Pharmaceutical packaging and artificial intelligence: how AI will revolutionize the industry

Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing many industries, and the world of packaging is no exception. Thanks to rapid technological advances, artificial intelligence applied to packaging offers new opportunities for growth in the field of packaging, making processes more efficient, customisable and sustainable. Especially in the pharmaceutical packaging sector, this technology is revolutionizing not only the development and production of drugs but also other aspects of packaging, which is crucial for the safety, preservation and distribution of pharmaceutical products.

Let’s take a closer look at what lies ahead.

Optimisation and traceability

AI-based systems are used to optimize the production and management of pharmaceutical packaging. These systems analyze historical data, demand forecasts and storage conditions to determine the quantity and type of packaging required. This reduces waste and overproduction, enabling the production of packaging more suited to actual demand.

In addition to production, AI is also used to monitor and track products throughout the packaging process and identify any anomalies or defects. Because, yes: even packaging needs packaging, like all other goods! In the case of pharmaceutical packaging, moreover, the packaging must meet precise safety and quality criteria. Our ophthalmic tubes, for example, undergo sterilization by irradiation in a leading Italian irradiation center.

Packaging is followed by packing for suitability for filling in a sterile area, storage in warehouses, and shipment (or customer pick-up). Different stages of a single process that must be carefully monitored. AI takes this monitoring to the next level, detecting even the slightest anomaly. This not only ensures that the end user has a high-quality product, but also helps protect the company’s reputation. As we saw in a recent postblog, even the best-known pharmaceutical brands aren’t immune from risk.

Thanks to the ability to detect and isolate defective products before they reach the customer, the risk of accidents and possible (also costly) recalls is significantly reduced.

This helps to ensure the quality and safety of pharmaceutical products and also reduces the risk of waste due to packaging errors or quality problems at this level.

AI is not only limited to process automation and optimisation: intelligent algorithms can analyze and optimize the layout, configuration and organization of products within packages and thus also in the warehouse. With unique identification systems, such as QR codes or RFID tags, companies can track the path of each individual product.This means that companies can maximize space utilization, reduce material waste and improve the customer experience through optimized packaging.

According to some general data, since the introduction of artificial intelligence algorithms in the packaging and product preparation process, there has been a 30% reduction in errors and a 20% increase in production efficiency. Efficiency that also extends to shipments’ tracking, which becomes precise and widespread and paves the way for innovative means of delivery, such as drones.

Personalized medicine and safety

One of the most innovative aspects of the application of AI in pharmaceutical packaging is personalisation. As we all know, not all treatments involve the same doses and quantities because they are based on the individual’s needs and genetic characteristics. But if a medicine is personalized, the packaging that contains it should be too. Thanks to the efficiency of AI in analyzing large amounts of data, the dream of personalized pharmaceutical packaging to contain exact doses of drugs or based on the specific needs of an individual (think, for example, of a person with a manual disability) is approaching.

Optimizing the production of medicines tailored to individual patients not only improves the end-user experience, but also increases safety by reducing the risk of medication errors in both private and hospital settings.

The benefits in terms of patient interaction do not end there. AI systems embedded in packaging can turn into virtual assistants with a simple app, providing personalized instructions, medication reminders, and real-time feedback to patients, improving treatment adherence.

Counterfeiting and pharmaceutical packaging

Counterfeiting is a significant problem in the pharmaceutical industry. The integration of AI into packaging systems offers innovative solutions to guarantee the authenticity of products. With the use of smart codes and AI-based traceability systems, it is possible to track the drug’s path from manufacturer to consumer, guaranteeing its origin and integrity.

Pharmaceutical packaging sustainability and efficiency

Artificial intelligence in packaging also offers significant benefits in terms of waste reduction and environmental impact due to its ability to predict demand and optimize inventory. Using advanced algorithms analyzing large amounts of historical data, AI helps to more accurately predict demand for certain drugs, enabling operators to reduce overproduction that can lead to wastage of expired or unused products.

Intelligent algorithms can optimize the quantities of material used, reducing waste and lowering production costs. In addition, artificial intelligence can suggest sustainable alternatives to traditional materials, enabling companies to adopt greener packaging practices.

This production process optimisation mechanism not only reduces waste but also reduces costs for the company.
Nowadays, environmental sustainability is increasingly important to consumers, and thanks to these technologies, companies can meet this growing awareness. Optimizing processes and reducing waste not only reduces environmental impact (think also of the European Agenda2030 and 2050 goals), but also creates a positive image for companies that show they care about the future of our planet. It also keeps costs down, which is never a detail.

What’s new at Pack Expo 2023

Artificial intelligence in packaging was also a relevant topic at Pack Expo 2023 in Las Vegas, which was held in early September 2023, where sustainability (environmental and economic) was also discussed, with a focus on recyclable (such as aluminum), biodegradable and compostable materials. AI, sustainability, digitisation and automation: topics that will become inseparable in the coming years and that promise to revolutionize the world of packaging as we know it today. Also in Pharma.

Predictive maintenance and AI

There is one more fundamental aspect where Artificial Intelligence is coming into play in the world of packaging: predictive maintenance.

The main progress in predictive maintenance is made possible by the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) into the process. By equipping packaging machinery with sensors, the monitoring capability of the operations team increases to see various parameters in real time. These sensors collect data on temperature, vibration, pressure and other vital parameters, which are then directly analyzed with AI. Any anomalies found allow the team to intervene promptly and prevent equipment failures. This results in better work management, reduced downtime and consequently cost optimisation.

Conclusion

The packaging industry is in turmoil thanks to the growing popularity of Artificial Intelligence and the discovery of its many applications.In the Pharma sector, AI not only improves efficiency and effectiveness in the production and distribution of drugs, but also paves the way for a whole new level of personalisation of treatment, which is crucial in personalized medicine, and allows packaging manufacturers to offer a more effective service to pharmaceutical companies. So, open doors to innovation… even in the form of AI!

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