Pharma: Indian company transitions to continuous manufacturing

When someone falls ill, the priority is on getting well again quickly. Luckily, today a very wide range of medicines is available for many conditions. In an effort to supply high-quality, affordable medicines, Indian pharma company Cipla has transitioned to continuous manufacturing at its facility in Kurkumbh.

Cipla produces over 75 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for a number of therapeutic applications – including for the treatment of tumors, diabetes, ulcers, hepatitis, HIV, and respiratory illnesses. In order to increase manufacturing time and cost effectiveness of APIs – and to do so with less space – Cipla transitioned from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing at its plant in Kurkumbh, west of Mumbai. Cipla is taking a pioneer role as one of the first Indian pharma companies to introduce continuous manufacturing in its processes.

Powerful process control system

In batch manufacturing, materials are charged into a production system at once and the product is discharged in a single batch some time later. By contrast, with continuous manufacturing materials and product are charged into and discharged from a production system on an ongoing basis. Chemical reactions are performed in micro reactors or tubes, instead of in a reactor.

It takes a powerful process control system to realize continuous manufacturing in pharmaceutical companies. Siemens collaborates with OEMs and pharma companies to offer solutions based on Simatic PCS7 – like the system that was installed at Cipla’s site in Kurkumbh.

Faster reaction to market demands

In a pharmaceutical setting, continuous manufacturing has many advantages: For new medicines, production can take place on the same equipment platform as the development stage, which avoids the bottlenecks associated with scale-up. Likewise, bottlenecks can be avoided when stepping up production of existing remedies. That makes it easier to rapidly increase production in the face of shortages or in response to emergencies. The reaction to market demands is therefore much faster.


Shortend supply chains thanks to local production

Supply chains are shortened, since smaller batches can be produced at a given site – that puts an end to creating APIs in one facility and shipping them around the world for further processing at other sites. As materials flow from one process step to the other, the manufacturing footprint is smaller. Furthermore, quality can be checked on an ongoing basis and adjustments can be made immediately to API processes. If that isn’t enough, it takes just a few hours to obtain results with continuous manufacturing process – as opposed to days for batch processes. 

Achieving valuable savings

What is good for operations also turns out to be good for the bottom line. Over batch manufacturing, pharma companies typically achieve cost savings of up to 20 percent with continuous manufacturing. Operational costs are up to 30 percent lower, with 80 to 90 percent higher asset utilization. Minimized waste and increased energy efficiency lower the CO2 footprint. 

Numerous customer benefits 

Faster production methods with continuous manufacturing allow pharma companies like Cipla to produce APIs more quickly and according to market needs. For Cipla in particular, the result has been significantly less floor space for manufacturing, faster production times, reduced waste, lower energy and utility costs, increased worker safety, and the ability to deliver even better quality. And all that together helps people get well more quickly. 

Cipla is active in over 80 countries worldwide with 46 manufacturing sites and a product portfolio covering more that 1,500 products. The company’s main markets are India, South Africa, and the United States. A core goal of Cipla is to make healthcare more affordable. An example: in 2001, Cipla offered its 3-in-1 antiretroviral therapy in South Africa for less than one dollar a day against the prevailing price at the time of over US$12,000 a year.

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