Wednesday, 18 December 2019

10 Tips for Choosing Pharmaceutical Equipment

The pharmaceutical industry has an enormous amount of influence and enjoys spectacular profits year after year. When it comes to maintaining a successful pharmaceutical lab, however, all this success is hard-won. It’s important to choose the right equipment the first time to uphold the quality and effectiveness your patients and partners are counting on. Here’s what to look for.

A guest post by Megan R. Nichols

1. Choose Equipment That’s Easy to Clean

You likely don’t need reminding of the high purity levels required in the pharmaceutical sector. With this in mind, it’s vital to choose lab equipment that’s easy to clean.

As an example, curved tube exchangers can be more difficult to sterilize than straight ones. When even a tiny amount of residue could compromise the next batch, it’s imperative to take every design detail, no matter how small, seriously. 

2. Know Which Equipment Minimizes Leaks

Leaks are undesirable in any manufacturing or distribution process. In pharmaceuticals, they can be especially impactful and unsafe. While choosing lab equipment, consider these options for reducing leaks and cross-contamination:
  • Fully welded tubesheets are designed to minimize the chances of sustaining a leak while processing pharmaceuticals
  • Double tube sets for heat exchangers can be designed with channels that drain away any leaks safely. 
3. Match With Your Heat Transfer Fluids

The growth of the pharmaceutical industry is part of why the heat transfer fluid (HFT) market is likely to surpass $4.2 billion in value by 2024.

Lots of pharmaceutical processes rely on heat transfer fluids, but not all equipment is designed for compatibility with the most effective HTFs. Silicone-based HTFs are pumpable at low temperatures but are still ideal for high-temperature processes, according to Dow Chemical. Lab equipment must be compatible with all liquids in play, but especially with heat transfer fluids. 

4. Get a Custom Design

There may be times when a pharmaceutical company has a problem without an obvious solution or needs a unique piece of equipment but doesn’t know how to fabricate it. For times like these, it might be worth pursuing a custom-engineered solution to achieve repeatable processes and high-quality product output every time.

For example, a pharma company needed and successfully sourced an electropolished basket with extremely fine tolerances for treating contact lenses. A good fabrication specialist knows which materials, like surgical-grade stainless steel, are appropriate for the pharmaceutical industry. Certain techniques finishing techniques give the smoothness and purity required for exceptionally delicate operations. 

5. Check Warranty and Customer Service Details

Nobody who relies on complex and valuable equipment for their daily workflows wants to think about downtime. It’s an expensive hassle — and not every OEM takes problems seriously if they do arise.

You need extremely dependable equipment. That means you need to find designers and manufacturers with lots of satisfied clients and a spotless track record for safety and quality. It’s important to ask questions about customer service responses, too, like how quickly a company will get you a replacement if something goes wrong. 

6. Make Sure the Environment Is Ready

As you’re working to procure lab equipment, it’s essential to make sure you’re welcoming your new assets into a suitable work environment. For quality control (QC) laboratories, especially, it’s important to create an environment that minimizes the chance for errors and malfunctions. This includes the following:
  • Proper ventilation and an air circulation system that reduces particulates
  • Enough space that each equipment station can be used comfortably and safely
  • Ample but not overly harsh lighting to ensure good visibility
  • Separate, controlled areas for specimen storage, servers, gas cylinders, and other sensitive or volatile materials 
7. Employ a Tracking System

Many of the latest pieces of equipment have GPS, Bluetooth, RFID, NFC (near-field communication) and other Internet of Things protocols built in. They help administrators and quartermasters tag, track and locate their company’s important tools and equipment.

The same systems provide a wealth of data on ambient and environmental conditions. Pharmaceutical companies — especially those involved in the transportation of temperature-sensitive products — benefit from the real-time operational visibility these technologies provide. 

8. Insist on Good User Experience

The manufacturers of your potential new lab equipment should be able to demonstrate how it works, how to operate it and why it could make a difference in your daily operations.

It’s fair to expect a moderate learning curve any time you adopt a new tool or technology. Nevertheless, if you find a provider with equipment that feels natural to use, you’ll probably see productivity and financial benefits for years to come. 

9. Find Experienced and Compliant Manufacturers

The consequences of poor quality in the pharmaceutical industry are high, which is why there are several standards groups with compliance requirements. When procuring lab and pharmaceutical equipment, look for manufacturers bearing endorsements from:
  • ASTM
  • FDA
  • ISO
  • GMP
  • cGMP 
10. Ask About Local Technical Support

One of the most frustrating things experienced in this line of work is having a piece of equipment fail and not having local technical support to fall back on.

The companies whose equipment you rely on should have agents, distributors and other partners close enough to your region that you’ll never get stuck with downtime while you wait for help to arrive.

There’s a lot that goes into procuring pharmaceutical equipment. With these 10 fundamentals in mind, however, you’ll be better prepared to outfit your lab or company and start finding clients.
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