Merck sets ambitious goal at PMMI meeting

Challenges in cold chain delivery, new packaging for Africa, and regulatory issues all key to machinery decision-making, Merck's Ron Yakubison tells the audience at PMMI's Annual Fall Meeting.

Ron Yakubison, director of packaging operations support at pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck, was one of three company representatives to take part in a panel discussion of typical packaging machinery buyers at the November 7 portion of the November 6-8 PMMI meeting in King of Prussia, PA.

The event also included a tour of packaging machinery builders All-Fill Inc. and Omega Design Corp. A highlight of the visit to Omega Design was a view of the in-plant demo of Omega's new serialization solution (the robotic end-of-line portion is shown here). It was developed in response to the growing demand for track-and-trace functionality in the pharmaceutical manufacturing arena.

The panel discussion included Librado Guerrero, a plant manager at The Sunny Delight Beverages Co., and Paul Schaum, VP of manufacturing at Utz Snacks.

Among the remarks from Merck's Yakubison were the following:

• Merck's admittedly ambitious goal is to supply 80% of the world's population by 2015. Key challenges include figuring out a cold chain delivery solution that will help them achieve their goal and keep costs down. But when it comes to keeping costs in check, how should Merck go about achieving that when many of the regions into which it wants to expand are places where people are lucky to make $5 a day?

• Drugs developed by Merck to fight Rotavirus, a common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children, were developed for the U.S. Considering the fact that this disease is increasingly prevalent in Africa, Merck will need new formulations and new packaging, too. What packaging machinery suppliers will be able to help Merck tackle such a challenge?

• Legacy packaging equipment is widespread in Merck's plants around the world. What packaging machinery suppliers will help Merck ensure that such equipment can continue to meet emerging regulatory requirements?

• While consumers in the West flock to generics as soon as patent expirations make generics possible, consumers in developing countries are big believers in brands and will pay a premium for them.

• As the demand for serialization grows, Merck needs a solution that works globally.

• Small runs are increasingly the norm, and lot sizes vary widely from region to region. In the Netherlands a run might be 30 minutes, in Indonesia it might be 3.5 hours, and in the U.S. it might be 8 hours. Packaging machinery suppliers need to be aware of these variants.

--By Pat Reynolds, VP/Editor, Packaging World magazine
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