Moving pharma and healthcare products can involve a challenging packing and logistics process at the best of times, so the pressure on businesses in the current climate is intense. These challenges are being compounded by a combination of staff availability, the need to create a safe workplace, and fulfilling higher than usual demand. It would be easy for standards to begin to fall and costs to rise, but that’s something businesses cannot afford from either a financial or product safety perspective.

Thankfully, Antalis’s packaging experts have plenty of experience in helping pharma and healthcare businesses create efficient, safe and agile packing operations – they have already helped a fair few to make adjustments over recent weeks. Here, they share insights and advice that will not only help you get your packing operation into shape to deliver a first-class service during the current pandemic, but that will stand you in good stead for the future, too.

7 tips to overcoming packaging challenges in times of pressure

1. Assess your current packing operation
Even though you’re in the thick of it, taking time to review your operation has probably never been more important. While things might appear to be running smoothly on the surface, there’s a good possibility that costs are accumulating, undetected. Whatever the current state of your operation, it’s worth asking yourself the following questions: can you identify any bottlenecks? Is quality of packing being sacrificed for speed? Do your packers have the space to work safely and maintain social distancing? Taking into account the increased throughput, are waste volumes up more than you would expect? What are your complaint stats like?

If you aren’t sure where to start or discover that you don’t like the answers to the questions, then it may be beneficial to bring in some external expertise to audit your operation for you. Antalis offers a free consultation service, which would be carried out with the necessary safety precautions in place.

2. Review your relationship with your current packaging supplier
A consistent and reliable supply of packaging materials is vital if a packing operation is to run at optimum efficiency. At a time when demand can be unpredictable, and with potentially life-saving pharmaceuticals to distribute, you can’t afford to have delays in supply. If your current supplier is letting you down on a regular basis then consider finding a new one. While you’re probably thinking that this is the worst possible time to change your supply line, it could be the shot in the arm your business needs. Be sure to look for a packaging partner that offers a range of support services alongside a strong product catalogue.

3. Consider machinery and automation
For packing operations that usually rely on manual workers, coping with demand will be especially challenging right now, from both a productivity and health and safety perspective. Machinery and automation can help to alleviate some of the pressures. While a full overhaul and kit-out is likely off the cards at the moment, installing machinery such as semi-automatic carton sealers or erectors is relatively straightforward and can help to ease the pressure on packing staff. Antalis’s machinery experts are available to discuss time and space-saving machinery options, and our engineers are trained and available to carry out installations safely in line with current guidelines.

4. Audit your packaging materials
Packaging for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector always requires careful consideration, and at a time when efficiency in both use and storage is critical, it’s possible that your existing packaging is no longer fulfilling requirements.

Bulky void fill materials in particular can be problematic as they take up lots of storage space and can be cumbersome to use. As an alternative, there are some excellent bits of kit that produce air or paper void fill and cushioning on demand – and the materials are environmentally friendly. There are even on demand options that create 100% paper-based thermally insulating transit packaging, which can be used for transporting pharmaceutical products that need to be maintained at a certain temperature. WrapPak Protector, for example, is capable of producing insulated paper packaging for up to 2,600 boxes from just a single pallet of material.

In addition to space-efficient packaging products, also consider packaging materials that are speed efficient, such as crash-lock bottom boxes that can be assembled quickly without the need for tape.

5. Think about bespoke packaging
Sometimes, packaging needs a more tailored approach to address a particular need or issue. Thoughtfully designed bespoke packaging can help to tackle anything from speed and efficiency of packing to cushioning, customer experience, sustainability and more. To make sure that customers are still able to have their bespoke packaging needs met while social distancing measures are in place, Antalis has set up its Smart Packaging Centre in virtual form. During times when face-to-face consultations might prove difficult, the Virtual SPC ensures that it is still possible to discuss ideas, develop solutions to your challenges and run live demos of your pack design.

6. Optimise your cube for delivery efficiency
It’s critical that product is packed and loaded onto vehicles in a timely manner. However, if backlogs are building up it may be that you need to address your cube optimisation. This will ensure that you are able to load as many products onto a pallet as quickly and efficiently as possible. An optimised cube also means you will be able to load more products onto a vehicle, which helps to keep delivery costs and carbon footprint low.

7. Create a safe working environment
To keep staff safe while working, it’s important to have good hygiene and protective equipment in place. Floor graphics and tape printed with messages to encourage social distancing are proving very effective in reminding people of the need to be careful, something that can be difficult when workers are rushing to meet deadlines. For operations where space is limited, protective screens between packing benches means that you can maintain capacity while keeping staff safe. Antalis has options to suit a range of budgets.

For further information or advice on how you can keep your pharmaceutical and healthcare operation running safely and efficiently in these challenging times, contact us on now.