Greening the Pharmaceuticals Industry

This article is contributed by Markus Lade, Head of Process Automation, Siemens ASEAN-Pacific.

Environmental sustainability is undoubtedly one of the most pressing global agendas – and is top priority for the pharmaceutical industry as well. About 200 kilograms of solid waste, such as solvents and toxic organics, are released with every ton of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) produced. The discharge of chemical waste from the production of pharmaceutical products poses acute threat to the environment.

The growth of the pharmaceutical industry clearly indicates that production is on the upward too. The amount of electricity and water utilized in the production process are high. In order to achieve sustainable production levels without harming the environment, companies need to take steps to make their manufacturing processes greener.

Markus Lade, Head of Process Automation, Siemens ASEAN-Pacific, discusses the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry and how manufacturers can maximize efficiency while reducing ecological footprint.

Reality check

Energy

Buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s energy and are responsible for 21 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Running pharmaceutical testing laboratories and production plants hours on end utilize a significant amount of energy. Companies are realizing this and are demanding for energy efficient building blueprints as well as process designs that save energy, while reducing waste and control emissions.

Waste

In clinical batch production and batch-to-batch variation, precision is key. Due to stringent regulations and industry standards, off-specification batches are deemed unusable and discarded. Along with the discarded batches, solvents and toxic organics – that were used in the production process – are also released from the plants and pollute surrounding water bodies.

Waste in laboratory testing needs to be minimized and the problem of products expiring in the warehouses needs to be eliminated.

Water

About 40 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies have said that the impact of a water shortage on their businesses would be “severe” or “catastrophic”, yet only 17 percent said they were prepared for such a crisis. Global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, and water, unlike oil, has no substitute. Water is the largest ingredient in almost every drug produced.

Water that is used in the manufacturing of drugs is subject to the requirements of current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP), whether or not the water stays in the final product (e.g. cleaning, rinsing formulation etc.). Apart from ensuring high water quality to meet regulatory requirements, pharmaceutical companies also need to make an effort to reduce water consumption and significantly reuse wastewater to conserve water resources.

Sustaining solutions

Keep an eye on things – Identify

Tracking, tracing and monitoring solutions are important to help manage and control the supply chain and its required resources.

By keeping a close watch on how resources are being used, and in what ways, companies will be able to identify energy losses and inefficient assets, thereby reducing or even eliminating the occurrence of any expired raw materials or products. This not only reduces waste disposal costs, it also helps the companies to conform to industrial wastewater regulations, while improving efficiency.

In addition, with controlled power and utilities management systems, plants are able to optimize energy use and reduce energy costs by up to as high as 20 percent, just through monitoring.

Increase efficiency – Automate

The benefits of automation are known, but the ability to harness the technology and implement it in the best way possible makes all the difference.

Once the trends in energy usage are monitored and identified, they need to be addressed. Through intelligent and integrated building and room automation solutions, companies can control room variations and laboratory conditions according to specific requirements, which may alter within the day or even hour. This flexibility increases energy efficiency of the manufacturing plant and testing laboratories.

The development stage – when analytical processes and laboratory testing take place – is a key one in pharmaceutical production. Companies need to work towards processes that are optimized to achieve right-first-time batches, and online analysis with software solutions that decrease testing efforts, and reduce waste and water consumption.

Siemens-developed SIPAT, a software that supports the application of Process Analytical Technology (PAT), is fast becoming the solution of choice in the pharmaceutical industry. Quality monitoring is part of the process control loop and enables right-first-time manufacturing. In addition, continuous manufacturing processes reduce intermediate material and waste, as well as water consumption, resulting in a shorter lead time, lower energy usage and waste reduction.

Paving the way to greener pastures

Production in the pharmaceutical industry is on the upward trend. The amount of energy, chemicals, and water required to meet this growth will correspondingly increase, resulting in rising economic and environmental costs as well.

By making a conscious effort, companies can identify, understand, and address the challenges and adopt solutions that enable green sustainable manufacturing. Even in high chemical usage manufacturing industries such as pharmaceuticals, it is possible to reduce ecological footprint without cutting back on production objectives. It just takes little steps that will automatically pave its way forward.

Source credit: Markus Lade, Head of Process Automation, Siemens ASEAN-Pacific

Video credit: Assorted pills by moketni, stock.xchng

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