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Pharmaceuticals

Taking next-generation motion from concept to reality

~ How free motion can address challenges in the pharmaceutical industry ~

If companies were to take home one lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic, it should be that flexibility is key. This statement is no less true for the pharmaceutical industry, which has been pushing for flexibility for years. With a pandemic almost behind us and the challenges of a rapidly ageing population, flexible manufacturing is needed now more than ever. In this article , Adnan Khan, manager of pharma industries at Beckhoff UK, discusses the challenges of pharmaceutical production lines and how next-generation motion can help. 

While there are many tips for creating a more flexible manufacturing process, from plug-and-play robotics to single-use manufacturing, few tips focus on motion control in production lines. Motion control has the power to make production lines more flexible and efficient, but few motion control systems provide the freedom and range to maximise their benefits. 

From concept to reality

In interviews conducted by Donna Ritson, president of DDR communications and Paula Feldman, senior director of Business Intelligence, 75 per cent of pharmaceutical manufacturers said they were increasing their level of automation going forward. So for those wanting to invest in optimising their production lines, where should they spend their money? 

Over the years, technology has advanced, allowing the pharmaceutical industry to advance with it. However, despite the introduction of sophisticated technology, challenges still occur in the production of pharmaceutical products, such as flexibility and efficiency. The XPlanar, a first-of-its-kind planar motor system, can help address these challenges.

The XPlanar system comprises the mover, tile and control software. The magnetically driven mover is wireless, with six degrees of jerk-free movement, allowing for the technology to effortlessly levitate over the tiles, which can be moved and placed as a facility needs. With each singular mover having a bare load of up to 4.2 kg, a maximum speed of 2 m/s and an easily wipeable surface, the XPlanar is bringing the reality of next-generation motion to the pharmaceutical industry.

Flexible and efficient 

Flexibility has always been an issue in the pharmaceutical industry, as traditional plant layouts make it hard to switch over or adjust equipment to produce different products. Due to a large number of sensitive chemical processes in pharmaceutical manufacturing, moving equipment around requires equipment recalibrations and strategic positioning. However, with new methods such as modular manufacturing, allowing for multiple different drug productions in one facility, these challenges are slowly being addressed. 

Modular manufacturing refers to a type of manufacturing where there is no fixed equipment, meaning facilities can be broken down and rearranged as needed. As modular manufacturing is embraced, new techniques will be needed to achieve a modular facility. The XPlanar system elevates this manufacturing method to a more efficient, flexible and long-lasting one. Like with many of the equipment used for modular manufacturing, the XPlanar system can be laid out freely in a multitude of arrangements to suit the pharmaceutical facilities’ requirements. 

The XPlanar system provides the pharmaceutical industry with the production flexibility needed to not only create a modular manufacturing facility but a more efficient manufacturing facility. The XPlanar system allows manufacturers to create a flexible production line with movements of 360 degrees, allowing for easy and efficient product inspection, alignment or processing. 

The easy adaptability of the movers and tiles ensures the technology can last in an ever-evolving technological landscape. Using this free-moving system the pharmaceutical industry can see the benefits of next-generation motion becoming reality.

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Pharmaceuticals

Digital solutions offer key to better organisational efficiency and coordination in healthcare

Executive Chair of InnoScot Health, Graham Watson analyses the huge value which existing tech can realise for NHS Scotland

Healthcare innovation headlines are often made by the most impressive technologies – the likes of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive medicine immediately spring to mind.

They capture the imagination, and rightly so given the exciting possibilities they offer and positive results which they are already producing, but of course they are not the entire solution. Instead, they represent effective pieces in the bigger puzzle that will eventually become the future of healthcare.

What also creates news headlines is spending that seeks to address the most pressing NHS concerns. Yet, such solutions do not always achieve the required result.

Akin to a leaking pipe, you can patch the hole in the short-term and the dripping immediately stops, but that does not mean the patch is necessarily an enduring solution. You might need to invest in an entirely new pipe.

In other words, by focusing on short term solutions, we may be left less able to focus spending on longer-term transformational change.

Grassroots thinking is also required then, and what is often less talked about is what is available in the here and now that can produce lasting results.

If the NHS is to do more with less and fundamentally work smarter, then we need to look at the tools that are already at our disposal and which do not require significant fresh resource – just more targeted approaches to how they are implemented and used.

That includes digital solutions for better leveraging of data to ensure that patients receive coordinated, seamless care; information shared quickly and securely between health professionals throughout the care journey; and digitally trained clinicians being increasingly unburdened of administrative processes allowing them to better focus on caring for their patients.

In essence, greater efficiency, systemic sustainability, less siloed systems, and giving back to clinicians that which they increasingly have less and less of – time.

