Lean Manufacturing, Sustainability in Packaging to Be Discussed at Pharmapack North America

Discussions about sustainability seem to be taking place pretty regularly at pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies. “That which is driving interest in our industry is the same as for other industries: a broader awareness that we must do more to protect our environment and that commercial industries can have the strongest impact on this agenda,” explains Daryl Madeira, vice president of sales and marketing for Quality Packaging Specialists International (QPSI).

Madeira and his colleague Will Hamilton, QPSI’s senior vice president of operations, will be speaking about sustainability this month at Pharmapack North America in “The Value of Lean Manufacturing for Improved Sustainability in Packaging.” Their goal is to get their audience to “think more holistically about sustainability,” says Madeira. “Too often we focus entirely on the reduction/elimination of packaging materials but a better balance between materials and processes will lead to a more robust packaging industry,” says Madeira.

“Like other industries, packaging becomes an easy and popular target for recycling, reduction, and reuse,” he continues. “Reusable transportation and display packaging, elimination of tertiary packaging such as bundle shrink wrap, elimination of secondary packaging such as cartons, and utilization of recyclable plastics for primary packaging materials are examples of commons initiatives. These activities are important and should be considered, but there are cost and regulatory factors that must be taken into consideration. Meanwhile, initiatives to address waste from the production process—including human capital, energy and other assets—are often overlooked. For this reasons, we recommend a more realistic approach whereby the full cycle is considered in its entirety.”

In fact, “the key premise of Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing is to eliminate wasted activity throughout the entire operation,” says Hamilton. “The nine key sources of waste are transportation, over production, accidents, defects, inventory, processing, waiting time, motion, and talent. To identify and eliminate wasted activity, Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing offers simple but effective tools to deploy, such as FMEAs, Kaizen Events, and Black Belt Projects.”

By eliminating such wasted activity, Hamilton says “the production process is reduced to the essential functions that are required to complete the work. In this manner, production labor and material utilization are minimized, preserving them for the next job.”

To maximize Lean Six Sigma Manufacturing, “one’s full upstream and downstream supply chain must be engaged,” says Hamilton. “For example, improving a packaging production line’s cartoning efficiency minimizes the need for excess carton production for start-up and breakdown scrap, he explains. “This then drives backwards to the carton manufacturer, whereby they must drive lean efficiency in their manufacturing process to support the upstream customers, without impacting price,” he says.

Pharmaceutical and medical device packaging engineers can start making a difference by “starting small,” Madeira says. “If one is just getting started, we recommend establishing reasonable, conservative goals and gaining alignment from top to bottom. In this manner, the risk of taking a leap into this new philosophy is managed. Meanwhile, success from a small project will drive enthusiasm to do more and embrace the methodology.”

Madeira and Hamilton will share a case history on how a medical device packaging team implemented lean manufacturing and more-sustainable packaging approaches. Be sure to attend “The Value of Lean Manufacturing for Improved Sustainability in Packaging” on June 19 at 8:45 am, or visit QPSI at booth #750.

Pharmapack North America will take place in Philadelphia June 18-19. To register for the event, which includes a full conference track as well as exhibitions, visit www.pharmapacknorthamerica.com.

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