Taking out Bottle Costs
Suppliers create value with lightweighting and SKU management programs.
As sensitive ethical and OTC ingredients are driving interest in bottle barrier technology, driving cost out of containers is an ongoing priority for customers.
Though proprietary cap and bottle systems have come to market in recent years offering novel safety and convenient opening features, standard designs are open to reevaluation.
An innovative twist on an old standard can capture consumer loyalty while holding container costs in check.
Lightweighting is another option for cost control.
Addressing cost and sustainability, Rexam Healthcare (www.rexam.com) is introducing lightweight wide-mouth bottles that use 10 to 20 percent less resin than standard bottles, depending on bottle size.
The Opti-Lite lines of lightweight bottles will be offered in a range of injection blow molded HDPE opaque round containers, and are now available in a range of injection stretch blow molded clarified polypropylene bottles. The PP bottles provide transparency very close to that of PET, with the advantage of having a much better moisture barrier than PET, says Patrice Lewko, marketing director, Rexam Healthcare.
HDPE bottle samples will be available in the first quarter after completion of industrialization of sizes, adds Todd Meyer, NPI manager, blow molding, Rexam Healthcare.
“The purpose was to drive as much cost out as possible, but still deliver a range of functional wide-mouth containers. We can combine these with our lighter weight closures to meet customers’ goals for cost reduction and sustainability,” Meyer says.
“Both the HDPE and PP provide adequate moisture and light protection for solid oral drug products, (in conformance with) USP <661> and <671> guidelines,” Meyer adds.
Amcor Global Pharmaceutical Packaging (www.amcor.com) is evaluating lower weight bottle/cap solutions for pharmaceuticals, drawing on technology and expertise from Amcor’s food and beverage businesses. The initiative in lightweighting extends to Amcor’s Stability Solutions Barrier line of multi-layer desiccant and oxygen barrier bottles, says Larry Blake, director of marketing, Amcor Packaging Plastics Americas, (Pennsauken, NJ).
“Lightweighting has been a significant directive in Amcor’s food, beverage, and custom beverage segments. Amcor Rigid Plastics is a global leader in PET packaging, and, with the acquisition of Ball Plastics Packaging Americas, a leader in polypropylene as well,” Blake says.
“We are applying the substrate and design expertise that Amcor has in those markets to the pharma and healthcare product side, looking at customers’ needs from a stability and product freshness perspective. We have a large program now with the barrier bottle technology where we are looking at applying different technologies to the HDPE structures,” Blake adds.
Berlin Packaging (www.berlinpackaging.com) bundles value-added services with the supply of packaging components, offering services spanning package design, financing, global sourcing, and downstream warehousing, freight, and logistics. The container supplier expanded this year with the acquisitions of All-Pak Inc. (Bridgeville, PA) and Chicago-based Continental Packaging Solutions (www.continentalpackagingsolutions.com).
As part of a porfolio of consulting tools, the company’s E3 division helps customers improve productivity and realize significant cost savings through complexity reduction, says Scott Jost, vice president of Studio One Eleven, Berlin Packaging’s design and innovation division.
“Pharmaceutical and OTC customers’ highest priorities are protecting product integrity and facilitating [patient] adherence. First and foremost, containers have to meet stability requirements, support highly regulated labeling, and be child resistant and senior friendly,” Jost says.
“Lightweighting is not a primary focus for most of our pharma clients and generally not where they get the most bang for the buck. Component weight optimization [is part of the mix in some cases] but overzealous lightweighting can lead to performance issues.
“In contrast, there’s no downside to component rationalization. We think strategic complexity reduction is a much lower hanging fruit,” Jost says.
As part of an E3 service, Berlin reviews all of a company’s packaging and materials. A modular packaging system is developed for the entire component portfolio that reduces SKUs, manufacturing complexity, and downstream costs.
“We might be able to combine five or six bottles into one bottle that in turn shares its neck finish and closure with several others. We’ve seen examples of 200-component portfolios trimmed by 90%. From the unit sizes we work downstream into secondary packaging, palletization, and truck load optimization,” Jost says.
