New pharma filling line delivers healthy benefits

Integrator helps PharmaFab increase speeds and reduce product giveaway and changeover time on a new liquid filling line.

Challenges: Increasing customer demands and meeting regulations from the Food and Drug Administration make packaging flexibility a priority at PharmaFab, which operates by current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). PharmaFab needed to improve line speed, reduce changeover time, and lessen product giveaway by replacing an older liquid filling line. The new line had to be operational in three months after equipment was ordered so that it could produce cough and cold remedies to meet fall and winter demand.

Changes: PharmaFab employed Modular Packaging Systems as an engineering integrator for the line, a company it had worked with in the past. Read about the equipment on the new line.

Results: "We needed to increase production of prescription cough syrup, a tricky manufacturing task because of the need to achieve a specific viscosity—as thick as honey—with a particle-based suspension," recalls Loyd Bowman, PharmaFab's director of facilities and equipment. Liquids are filled at ambient temperatures.

• The installation was completed in 24 days, allowing production start-up by mid-October 2004.
• The new line fills 15-mL bottles at 110/min, and 475-mL bottles at 60/min, compared with the previous line that filled those same bottle sizes at 50 and 30/min, respectively.
• "The new line is also more user friendly and has decreased downtime from changeovers by at least 50 percent, and changeovers can occur as often as three times a day on the line," he says.
• Bowman says that due to both faster start-up times, and more accurate fills, the new machine has reduced product loss from 3% to 4% of a batch down to 1%. "It's a lot of money because batches can vary in cost to more than $55,000 a batch."

He explains that these benefits help justify the investment in the new line. "This was an expensive line for a company our size to add. We had to look at the big picture to determine our economic justification. Modular follows up [with service] whenever we need it. The company wants us to be successful, because it knows that in another year or two, when another capital project comes up, that it'll be at the top of the list."

PharmaFab is a Grand Prairie, TX,-based contract manufacturer (CM), producing product for pharmaceutical companies, private-label firms, and distributors. The CM manufactures prescription and over-the-counter product, filling capsules and tablets on three packaging lines, and liquid pharmaceuticals on two other lines.

--By Jim Butschli, Editor
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