If that digital shift in processes is managed effectively and then continuously monitored to identify potential improvements, it also likely translates to improved staff retention with clinicians able to make more confident decisions amid today’s challenging, often pressured work environment.

Secure and centralised cloud-based systems offer real time analytics, providing an at-a-glance dashboard of patient progress, including diagnoses, tests, and treatments, in tandem with the best possible accessibility across Scotland’s often nuanced healthcare system.

Most people are now familiar and comfortable with storing sensitive information securely in the cloud given just how much of our day to day lives are now kept there – and clinicians are no different, making NHS adoption a relatively straightforward culture change.

Indeed, there are great clinician-led examples already making waves, underlining the vast potential for existing solutions to be leveraged. Dr Matthew Freer, a consultant anaesthetist, is also CEO and co-founder of Infix Support – a cloud-based tech company focused on improving the efficiency of surgical operating theatres and tackling patient wait lists. His role in honing a more intuitive system for operating theatre utilisation is considered to be a game-changer.

Last year, InnoScot Health revealed the results of its independent survey of NHS Scotland workforce attitudes towards innovation, finding a marked enthusiasm to engage with new approaches and utilise technology to aid processes.

A total of 88% ranked big data and analytics – using gathered data to uncover hidden patterns and correlations for better decision-making and greater efficiency in healthcare delivery – as one of the most important areas for innovation in the future.

Also ranking 88%, digital apps – delivering information for patients, care providers and researchers, real-time patient monitoring, collecting community and clinical health data, and more – was a further prime focus for the workforce.

During this time of recovery and renewal, rapidly scalable digital innovations shaping the future of NHS Scotland must be integrated into its constantly evolving systemic architecture – exactly where they can have greatest impact – breaking down barriers, improving lives, and enhancing organisational efficiency.

When negativity can often predominate in NHS-related headlines, it is encouraging to note that we have a workforce responding positively and saying it is ready for a modern, agile, and sustainable health care system.

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Business

Recognising the value of protecting intellectual property early builds strong foundation for innovators

Innovation Manager at InnoScot Health, Fiona Schaefer analyses an essential facet of developing ideas into innovations

Helping the NHS to innovate remains a key priority during this period of recovery and reform. Even within the current cash-strapped climate, there is the opportunity to maximise the first-hand experience of the healthcare workforce and its knowledge of where new ideas are needed most.

Entrepreneurial-minded, creative staff from any discipline or activity are often best placed to recognise areas for improvement – the reason why a significant number of solutions come from, and are best developed with, health and social care staff.

NHS Scotland is a powerful driver of innovation, but to truly harness the opportunities which new ideas offer for development and commercialisation, the knowledge and intellectual property (IP) underpinning them needs to be protected. That vital know-how and other intangible assets – holding appropriate contracts for example – are key from an early stage.

Medical devices can take years to develop and gain regulatory approval, so from the outset of an idea’s development – and before revenue is generated – filing for IP protection and having confidentiality agreements in place are ways to start creating valuable assets. This is especially important when applying for patent protection because that option is only available when ideas have not been discussed or presented to external parties prior to application.

Without taking that critical initial step to protect IP, anyone – without your permission – could copy the idea, so anything of worth should be protected as soon as possible, making for a clear competitive advantage and ownership in the same sense as possessing physical property.

The common theme is that to be successful – and ultimately support the commercialisation of ideas that will improve patient care and outcomes – the idea must be novel, better, quicker, or more efficient than existing options. Furthermore, to turn it into a sound proposition worth investing in, it must also be technically and financially feasible. It isn’t enough to just be new and novel – the best innovations offer tangible benefits to patient outcomes and staff working practices.

Of course, even more so in the current climate of financial constraints, the key question of ‘Who will pay for your new product or service?’ needs to be considered up front as well.

Whilst development of a strong IP portfolio requires investment and dedicated expertise, when done well and at the appropriate time, then it is resource well spent, offering a level of security whilst developing an asset which can be built upon and traded. There are various ways commercialisation can progress and whilst not all efforts will be successful, intellectual property is an asset which can be licensed or sold to others offering a range of opportunities to secure a good return.

In my experience, however, many organisations including the NHS are still missing the opportunity to recognise and protect their knowledge assets and intellectual property early in the innovation pathway. This is partly due to lack of understanding – sometimes one aspect is carefully protected, whilst another is entirely neglected. In other cases, the desire to accelerate to the next stage of product development means such important foundational steps are not given the attention required for long-term success.

Good IP management goes beyond formally protecting the knowledge assets associated with a project, e.g. by patenting or design registration, however. When considered with other intangible assets such as access to datasets, clinical trial results, standard operating procedures, quality management systems, and regulatory approvals, it is the combination which will be key to success.