“On the packout side, you are reducing the number of shippers and the amount of air they are shipping, because it’s a modular system—the bottles all fit together and all have a similar size profile.
“Optimized component systems minimize inventory carrying costs, speed up filling and cartoning, reduce freight costs, and ultimately shrink the client’s carbon footprint,” Jost says.
New designs aim to ease patient access and support compliance. The ScriptChek bottle from Rexam supports easier storage and pharmacist and patient identification.
A compliance-driven bottle, the ScriptChek bottle features a D-shaped footprint design. The easier-to-hold and open wide mouth bottle presents three sides for carrying label and patient use information.
“The ScriptChek is easier for the end-user to read and accommodates considerably more information than current labels tend to offer. We have developed a package that includes a refill calendar, space for showcasing coupons, and a 2-D image of the tablet,” says Elizabeth Bookbinder, marketing analyst, Rexam Healthcare.
The ScriptChek is in pilot development phase where Rexam is evaluating the bottle’s impact on end-user compliance. “We always develop our products with the patient in mind. This format also enhances pharmacists’ visual identification and could be used as an alternative to amber vials. The ergonomic shape is handled and stored more easily,” Lewko adds.
Rexam is offering a new child-resistant closure with the Spring-Loc one-piece closure/bottle system. The closure integrates a spring feature that allows opening with a quarter-turn after the patient pushes down with the palm. The push-down feature provides the child resistance, while the quarter-turn supports ease of opening. The Spring-Loc is among lighter version closures Rexam offers for cost reduction and sustainability, says Paul Zurawick, NPI manager, injection molding, Rexam Healthcare.
Amcor has undertaken a multi-tiered development approach to closures that will investigate opportunities in established cap designs as well as new innovation.
“Pharmaceutical customers [in recent years] have rushed to proprietary solutions. I think that is becoming less attractive because it ties them into one supplier, which makes cost cutting more difficult.
“We can create a new design, or look back in history to develop a solution [from available designs] that differentiates the packaging in the marketplace and creates value for the customer,” Blake says.
“There are many established designs—and many that never came to market—on which the intellectual property rights have expired. The two-piece push-and-turn, for example, has been off patent for ages. We can create novel takes on these open designs,” Blake says.
Amcor’s Securance line of caps includes a proprietary one-piece child-resistant, senior-friendly squeeze-and-turn closure that fits with the Secure Grip bottle. The line’s accordion-style CR Snap Cap is an innovation on a standard snap-cap closure. Amcor will be launching a new CR one-piece design this quarter, Blake says.
Barrier bottles are addressing protection for compounds and drug coatings that are sensitive to oxygen and moisture. Amcor’s Stability Solutions Barrier line features co-extruded blow molded ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) barrier bottles for oxygen-sensitive products.
The oxygen barrier bottles are commercial in products including a competitive product to Plavix (clopidogrel). “A number of customers are going through standard development cycles (with the oxygen barrier bottles) and we will see a high uptake in the next 18 months as these products go commercial,” Blake says.
“We are seeing more demand for the barrier that layered packaging provides, but try not to put all of our eggs into one technology basket,” says Berlin’s Jost.
“Our business model is such that we design solutions that use the best technology for a given application using our manufacturing partners as sounding boards. Rather than being wedded to a given material or process, we can draw on multiple technologies to provide a solution that makes the most sense given customer performance requirements,” Jost says.
Rexam injection-blown multi-layer bottles provide moisture and oxygen barrier.
“For years, we have been producing these in very large quantities for diagnostic text applications that require autoclaving, mechanical resistance, and high levels of oxygen barrier at the same time,” Lewko says.
“That specification could not be achieved through the use of a single plastic resin. [In our barrier bottles,] the first plastic resin provides heat resistance to allow for autoclaving while the second resin provides optimal oxygen barrier properties. We can, for instance, reach both good moisture and oxygen barrier that makes it easier to transition away from glass,” Lewko adds.