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16 May 2018

Investing in blistering capabilities to boost flexibility

Postponement printing is presenting interesting benefits for the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Global contract packaging organisation (CPO), Tjoapack has invested in its blistering capacity, adding a new line that will be equipped with late-stage customisation printing capabilities.

Expected to be operational by the end of Q3 2018, the new line, at the company’s facility in Etten-Leur, Netherlands, will take its total number of blistering lines to eight.

Tjoapack currently packs 26 million packs every year. This line will enable the company to offer another 4 million packs of additional capacity. "We’re optimising this line for flexibility and not for high volume throughput. It’ll be capable to handle a lot of different SKUs in smaller volumes, which is one of our areas of expertise," commented Dexter Tjoa, Director of Corporate Strategy at Tjoapack.

“At Tjoapack we’re committed to ensuring our customers continue to receive the efficient and flexible service that they’re used to, so we’re always looking for ways to further improve our operations to allow us to better cater for their projects.

“We have a strategic growth plan in place and increasing our blistering capacity will allow us to cater for increasing demand from both current and new customers.”

The investment will also expand Tjoapack’s current postponement printing offering, enabling the CPO to offer drop-on-demand digital printing for blisters.

The benefits of drop-on-demand and postponement printing

Drop-on-demand printing is used for late-stage customisation. "The idea is that stock remains market agnostic for as long as possible and then when demand for the product arises, companies can print directly onto blister packaging to meet the intended market requirements. In other words, stock is only being finalised as and when there is a requirement. This gives our customers' supply chains added flexibility to handle market-related fluctuations, reducing wastage and the need for rework at a later stage," explained Mr Tjoa.

He continued: "Postponement offers an increased level of flexibility to meet varying market demands, meaning it is easy to scale up and down your packaging for different markets. With the right set up, you could reduce your time-to-market and fulfilment cycles by several weeks, helping prevent stock-out scenarios, and assuring patients can receive the medicine they need on time.

"In addition, by keeping the product market-agnostic for as long as possible and by packing only when you need the product, you’re not only drastically reducing waste across the supply chain, but also minimising your working capital by reducing finished goods’ inventories and shortening your return-on-investment cycle.

“Late-stage customisation, or postponement printing, is presenting some interesting benefits for the pharmaceutical supply chain. The process of only making packaging market-specific once there is a demand could be hugely beneficial in terms of reducing waste from repackaging, overall costs and time to market.

“We’ve started to explore this type of packaging with some of our customers already and as more complex molecules continue to enter the drug pipeline, demand for last-minute packaging is likely to increase. This investment will allow us to futureproof our lines for projected demands.”

Up until now, postponement packaging remains relatively unexplored in the pharmaceutical industry. As companies look for ways to improve efficiencies, postponement packaging is something Tjoapack is increasingly seeing them consider. In addition, postponement is well suited to small volumes and as more personalised medicines enter the market, late-stage customisation could be an ideal way to handle these products.

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