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Making Effective Medications with the Help of Automation

The pharmaceutical manufacturing is one of the many industries that hugely benefit from automation. Not only can the use of automation and precision motion technologies such as specialized linear stages help increase the overall productivity and efficiency of any pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, they can also ensure the effectiveness and safety of the products being made.

The Role of Automation in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Currently, automation technology is used in the filling, inspection, and packaging of pharmaceutical products. Due to the high production rate of pharmaceuticals, such as pills, capsules, tablets, and syrups, often reaching well into the millions every week, automation has become less of a luxury and more of a necessity. Each piece of medication needs to match a specific chemical composition, and should also be packaged in exact quantities and in proper, tamper-proof containers. Without automation, the manpower required to overtake such tasks would be too impractical for any pharmaceutical company, no matter its size.

Automation makes the entire process more streamlined and efficient from the very beginning, from managing the orientation of the medication bottles and the application of caps to the printing and affixing of proper labels. Line monitoring can also be improved as automation technology can be used to detect production line failures such as fallen bottles, loosely-capped bottles, inadequately-filled packages, and so on.

How Automation can Ensure the Effectivity of Medications

Due to innovations and breakthroughs in technology, automation now has a bigger role in the creation of medicines themselves. For example, Raman spectroscopy, a technique used to observe the molecular vibration and rotational energy changes of a substance, was once found to be too cumbersome and impractical when applied to pharmaceuticals. However, by integrating improved Raman instrumentation with automation technology, applying Raman spectroscopy in a typical pharmaceutical production line becomes feasible. As such, it is now possible for every pill, tablet, or capsule to be scanned, ensuring that the chemical compounds within them are correct, down to a molecular level.

Automation can also be used to realize the future of personalized medicine. The current approach to medication is a one-size-fits-all method based on population averages. This flies in contrast with the fact that every patient diagnosed with a medical condition is wholly unique since various factors like genetics, age, and sex come into play. As such, a specific dosage or formulation for one patient may not be as effective for another; worse, it could cause a serious side effect that then results in further complications.

The answer to this, then, is a medication that is personalized, to the point that a single pill can be formulated and manufactured with a specific patient in mind, with their clinical records and biological profile taken into consideration. This scenario, of course, is still highly unfeasible at the time. However, automation will certainly play a key role in this process once it becomes a viable option, as accuracy and precision would be required for such an innovation.

Final Thoughts on Automation and Pharmaceuticals

Much has been said about the potential detrimental effects of increased automation in manufacturing, most of which boils down to threats to job security. However, the fact that automation can minimize the impact human error cannot be discounted, especially when it comes to high-precision, high-volume manufacturing that requires continuously reproducible results like pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Automation also allows for a more sterile and hygienic production line environment. Human labor is still a potential source of workplace contamination, even if stringent rules for hygiene and decontamination is enforced. If the production area is rendered free or at least has minimal human involvement, keeping both the production line and the products themselves free from contamination becomes easier.

Finally, the precision and efficiency that comes with adopting automation can improve not just the quantity of the product but quality as well. This is doubly true when automation is integrated not just in the manufacturing side but also in analytics and research.

Such benefits are definitely desirable when it comes to the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, where even the slightest deviation may result not only in an ineffective product but also potentially hazardous, fatal side effects for the consumer.

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