The Pharmaceutical and Medical Packaging industry experienced exponential growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Global crisis aside, the industry has always been in high demand and continues to grow, evolve and change. Pharmaceutical and medical packaging are under strict guidelines, regulations, and standards, but innovations and the ever-changing healthcare industry bring new trends every year. Here are four pharmaceutical and medical packaging trends to watch:
Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Packaging
Climate change, finite resources, and the human impact on the planet are massive trending topics among consumers and businesses alike. Sustainable and eco-friendly packaging and practices have become a focus for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, and pharmaceutical packaging is no exception. Pharmaceutical companies are also feeling the pressure to become more sustainable from governmental agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), which issued a directive requiring manufacturers to make packaging as recyclable as possible. Biodegradable and recycled materials are now cheaper and more accessible to companies. Recyclable plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) have become a popular choice for packaging material, including in the pharmaceutical packaging industry. The supply chain has also worked to become more sustainable, with many companies looking to consolidate their operations into one place reducing emissions and likely saving money and time. It is in companies’ best interests to make a sustainable plan as consumers, governments, and shareholders look to an uncertain future.
Challenges such as labor shortages, new safety standards, and more arose during the pandemic. Healthcare providers worked tirelessly to find new ways to meet the high demand and keep healthcare accessible to high-risk patients. Self-administered medications and tests have become more popular with both patients and doctors. At-home medical test kits changed the course of the pandemic, allowing people to quickly test for COVID-19 without going into a doctor’s office, allowing people to stay home and curb the spread. Patients have accessed self-administered medications in the past, but recent developments have made it easier for patients to access them. A common self-administered medication is insulin for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. New technology such as auto-injectables like automated insulin pumps has made it convenient and fast for diabetic patients to get the medications they need and administer them themselves. These developments have assisted in the rise of more self-administered therapies for other autoimmune diseases and emergency drugs. There is a variety of self-administered medications packaging, including prefilled syringes, cartridges, vials, auto injectables, and wearables. These packages need to be durable to survive transport and the packaging needs to include labels with clear instructions and warnings. As the industry continues to innovate and self-medications become more normalized, packaging must adjust to handle these precious medications.
Preventing Counterfeit Drugs
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 10% of global pharmaceutical commerce ($21 billion) involves counterfeit drugs. Preventing counterfeit drugs is a matter of public safety and the pharmaceutical packaging industry is working hard to solve this global problem. The FDA requires drug manufacturers to guard against the duplication, substitution, and tampering of consumer drugs. To combat the tampering of drugs, many pharmaceutical packaging companies already use tamper-evident packaging designs to warn consumers if a product had been substituted or altered. Packages are also designed to have hidden overt features that prove the drug’s legitimacy when revealed. A more technological approach has also been taken by companies. RFID with track and trace technology has played a key role in keeping track of drug packages and identifying counterfeit shipments. Serialization is a trend on its own with companies keen on keeping track of their products through the supply chain.
Serialization is the process of applying a unique code to each individual product. It provides a system to track and trace a pharmaceutical product from its source through the entire supply chain. From tracking recalls to gathering supply chain data, serialization not only creates transparency but it also improves the packaging process with data-driven decisions. Some countries are making serialization a requirement. In the United States, Unique Device Identification (UDI) system tracks medical and pharmaceutical products as they move through the supply chain and into consumers’ hands. UDI barcodes are required by the FDA on all medical devices. The barcodes contain important and required information such as the lot or batch number, expiration date, date of manufacturing, and more. Serialization doesn’t stop at the individual product, tracking everything from the cases of products to the pallets is all part of tracking through the supply chain. With the success of the UDI system, other countries are adopting UDI or similar systems to track their products better and increase transparency and safety.
Your Pharmaceutical Packaging Partner: MFT Automation
Keep up with all the packaging automation trends with MFT Automation! MFT Automation is a leader in packaging automation solutions with over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical packaging industry. With the resources and knowledge to create high-performance friction feeders, labelers, and systems, MFT Automation works directly with customers to find the perfect solution for their automation challenge. From the first draft with our in-house Mechanical, Electrical, and Software Engineering departments to assembly in our Machine Shop with modern CNC and lathe machine tools, we’ll know your system inside and out. Our Integration Engineering team works to fine-tune the equipment for your specific application and then install or integrate it into an existing system. Our systems are known for their flexibility, accuracy, and high performance. Contact us with your latest automation challenge!
