3 Common Product Handling Challenges on Pharmaceutical Lines and How Dynamic Checkweighers Can Help
Total market demand in the pharmaceutical industry is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020₁, putting huge pressure on manufacturers to meet burgeoning production schedules. Optimizing processes to make production more efficient is therefore essential. A key factor in achieving efficiencies is to examine how products are handled on the production line to enhance overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
Against this backdrop, pharmaceutical manufacturers are turning to processing and inspection equipment providers for solutions. In fact, capital expenditure in equipment has been increasing by 13% year-on-year. The total spend in 2014 was more than $21.4 billion₂, which shows a willingness by manufacturers to purchase new technologies to stay ahead of the competition.
Why is Product Handling So Important?
Handling products on high-speed production lines presents numerous challenges. By pinpointing problem areas and investing in appropriate solutions, the benefits and return on investment (ROI) will manifest themselves.
The smooth progression of packages along the line is the ultimate goal. The more streamlined and efficient this process is, the greater the output that can be achieved. The result is end products being produced cost effectively, without compromising on quality. Conversely, any product not running smoothly through the production line will have a negative impact on efficiency.
The three main challenges pharmaceutical manufacturers experience today due to high-speed product handling are:
1. Askew Packages
The misalignment of packs as they travel through the process is a common issue resulting in less accurate weighing, as well as potential blockages and jams downstream. Accuracy can also be affected if product is not centered when it reaches the weighing conveyor.
Dynamic checkweighers feature advanced sensors to monitor package orientation, ensuring any askew packages are either rejected or corrected automatically before continuing. Systems also incorporate transversal adjustment, a feature that automatically re-centers product, resulting in improved weighing accuracy and better positioning as items continue through production.
2. Unstable Products
Stability is another key area of product handling. Taller items with small footprints such as bottles and aerosols are inclined to topple over, leading to unscheduled downtime. To ensure smooth product transfer, it’s important that vibrations are kept to a minimum and transition points between conveyor belts are carefully designed.
Advanced checkweighing systems have a number of features to help reduce or eliminate these issues. For example, side belts are available constructed using precision milled monoblock parts to reduce vibration and stabilize products during weighing. In addition, high-precision crowned rollers optimize conveyor belt guidance to increase product stability. A separate conveyor and belt specifically for rejects helps to eliminate possible vibrations caused by rejections, leading to precise product transfers.
3. Cartons with Open Flaps
Carton line speeds are increasing and there’s always a risk that some cartons will have open flaps which, if undetected, could damage printing devices, vision systems and sensors downstream, as well as cause blockages.
The latest checkweighing solutions incorporate product control options which enable pharmaceutical manufactures and packers to configure their systems to detect open flaps and reject them immediately to minimize disruption.
As this post shows, checkweighers have a pivotal role to play in pharmaceutical production. By investing in advanced solutions with the capacity to handle products efficiently, manufacturers can maximize uptime, increase productivity and ultimately improve profitability.
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