Controlling contamination – and cutting costs!

Controlling contamination – and cutting costs!

The burgeoning global demand for pharmaceutical products is just one of the drivers that have made manufacturing efficiency an industry-wide concern. And with product integrity more critical than ever, the need to deliver effective contamination control with minimum downtime means greater performance demands upon the industry’s suppliers.

Here’s how Lock Inspection Systems (part of the Loma Group), leading manufacturers of metal detection systems, responded to the challenge by developing cutting-edge products to address the industry’s current and evolving needs.

As manufacturing moves ever closer to its markets, the pharmaceutical industry is painfully aware of the importance of consistent quality control where production plants are separated by geography, culture and differing levels of local technical support. The stakes have never been higher. Product contamination can result in ruinous recall and liability costs, adverse media coverage and a carefully-nurtured reputation left in tatters.

Hitesh Hirani, Technical Director at Lock, explains the thinking behind the company’s recently-introduced Insight PH range of metal detectors. “Our objective was to create a platform flexible enough to meet the risk assessment needs of all sectors of the pharmaceutical industry. That means delivering the highest possible levels of detection to manufacturers of ethical, generic and OTC products alike.”

“Speed of operation was also essential; the new detectors were designed to keep pace with the latest – and future – processing equipment. But line speed isn’t the only issue; we’ve studied ways to minimise downtime and allow manufacturers to increase their input through rapid start-up and changeover features.”

One company quick to see the commercial advantages of this philosophy was contract manufacturer Sanico NV in Belgium, where the installation of four Insight PH detectors has helped boost tablet production by 100%. Operating around the clock, the units have already proved their worth. Production Manager Wim Roelants comments.

“We were impressed by the highly intuitive user interface and streamlined GMP design. This makes it much easier to disassemble for cleaning and maintenance.”

Capable of checking up to 30,000 tablets per minute, the Insight PH detector can be used on the fastest production lines, and is available with a choice of aperture sizes, for applications requiring greater levels of detection of minute metallic particles at slower line speeds.

The investment in Lock equipment is part of Sanico’s continuous drive to improve quality standards for its global customer base, giving them the reassurance of effective contaminant detection across the whole of its tablet manufacturing operation.

The value of upstream inspection
Go to the packaging area of any pharmaceutical plant and you’re likely to find a metal detector. But cost-effective contamination control begins much earlier in the manufacturing process, argues Hitesh. “In fact it begins as active ingredients are fed into the product feed hopper. Any contamination of the raw materials, or any impurities picked up in transit can be detected and removed prior to processing, preventing machinery damage, rejection of finished goods and the cost
of wasted packaging materials.”

“The Insight VF – our flagship metal detector for free-falling powders and granules - can check up to 3000kg of incoming raw materials per hour, ensuring that metallic contaminants are eliminated from the ingredient flow prior to processing. Once the tablets have been pressed and de-dusted, another
detector can be positioned to identify and reject any products contaminated by the processing operation, again saving packaging costs”. Stainless steel sieves, with their fragile mesh, are one of the more common sources of metallic particles during manufacture. Customers processing pharmaceuticals in liquid form can also look forward to greater levels of performance with the introduction of the Insight PL, in which Lock’s advanced detection technology is deployed for pipeline applications.

Can effective metal detection really deliver increased productivity?
In view of the significantly increased productivity reported by users, it’s worth taking a closer look at the design of the new Insight detectors.

Here, operational flexibility is the key; its compact design allows it to be located on virtually any production or packaging line without disrupting the factory layout. Mobile and adjustable for height, width and angle of tilt, the Insight units can be relocated whenever required and up and running within minutes, with downtime savings of up to 80%.

The design has been streamlined for faster wash-down and cleaning, and the user interface is simple and intuitive, with a huge choice of language options. As you’d expect, the Insight range enjoys full connectivity, with an external USB port, wired/wireless Ethernet and SCADA link options.

All Insight metal detectors feature Optix software, a powerful communication and diagnostic tool that delivers perfect product inspection set-up, real-time reporting and data download for storage and secure distribution.

Also incorporated in every system is DDS – Lock’s unique Direct Digital Signal – which displays a clear graphic representation of what’s happening in the metal detection process.
‘Noise’, such as vibration from adjacent machinery or the product effect of iron-fortified tablets or capsules, is phased out leaving a clear vector diagram that identifies the composition of each detected particle, making the source of contamination easier to trace and eliminate.

Founded in 1949, Lock has enjoyed a long involvement with the pharmaceutical industry, and close dialogue with major customers has helped the company anticipate and satisfy the quality assurance demands of regulatory authorities, retailers and manufacturers alike.

Many equipment suppliers talk blithely about ‘future-proofing’ but the Insight platform, with its focus on addressing real-world industry concerns, promises to set the standard in metal detection in the pharmaceutical industry for many years to come.

For more information on pharmaceutical metal detection, please visit the Lock website or telephone +44 (0)161 624 0333 or email