Since the beginning of humanity, humans have been adapting and innovating technology to create a better quality of life. From the steam engine to complex robotic assembly lines, humans have constantly pushed toward a more productive future. These technological advancements are marked in history as the Industrial Revolutions. The original industrial revolution refers to the time of momentous change from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy.
Since then, there have been three more “Industrial Revolutions” all with important technological advancements that launched humanity forward. Currently, there is debate on if we are in the midst of a Fifth Industrial Revolution. But to understand the Fifth Industrial Revolution also known as Industry 5.0, one must also understand the previous eras of development that heavily contributed to the creation of Industry 5.0.
The Industrial Revolutions
The first industrial revolution refers to the era of change in the 1700s from an agricultural and handicraft economy and society into the industrial and machine manufacturing-dominated society we know today. The Industrial Revolution started in Britain with the invention of the steam-powered engine which propelled industries into unprecedented productivity levels as factories went from relying on hand production to machines. It also revolutionized transportation, from steamboats to steam-powered trains. People (and their ideas), animals, and products were able to move farther and faster than ever before.
The Second Industrial Revolution was built on the engineering achievements of the First Industrial Revolution and many experts find an overlap of technology between the two eras. Mass production was in full swing with engineers and business owners looking for more innovative ways to make and sell as many products as possible. Technological advances such as electricity and the invention of the assembly line process skyrocketed factory efficiencies and productivity. The assembly line was the start of automation in manufacturing. Product prices dropped with the cost of labor, making more products, ranging from cars to clothing, more accessible to the average consumer. The Second Industrial Revolution ended with the beginning of World War I in 1914.
The Third Industrial Revolution is also known as the Digital Revolution and refers to the shift from analog to digital electronics. In manufacturing, the Third Industrial Revolution introduced programming for machines that allowed the further automation of the process with less even human interaction. The invention of the Personal Computer and the Internet laid the groundwork for our strong connectivity between devices. Advancements in computers and machines also meant data collection and analysis that led to data-driven decisions to increase factory production productivity.
Industry 4.0 also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution encapsulates the most recent era of technological advancements in manufacturing. Building off of the developments of the Digital Revolution, Industry 4.0 strives for total automation through advanced engineering, robotics, connectivity, and data analytics. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many slow Industry 4.0 adopters to upgrade their systems and processes as companies were forced to adapt to supply chain issues, worker shortages, and increased consumer demand.
Many trends and new developments in Industry 4.0 contribute to the full automation of processes in a factory. Recent developments in robotics that made robots more accessible as they are cheaper to produce and to buy and integrate into production lines. Robots’ integrated sensors contribute to the increased accuracy and precision that allows more complex applications. The sensors are connected to a larger network that helps communicate and coordinate the rest of the automation system and technicians.
The productivity of an automation system is dependent on all the parts working together simultaneously and technicians who can stop a problem before it starts. Connecting all the moving parts of the system has never been easier. The Internet, bluetooth, cloud computing, and other wireless connections created a whole new level of connectivity, communication, and decentralized systems. Now, a network of machines, sensors, and other devices that communicate with computers over the internet creates an efficient automation system that technicians can observe and correct from anywhere.
IoT is not only used for communication but also for data collection. The data collected and analyzed gives powerful insights into the production lines to identify bottlenecks and other hazards impeding a production line’s full potential. Big Data is transforming companies and supply chains. From consumer data to production data all are brought together for companies to make better data-driven decisions. As technology evolves and the types of data that can be collected expands companies and stakeholders can expect to be more confident in their decisions.
On the horizon: Industry 5.0
Engineers are forward thinkers looking for the next thing so it is no surprise that some experts argue that Industry 4.0 is starting to become a thing of the past and Industry 5.0 is starting to take shape. Much like the overlap between the first and second industrial revolutions, Industry 5.0 builds on Industry 4.0. While Industry 4.0 focused on creating the most efficient and productive automated manufacturing process, Industry 5.0 looks to add a human element back into the process. Industry 5.0 looks to merge the potential accuracy of full automation and the problem-solving skills and creativity of human workers. The emerging trends of Industry 5.0 include Machine Assisted human collaboration, artificial intelligence, and sustainability.
Machine-Assisted Human Collaboration – Cobots
Human touch or the human element of manufacturing is much more difficult to eliminate than once thought. According to the International Federation of Robotics, only 10% of jobs will be fully automated. It is more likely that robots will work alongside human workers, the Robots being known as cobots. Cobots are not designed to replace the human workforce but to take over dull, repetitive, and dangerous tasks. The number of cobot installs doubled from 2017 to 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed companies to find ways to battle the worker shortage and social distancing measures.
