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Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru September 22 , 2020
Indian pharma machinery manufacturers are exploring new ways to implement advanced technologies like continuous manufacturing, smart machines and robots. The sector is also viewing the option of PODs to ease installation at plants. PODS or modules are quick to configure at production unit locations.

When machinery for pharma is becoming more intelligent, the overall infrastructure would also need to become more agile, said Aasif Ahsan Khan, founder and managing director, Fabtech Technologies.

"As we move towards the implementation of new technologies and Pharma 4.0, many pharma manufacturers will be under increased pressure to adopt new manufacturing methods in a legacy plant environment. More sites will require their engineering partners to enter into stakeholder engagement and execute Pharma 4.0 investments,” said Khan at the Indian Pharma Machinery Manufacturers’ virtual event on Future of Pharma organized by IRM and Cadila Pharma.  

Deliberating on the topic Future Readiness of Pharma Machinery, he said, “We are now talking about facilities built with brick and mortar. But going forward, as critical care medicines and even COVID-19 vaccines will be the need of the hour, accessibility and availability will be of prime importance.”

Therefore, all pharma machinery manufacturers in India will have to move towards PODs which are pre fabricated pharma facilities for agile manufacturing. This will enable quicker manufacturing of drugs and better distribution to geographies where they are needed most, he said.

Internationally, there is an increased resentment, especially in the developing world, at being deprived of medicines during the pandemic. Now, most of them are striving to be pandemic prepared. So, for efficient and effective manufacturing of medicines and distribution, the industry will have to move towards PODs, also referred to as modules, which are pre-fabricated facilities and cargo containers. This pandemic will not end in a jiffy and will take at least 6 to 12 months. Movement of people would be a challenge. Shipment of machinery is fine but unless there are trained installers in different countries, one will encounter installation problems, he noted.

PODs is the name of the game as these are scalable solutions, offer reduced time lines, are repurposable assets with customized design solutions, compact and energy efficient. Most importantly, one does not have to ship the machines as the containers are already shipped. All the machines are equipped with HVAC, ducting and other utilities that are validated. The containers are just shipped and assembled at site and put into use as a plug and play system. These are part of the agile infrastructure for pharma machinery to meet the future demand, said Khan.

PODs are designed to operate 24/7 and 365 days. Many machinery manufacturers for pharma in the European Union are already in this business but prohibitive costs are a deterrent. India can take the lead since Indian pharma industry is economical and focused, thanks to the Indian pharma machinery and pharma manufacturers, stated the Fabtech chief.

According to Amit Doshi COO, Karnavati Pharma Machinery, going by the changing customer preference, the sector will have to manufacture maintenance-free machines. Physical repairs and spare part replacement service has reduced during the pandemic. Another huge market opportunity for Indian pharma machine manufacturers is the refurbishment of equipment.

Mahendra Mehta, president, Indian Pharma Machinery Manufacturers Association and CEO, Parle Global Technologies highlighted the need for video-based manuals to make machinery installation easy at production facilities. “It is also important to ensure space economy while installing machinery and provide manuals in all languages to avoid dependence on the shop floor,” he noted.

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