Traditionally, pharma manufacturing has been performed using a batch approach. This has been the standard for decades, but that appears to be changing. More and more, pharma companies are looking to continuous manufacturing as the way of the future. Many other industries have long since switched to continuous manufacturing, but pharma has been slow to make the change, for a variety of reasons. Thanks to the development of technology and other factors, the time seems to be right for pharma to fully embrace continuous manufacturing.
The Benefits are Impressive
It’s no secret that manufacturing companies in other sectors have benefitted tremendously from continuous manufacturing. There are savings to be enjoyed on a variety of fronts, including production cost reductions, less manpower required, reduction in product deviations, faster scale-up, and more. You don’t have to look deep to understand the motivation for pharma companies to take up this modern manufacturing method. Between the potential for cost savings and improved product consistency, there is plenty to gain here.
It should also be noted that regulations are hugely important in pharma, and the regulators are in favor of a move to continuous manufacturing for the benefits that it can provide. This is a big push in the right direction for the pharma companies, as they know that it will not be necessary to fight for regulatory approval along the way.
The Ball Has Already Started Rolling
When talking about a switch as major as moving to continuous manufacturing in a major industry, it always takes someone to make the first move. Now that the move has been made in a few different places, it would not be surprising to see the shift pick up speed rapidly moving forward.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s all going to be easy going. One of the problems that companies encounter is making the decision to move on from legacy facilities that have been in use for years. If those facilities are still functioning properly, it will be hard to spend the money necessary to transition to continuous manufacturing – even if there are long-term incentives to do so. Rather than simply shutting down an existing facility to start over with a continuous manufacturing arrangement, it is more likely that a blend of the two manufacturing methods will exist for a period of transition. In the end, however, it is nearly certain that the shift to continuous manufacturing will be a complete one.
The final piece of the puzzle is the human capital required to understand the complexities of continuous manufacturing. For organizations who have a deep understanding of the batch process, it can be daunting to learn a whole new method of manufacturing from the ground up. As the knowledge that exists within the companies starts to match up with the facilities and equipment put in place, the big picture of continuous manufacturing will start to come into view. And, as a whole, the pharma industry should be better for the change.