What’s your take on Industry 4.0, and how is the packaging industry responding to it?
Well, Industry 4.0 is not just a buzz word but it’s a reality today. If someone says I am not aware, he does not belong to this generation. Certainly, there has been a radical change in factories and businesses operations since the term ‘Industry 4.0’ became omnipresent. We witness trends moving towards total customisation, optimising the processes etc. Well, adopting Industry 4.0 straight into a packaging line may bring in lot of advantages like better data management and improved efficiency.
However, replacing a complete production line may not be a viable option for packaging companies which are already operating on slim margins. Having a total introspective into the current process, making small changes to current facilities can also result in efficiencies getting boosted significantly. Ecobliss has been focusing on innovative value-added operations which help to improve efficiency in manufacturing processes.
The pandemic has disrupted lives and businesses across the globe in an unprecedented manner. What are your thoughts on this?
We never predicted the outbreak of this pandemic Covid19 . Today the industry is witnessing a wave of disruption. The world is literally upside down and it has changed forever. This pandemic can probably be called the mother of all disruptions, at least for our generation. Life will never be the same even after it gets settled down.
It is very unfortunate that we had to face such a bitter pandemic with many businesses effected. Having said that, one must be optimistic for future and look for new opportunities once the pandemic ends. Overall, it is true that there has been severe effect on supply chain and shortage in labour across the industry.
From the very beginning of pandemic during the months of January we have been closely monitoring the situation. Educating and awareness is the only way to effectively prevent Covid or matter of fact any pandemic. The work structure and ethics of employees and sourcing of raw materials be addressed to adjust to the current situation.
Covid19 has been making a huge impact on the healthcare sector. As an industry expert, please give your thoughts on this situation.
The current Pandemic situation has changed the consumer behaviour in every aspect. There is a rapid decline in the physical interaction between patients and doctors. With advanced digital communication being available every corner, the consultations happen remotely. There is an unparalleled demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), diagnostic kits, medical ventilators and so on. This is in conjunction with the spur in demand of critical medicines and also the huge demands of hygiene products like sanitisers and hand rubs. The research efforts to find the effective medicine(vaccines) to combat the novel corona virus Covid 19 is picking up pace all over the world. Packaging plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and security of all the above items until they reach the hands of people who need them the most.
India’s position as the pharmacy of the world by supplying 18% of global generic medicines (exporting to around 210 countries), apart from the domestic market demands not really coming down at least in few segments, remains unabated even under this Pandemic situation. The packaging industry is expected to cope up with these requirements too, along with experiencing new set of challenges. We have witnessed an accelerated demand for healthcare based packaging as a result of impulse buying in hygiene, healthcare and critical medicines. In packaging, top of the table were, the rigid plastics, blister foils, paper and paper board packaging that comprise the necessary labels, cartons and shippers.
The pharma and packaging industries have great concurrence and consociational relationship. The innovation in each industry inspire the other to standout. Today, the demand to optimise the drug delivery for healthcare professionals and patients is much larger than ever before. And so packaging needs to constantly innovate with accelerated R&D efforts to keep up the technological advances, at the same time remain competitive and do not exceed the regulatory framework.
You always state, pharma sector is close to your heart, what could be the future trends in the pharma industry and how is packaging trying to catch up with the trends?
The future of the pharma market will be having a targeted market approach rather than a mass-market model. In fact, we are already seeing these trends catching up in some segments. Pharma industry’s approach today is more user-centric. Every development revolves around patient needs because it is the influencing factor to shape the market. So, self-administered devices with advanced technology, especially for combination drugs which are safe and user friendly, are on the rise.
Smart inhalers and nasal sprays will gain more demand. Transdermal patches are currently used for pain relief and normal healthcare. Similarly, a lot is happening in oral dissolvable films. This format is very useful for paediatric and geriatric patients. We have heard that Gilead Sciences is developing an easier-to-administer version that can be inhaled for the sought-after antiviral drug Remdesivir for COVID-19.
Thus, one cannot deny the role of packaging in the pharma industry with its rapidly changing needs and demands from the market. Hence, companies are accelerating their R&D efforts to meet critical medicare requirements too, through this concept.
Use of Artificial Intelligence in every field will be on the rise. Concepts of smart packaging with advanced NFC components may become a norm for certain products. Evolution of ultra-thin ICs that can be embedded in any package has given scope for incorporating more features. However, disposal of such packages after use remains a challenge as they hamper the sustainability journey. Implantable medical devices gain ground as they are very appropriate for regulated drug delivery in certain cases. Wearable medical devices are another segment to watch. Many of them are already finding their applications, not just for diagnostics and monitoring purposes but also respiratory, therapeutic pain management and others. End of the day I sincerely believe that every innovation has to help mankind, get benefited at large.