Early securing of IP protection or recognition of IP rights in a collaboration agreement, demonstrates foresight and business acumen. Later on, it can significantly boost negotiating power with a licensing partner or build investor confidence.

Conversely, omissions in IP protection or suitable contracts can be damaging, potentially derailing years of product development and exposing organisations to legal challenges and other risks. Failing to protect a promising idea can also mean commercial opportunities are missed, thus leading to your IP being undervalued.

Ideas are evaluated by formal NHS Scotland partner InnoScot Health in the same way whether they are big or small, a product, service, or new, innovative approach to a care pathway.

We encourage and enable all 160,000 NHS Scotland staff, regardless of role or location, to come forward with their ideas, giving them the advice and support they need to maximise their potential benefits.

Protecting the IP rights of the health service is one of the cornerstones of InnoScot Health’s service offering. In fact, to date we have protected over 255 NHS Scotland innovations. Recently these have included design registration and trademarks for the SARUS® hood and trademarks for SCRAM®, building and protecting a recognised range of bags with innovative, intuitive layouts. Spin outs such as Aurum Biosciences meanwhile have patents underpinning their novel therapeutics and diagnostics.

We assist in managing this IP to ensure a return on investment for the health service. Any revenue generated from commercialising ideas and innovations from healthcare professionals is shared with the innovators and the health board through our agreements with them and the revenue sharing scheme detailed in health board IP and innovation policies.

Fundamentally, we believe that it is vital to harness the value of expertise and creativity of staff with a well-considered approach to protecting IP and knowledge input to projects from the start.

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Business

Time is running out: NHS and their digital evolution journey

By Nej Gakenyi, CEO and Founder of GRM Digital

Many businesses have embarked on their digital evolution journey, transforming their technology offerings to upgrade their digital services in an effective and user-friendly way. Whilst this might be very successful for smaller and newer businesses, but for large corporations with long-standing legacy infrastructure, what does this mean? Recently the UK government pledged £6bn of new funding for the NHS, and the impact this funding and investment could have if executed properly, could revolutionise the UK public healthcare sector.

The NHS has always been a leader in terms of technology for medical purposes but where it has fallen down is in the streamlining of patient data, information and needs, which can lead to a breakdown in trust and the faith that the healthcare system is not a robust one. Therefore, the primary objective of additional funding must be to implement advanced data and digital technologies, to improve the digital health of the NHS and the overall health of the UK population, as well as revitalise both management efficiency and working practices.

Providing digital care

Digitalisation falls into two categories when it comes to the NHS – digitising traditionally ‘physical’ services like offering remote appointments and keeping electronic paper records, and a greater reliance on more innovative approaches driven by advances in technology. It is common knowledge that electronic services differ in GP practices across the country; and to have a drastically good or bad experience which is solely dependent on a geographical lottery contradicts the very purpose of offering an overarching healthcare provision to society at large.

By streamlining services and investing in proper infrastructure, a level playing field can be created which is vital when it comes to patients accessing both the care they need and their own personal history of appointments, GP interactions, diagnoses and medications. Through this approach, the NHS focus on creating world-leading care, provision of that care and potentially see waiting lists decrease due to the effective diagnosis and management enabled by slick and efficient technology.

This is especially important when looking at personalisedhealth support and developing a system that enables patients to receive care wherever they are and helps them monitor and manage long-term health conditions independently. This, alongside ensuring that technology and data collection supports improvements in both individual and population-level patient care, can only serve to streamline NHS efforts and create positive outcomes for both the patient and workforce.

Revolutionising patient experiences

A robust level of trust is critical to guaranteeing the success of any business or provision. If technology fails, so does the faith the customer or consumer has in the technology being designed to improve outcomes for them. An individual will always have some semblance of responsibility and ownership over their lives, well-being and health. Still, all of these key pillars can only stand strong when there is infrastructure in place to help drive positive results. Whilst there may be risks of excluding some groups of individuals with a digital-first approach, technology solutions can empower people to take control of their healthcare enabling the patient and NHS to work together. Tandem efforts between humans and technology

Technology must work in tandem with a workforce for it to be effective. This means the NHS workforce must be digitally savvy and have patient-centred care at the front and centre of all operations. Alongside any digital transformation the NHS adopts to improve patient outcomes, comes the need to assess current and future capability and capacity challenges, and build a workforce with the right skills to help shape an NHS that is fit for purpose.

This is just the beginning. With more invtesement and funding being allocated for the NHS this is the starting point, but for NHS decision-makers to ensure real benefits for patients, more still needs to be done. Effective digital evolution holds the key. Once the NHS has fully harnessed the poer of new and evolving technologies to change patient experiences throught the UK, with consistent communication and care, this will set the UK apart and will mark the NHS has a diriving example for accessible, digital healthcare.

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