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Potential for packaging line optimization

, Gerresheimer AG

Solutions and services for higher efficiency

The pharma industry is just as much exposed to pressure on margins and the need to be innovative as other sectors. As patents expire, it is essential to have a well-filled pipeline of future blockbusters. At the same time, the health authorities are demanding further reductions of reimbursement rates and tightening the regulatory requirements. In the search for optimization potential, not only products but also processes are increasingly coming under scrutiny. One approach which deserves special consideration is an analysis of overall equipment effectiveness.


Compared with other industries, the pharma sector’s overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is still relatively low. With customers in the pharmaceutical and food & beverage industries, Gerresheimer Moulded Glass is able to directly assess the OEE in both sectors. A benchmark study of 50 pharmaceutical packaging lines revealed considerable differences. In the food & beverage sector, the study measured OEE values of between 30% and 63% (average 44%), while the pharma industry’s packaging lines only achieve an OEE of 22% to 39% (average 28%). However, these two sectors have a high comparability level. Packaging volume, packaging equipment, retrofitting rates and interruption frequencies are practically identical. The only difference is that the pharma industry’s retrofitting processes are more time consuming as a result of stricter regulatory requirements. It is obvious, therefore, that the pharma industry can benefit from best practices in the food & beverage industry.

Quality improvements

The objectives to increase overall equipment effectiveness are clear. Minimize interruptions and maximize packaging line speed. Reject and breakage rates have to be reduced and high quality of the finished product has to be ensured. All these things are only possible through continuous, professionally supported optimization processes.

Optimizing the process flow

Experience shows that every station in a packaging line has typical weaknesses and that if these weaknesses are eliminated, the line speed increases, the reject rate declines and downtime is reduced to the minimum. At the removal and sorting stages, for instance, the use of suitable pallet sizes and the safepack configuration can reduce process instability. Optimally adjusted and, when appropriate, coated glass facilitates higher speeds and the reduction of glass metal contact reduces the frequency of cracks and breakages. The same applies to the filling process. In this process, precisely positioned guide rails, the regular maintenance of conveyor belts and perfectly coordinated line speeds ensure problem-free process flows. In the sealing and labeling process, product changes should be coordinated with the bottle supplier so that the bottle specification can be modified if necessary. To ensure closure reliability, the bottle geometry changes should also be taken into account throughout the die service life.

Customer-specific analysis

A detailed analysis, such as the analysis offered by Gerresheimer Moulded Glass, is necessary to ascertain the specific challenges associated with any one packaging line. The results permit customized optimization by adapting successful food & beverage models for the pharma industry. Ideally, equipment manufacturers and suppliers of packaging, labels and closures should also be involved in the optimization process. The sooner Gerresheimer Moulded Glass is involved in the process as a partner, the greater the added value which can be derived from process optimization.

, Gerresheimer AG

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