Reducing Complexity and Cost in Medical Device and Pharmaceutical Packaging
Medical device packaging has many unique needs due to the strict regulatory environment, which sets it apart from packaging for other industries. In an attempt to ensure regulatory compliance, many brands overshoot the mark and end up with packaging that is unnecessarily complex and, as a result, unnecessarily expensive. Reducing costs often comes by way of simplifying and rightsizing packaging while still taking care to remain in compliance. A comprehensive analysis of opportunities to find a balance between compliance and cost savings can potentially save millions in packaging and distribution costs.
Whether a brand seeks opportunities to optimize current packaging through a cost reduction program or establish new packaging designs with more cost-effective materials and systems, there are options to refine packaging and save money without compromising safety.
Materials and Design in Packaging
While it’s essential for life science products make it to the end user reliably, consistently and securely, brands will often overpackage their products to ensure safety. Careful evaluation can reveal many ways to package a product and achieve the same results while reducing costs.
Blister packs are a common packaging format for products such as capsules and tablets, syringes and monitoring systems. While the protection provided by rigid blister packs is important for these items, they can often be shipped in a more flexible material with similar safety qualities. This change can reduce the weight of product packaging, accommodate more product in each shipper and incorporate more sustainable materials.
Replacing current materials with less expensive, more compact or more sustainable options can reduce costs from material sourcing through delivery. Switching from PEGT or PVC to PET or polypropylene, for example, can create significant savings. New technologies are also in the works; recent developments have introduced more flexible and less wasteful options, such as paper packaging with transparent properties, that provides advantages over other materials because they’re fully recyclable. Considering packaging through end of life can help you make decisions on the best options for your brand. Choosing the design and materials that meet the needs of your product requires a dynamic understanding of medical device packaging –contracting a packaging engineer with experience in the industry can alleviate those concerns.
Medical device and pharmaceutical brands often apply excessive sterilization techniques beyond what’s necessary. There’s a significant difference between “cleanliness” and “sterility.” A thorough understanding of ISO 11607 regulations provides insight into opportunities to adjust packaging designs to meet the needs of individual products. Syringes, for example, may be fully packed in a sterile barrier system, which can be replaced by sterile caps that cover just the needle, reducing material use and size, which also creates savings on transportation, while maintaining sterility standards. These changes must be made with regulatory compliance in mind and with thorough documentation to prove the packaging meets requirements.
When applying sterilization techniques and standards, it’s not uncommon for brands to seek outside sterilization facilities for their products. Others have established sterilization departments within their organizations. While the up-front costs may induce sticker shock, bringing the sterilization capabilities in house can save money over the long run. For smaller companies, that may not be a viable option, but increasing the number of items going out for sterilization at the same time can drive incremental savings.
One of the biggest, yet least recognized expenses for life science products is distribution. Reducing weight and size is a major source of savings for brands, especially when transportation costs spike. Space costs money, so using the space efficiently and increasing the amount of product on pallets and in shippers is an important factor in saving money where possible.
To achieve this, packaging engineers should start from the ground up, evaluating first what is essential to the development of the packaging and which materials or applications can be removed, reduced or replaced. Questions about how a package will perform in its distribution environment and other topics can be answered by a thorough a packaging audit, which helps outline areas of improvement and define goals moving forward, and careful distribution testing.
As an example, using slip sheets instead of pallets reduces labor by condensing the amount of time and people needed to move the product off of trucks and into storage. Generally speaking, solutions that provide the same level of safety while increasing the number of products per shipment, lessening shipping complexity and reducing weight can lead to millions in cost savings.
Some brands may benefit from automation in their packaging departments. Establishing automation processes within your operation or, more commonly, outsourcing to automation organizations can also help bring down costs. Manual assembly of packaging for medical device products is expensive and can lead to inconsistencies. Automation provides a dependable system that reduces damage to products and helps ensure patient safety. It also allows a packaging team to dedicate resources to tasks that require more direct input or supervision, increasing productivity and expanding capabilities throughout a packaging department.
A packaging audit can provide insight into the viability of automation for packaging life science products.
A Combined Approach to Savings
The individual elements of design, shipping, transportation and process can come together to drive substantial savings. Many brands don’t realize the amount of time, labor and money they’re spending on their current packaging and distribution processes. Adept Group has helped clients save millions by analyzing and simplifying their operation. Our packaging engineers have experience working with many of the top brands in the life sciences industries. Explore our capabilities to learn more about how our team can help you reduce cost and complexity in medical device packaging.