The next Industry 5.0 evolution of data analytics is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Creating systems that combine human and machine intelligence. New advancements in Artificial Intelligence have been making headlines, from ChatGPT to Deepfakes, A.I. has become powerful enough to enter the mainstream. In manufacturing, A.I. is used to optimize and streamline production processes. Algorithms are able to analyze trends in data and forecast with higher accuracy. It was found that applying AI-driven forecasting to supply chain management reduced errors by 20%-50%. AI won’t completely replace humans in most functions as it still needs to be trained and often the analytical results still need human interpretation. AI is meant to help support humans, lessening human cognitive labor so humans can focus on more complex and creative problem-solving.
The conversation about climate change has led to more environmentally conscious consumers that are looking to support more sustainable companies. These companies are also becoming more aware of the finite nature of many resources and are looking for ways to make their company more sustainable in the long run. With governments, consumers, and now data pointing to the need for a more sustainable strategy, Industry 5.0 companies are taking responsibility and engaging in more sustainable practices to reduce or minimize their environmental damage. The goal is to be a net positive force in fighting climate change rather than stagnate or maintain the bare level of sustainability.
Your Industry 5.0 Partner
MFT Automation has over 25 years of experience in the Automation Industry as a leader in high-performance system solutions and integration. Our team features forward thinkers and innovators looking to help companies reach Industry 5.0. Our success is made possible by our engineering-oriented and customer-driven approach to finding the best automation solution for a customer’s application. With an expansive catalog of standard robust equipment that can easily be integrated into existing production lines or its own stand-alone solution. We focus on tailoring the solution to the application and not the other way around.
MFT Automation has an abundance of in-house resources that include Mechanical, Electrical, and Software engineers, and a machine shop with modern CNC and lathe machine tools. Our connections and partnerships allow for limitless opportunities and resources to create the perfect system. We work with customers from the first solution draft to integration to installation and training. Contact us with your latest labeling automation challenge, online or call us at 1-651-427-1255.
MFT Automation is going abroad! We will be exhibiting at interpack 2023! Join us May 4th -10th, 2023 in Düsseldorf, Germany, for one of Europe’s largest processing and packaging shows. You can find us at Booth C38-7 in Hall 15. Add us to your show planner!
At the Booth
We will be showcasing our Impresso Labeler and Friction Feeder System at the show! The MFT Impresso Labeler and Friction Feeder System is a compact and powerful automation system. With a small footprint, the Imprsso Labeler and Friction Feeder effortlessly integrate into larger automation systems or existing production lines. The Impresso Labeler is our customizable industrial label applicator, capable of precise and accurate label placement. Contributing to the accurate placement is our robust MFT Friction Feeder which feeds products one by one for labeling. The strong belts grip the product to keep it from skewing for better label placement. The system includes infrared sensors for an accurate count and double-detect and overlap detection for high accuracy rates. Designed for long production runs and demanding applications, Impresso Labeler and Friction Feeder System reliably provides years of uninterrupted service. Come see this amazing system run at interpack 2023 at Booth C38-7 in Hall 15!
Meet the Team
Meet our representatives that will be at our booth (C38-7 in Hall 15) to answer all of your questions about your automation challenges!
Mark Nordling – Sector Application Engineering Manager
Mark has been with MFT Automation for over 25 years and has decades of experience in the industrial automation industry, specializing in friction feeder applications. When Mark isn’t in the office he enjoys spending time with his family coaching his children’s sports teams and gardening. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn before the show!
Michelle S. Kornowski – Applications Engineer
Michelle is an Industrial Systems-Manufacturing Engineer new to the automation industry, who brings with her a wealth of estimating expertise to the MFT team. Lean-focused and process-oriented, Michelle has a passion for assessing, evaluating, and restructuring complex systems in flux. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, traveling/exploring, and learning new crafts – creating stained glass is on the docket this year. Want to connect with Michelle before the show? Find her on LinkedIn!
About MFT Automation
MFT Automation is a privately held company that provides high-performance friction feeding and labeling solutions throughout the world. With state-of-the-art control technology and robust mechanics, our products feed more quickly and accurately to provide customers with a greater return on investment. All friction feeders, labelers, and accessories can easily be integrated with other machines to provide a total system solution for any application. With experience in industries such as pharmaceutical, food, packaging, printing, financial/security, and fulfillment, MFT Automation can help any sized business with production efficiency.
See the other tradeshows we’re attending in 2023: mftautomation.com/tradeshows