Q&A: How late-stage packaging customization is shaking up the pharmaceutical supply chain
Tablets in blisters may seem like a simple, everyday item, but in reality the manufacturing process is highly sophisticated. The trend toward smaller batch sizes and higher numbers of packaging variants is driving many manufacturers to turn to ‘postponement’ to improve the efficiency of their supply chains.
One company at the forefront of late stage customisation is Hapa, a company which provides technologies to the pharmaceutical industry that allow for last-minute customisation of a product’s packaging. With Hapa’s blister printing solutions, manufacturers can produce their drugs as brite stock – a full batch of active product in blank blister packaging – and modify the product’s packaging to various regional standards just in time.
Ahead of the LogiPharma 2019 conference, we caught up with Hapa sales and marketing director to find out how Hapa’s solutions are revolutionising the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Can you give me an overview of what Hapa is?
JM, Hapa sales and marketing director: In very simple terms, we supply technology which integrates into packaging lines with benefits that are felt throughout the supply chain. If you have a drug and you supply to 40 different countries in three different strengths, then you end up with 120 different labels. That results in 120 different locations in the warehouse and a significant amount of purchasing and logistics complexity.
With our technology, you reduce the number of variations from 240 down to one, because the label can be fully printed in the packaging line, on demand. This massively decreases the inventory, cuts out waste and importantly allows for quicker deliveries and higher agility.
Why are you going to LogiPharma?
JM: Typically, supply chain personnel are not involved in the selection of production equipment. More often, those decisions fall with production teams. However, supply chain is increasingly becoming a business differentiator in the Pharmaceutical Industry.
If we look at Amazon, they’re nothing more than a supply-chain organisation and they’ve grown to be one of the biggest corporations on the planet. Increasingly, people responsible for the supply chain are having more and more influence into different areas of business, and that’s the reason that we’re attending this event. We want to illustrate to the delegates how changes in production methodology can have a profound effect in helping them to meet their supply chain objectives.
“Supply chain is increasingly becoming a business differentiator in the Pharmaceutical Industry. If we look at Amazon, they’re nothing more than a supply-chain organisation and they’ve grown to be one of the biggest corporations on the planet.”
Why is Hapa so well placed to provide this kind of technology?
JM: Hapa is part of the Coesia group which is one of the largest machinery manufacturers in the world. We are focussed on supplying the pharmaceutical industry, and our customers include all of the major pharmaceutical companies that you could think of.
We are a company who complies fully with the stringent regulatory requirements of pharma and that, combined with highly innovative technology and an excellent reputation for service, positions us as the go-to people for online printing and late stage customisation in pharmaceutical packaging.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far as a company?
JM: Digital transformation. Digital technologies by their nature are more agile than analogue technologies – it’s quicker to send an email than it is to post a letter. We as a company have launched a series of new products which are based on digital technology. It’s a challenge for us as it represents learning not just how to integrate technology into a packaging line but also to amalgamate IT into data workflow and network integration.
With the advancements in digital technology we’re now able to make digital twins of systems so that we can simulate a complete digital process to guarantee that it works before it’s actually installed, but this is all part of the learning curve which has been a challenge.
“With the advancements in digital technology we’re now able to make digital twins of systems so that we can simulate a complete digital process to guarantee that it works before it’s actually installed.”
What gets you up in the morning?
JM: I’m driven to help my customers to become more efficient. Many supply chain professionals are not aware that the packaging lines for producing the product are only running for 30-40% of the time. The rest of the time those packaging lines are standing still, and this for me is crazy – if you have a money making machine, why would you leave it standing still? With our late stage customisation technology, the money making machines run for more of the time.
If you read testimonials from Hapa’s customers its quite clear that it’s all about getting better utilisation of equipment and growing their business by being able to react more quickly to market volatility and to be more agile. This is what excites me about my job, I like getting great feedback from customers when they say “you know what, your technology is fantastic, it’s helped us to grow our business and we’re much more efficient now” – that’s what gets me out of bed!