating rate-limiting requires numerous manual
for GMP manufacturers. This type required in the same amount of bottlenecks, the outputs of that The ‘lean’ philosophy is all about operations, with transfers being
of system also takes up much less time, the only way round this is to process can also be fed into more eliminating waste with a view to slow and inefficient.
space than more complex set-ups, install an entirely new line. than one pipeline. Say, for example, increasing productivity, reducing


why materials handling matters

Types of materials Grand Designs

handling system (cont..)
While the actual processes involved
in pharmaceutical OSD product
• The additional steps involved With an IBC system, the steps in a
manufacture are of course crucial,
in loading, unloading and moving particular pipeline are ‘continuously
the materials handling methods
materials in lots of small, uncoupled’. Like the manual approach
Achieving optimal required to move between these
individual containers wastes time to materials handling, manufacturers
processes are often overlooked
and physical effort. Sometimes using IBCs retain the flexibility to materials handling during the design phase, and these
these incur needless health and operate parallel processes, and can
efficiency should can introduce time, energy and
safety hazards as powders are improve productivity by ensuring that
less well contained and some individual steps are operating at their be a key driver in profit-sapping inefficiencies.

heavy lifting can be involved. optimal rates. However, compared to facility design.
Achieving optimal materials handling
manual handling, fewer containers are
efficiency should be a key driver in
• Although operating parallel required to handle the same volume
facility design.
processes can be an advantage, of material, which means fewer
it is difficult to track inventory and container movements, less make/
There is no ‘one size fits all’
monitor batch quality. As the break connections and less floor
approach, but whether starting
batch is split into sub-lots, it space to accommodate the containers
from scratch, or adapting an
requires manual activities to track at each step. What’s more, IBCs lend
existing building to establish or
each container (such as labelling themselves to being automated, both
expand a factory, getting it right
and barcode readings) and results in terms of their discharge but also for
from the outset and creating the
in crowded GMP production movement, if required.
‘leanest’ environment possible will
areas. As the number of sub-lots
undoubtedly pay dividends.
increases, the risk of error escalates. Although processes are disconnected
from each other, it is the IBC itself
In the following pages, we explore
3. IBCs: the best of both worlds that moves between them, not the
example manufacturing installations
materials inside the IBC. So, much like
for single, dual and multi-floor
Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) the continuous approach to materials
systems allow pharmaceutical OSD handling, with a well-designed IBC
manufacturers to streamline their there is little opportunity for material
materials handling procedures by loss or contamination, and the
combining the benefits of continuous added benefit of much-reduced
processing and manual handling. cleaning requirements.

why materials handling matters

Grand Designs (cont...)


Single floor facilities are among system to the batch volume – in framework around processing The major advantage of a two-level before, during and after IBC discharge associated construction/rental
the cheapest to build or lease, but other words, the IBC used should equipment. It is much better to manufacturing facility is that it is to ensure a dust-tight transfer and and cleaning costs;
their ceiling height can impose be of a sufficient size to achieve consider this at the outset of possible to maintain a top floor that avoid the risk of contamination
constraints on materials handling a full batch transfer. Not only will the project design, rather than is dedicated to materials handling and cross-contamination. Through- • Reduces health and safety
solutions. There is no need to ‘settle’ this require only one connection/ lamenting the fact that if only the and blending, while the lower level floor transfer systems require an hazards by minimizing crowding
for the less efficient continuous or disconnection per manufacturing ceiling was a couple of millimetres can be given to tableting and packing appropriate solution for handling of equipment and personnel;
manual handling methods; with step, it also minimizes effort and higher you could use bulk containers procedures. This is particularly sensitive materials between levels.
careful planning it is possible to waste in transporting containers and automate procedures! important in GMP manufacturing Having two floors available also: • Allows the use of larger volume
integrate the use of IBCs in such an around the facility. facilities where it is essential to isolate IBCs to manufacture larger
environment. potential sources of contamination, • Eliminates the need for pillar lifts batch sizes, thus achieving
Vertical materials transfer methods and quality is of the utmost concern. to move between levels of a greater economies of scale,
In these single-floor configurations, such as gravity-fed systems can be frame or mezzanine; and reducing waste, cleaning
IBCs can be used to efficiently achieved in a single-level facility, The top floor can be an open materials and storage space.
connect one process to another provided there is sufficient height handling floor using IBCs, provided • Means that smaller rooms are
by matching the volume of the IBC to install mezzanine levels or a that closed connections are used required, with reduced


why materials handling matters

Grand Designs (cont...)

Whether starting from scratch, or adapting

an existing building to establish or expand a
factory, getting it right from the outset and
creating the ‘leanest’ environment possible
will undoubtedly pay dividends.


With multiple level production multi-level facilities is the ability to batch size production. Investing in
facilities, the possibilities are endlessly isolate GMP processes by using IBC purpose-built or purpose-customized
flexible, but to achieve the leanest discharge systems and filling systems multi-level facilities also provides
facility possible, careful consideration that completely separate the technical the opportunity to embrace new
must be given to layout and overall materials handling floors. technologies, such as automatic
production flow. guided vehicles, and automated
As with two-floor facilities, larger cleaning systems, to further increase
Although construction costs are sized IBCs can also be used to make the facility’s leanness.
generally much higher than lower best use of height and space, and to
level buildings, a major benefit of confer the financial benefits of larger THE POWDER HANDLING EXPERTS


why materials handling matters

Weighing up the options Why choose Matcon

Whether considering WE RECOMMEND: We understand the challenges
faced by manufacturers of specialist
a new production
• Careful consideration of the pharmaceutical products.
facility, or upgrading an materials handling options
existing one, the way available to you at the earliest We specialise in YOUR CHALLENGES
that powders, granules, stage of facility design – there is providing complete
no ‘one size fits all’ approach, but How to improve productivity and
tablets and capsules getting it right from the outset
materials handling quality to meet the competitive
are moved, stored, can maximise efficiencies later. solutions for OSD and marketplace demands whilst
fed to and collected API pharmaceutical adhering to strict regulations.
• Taking a ‘lean’ approach to Don’t leave it to the last
from processes has a manufacturers.
materials handling not only Overcoming materials handling
fundamental impact on opens up new possibilities in
minute, when it will be too issues such as powder flow problems
how the facility operates: efficient building design, it can late and the budget for the and blend segregation.
its capacity, flexibility, also drastically increase efficiency right materials handling
and reduce waste for maximum
expandability and cost system will be gone.
of production.
• Even existing facilities can find
ways to reduce or even eliminate
waste by improving materials
handling processes.

• Careful planning of factory

design at an early stage can
increase efficiency, improve
quality and consistency, reduce
waste and increase profits. HOW WE CAN HELP

We size the IBCs to match throughput

demands so that handling of IBCs is
reduced to a minimum. We optimise
your materials handling system to
meet the needs of the process and
facility throughput objectives.
why materials handling matters

We specialise in providing
complete materials handling
solutions for OSD and API
pharmaceutical manufacturers.

We’re not just an IBC provider,

but a true partner helping you
accomplish the right system
for your needs.