Pharmaceuticals and stockpiling
Stockpiling in pharmaceutical manufacturing is by no means new. The demand in flu season, for example, means manufacturers often resort to making the drugs in large batches.
These products, which tend to have a shelf-life of around five years, require strict temperature control, but we will come on to that later.
With manufacturers in a race to fulfil orders before the original Brexit deadline of 29 March, the pharmaceuticals industry was one of the sectors most affected, expanding 9.4% between January and March.
As uncertainty in industry continues to grow, manufacturers may feel pressure to continue to stockpile goods, in the case that the UK leave the EU without a deal.
News of manufacturers stockpiling ahead of the Brexit deadline has been circulating since the back-end of 2018, with UK government asking pharmaceutical companies to maintain drug stockpiles for six weeks back to ensure a continuous supply in the circumstances of a no-deal Brexit.
With the UK’s deadline to reach a deal extended, it means this period of uncertainty and, therefore, stockpiling, will likely continue for the foreseeable future. It leaves pharmaceutical manufacturers with the headache of preparing for both stockpiling ahead of Brexit and its usual busy winter season. As manufacturers already face the challenge of over-production, where to store these additional drugs is an additional headache.
Where to store additional product
Whenever pharmaceutical manufacturers stockpile drugs, one of the biggest challenges they face is to find storage which has the exact temperature control that is required for the product or drug. As companies make more, additional capacity is required, especially with the uncertainty surrounding import, as well as growing demand from government.
Temperature control is an absolute necessity for any pharmaceutical manufacturer. If the warehouse doesn’t have the correct ambience, it can significantly reduce the shelf life of the products being stored and cause drugs to be unusable.
Where there is insufficient storage available in existing facilities, many manufacturers look to store in empty warehouses, yet these spaces don’t come fit and ready to store the products. There is lots of ambient storage in the market place, but converting these facilities and investing in a large cold store plant can take up to a year and cost more than £1 million.
Manufacturers simply don’t have this option available to them, especially given the long gestation period acquiring the additional capex budgets. Therefore, looking into temporary options, such as rental equipment, should be considered.
Is renting the answer?
Stockpiling in pharmaceutical manufacturing is not going to go away; even after Brexit. That’s because pharmaceutical manufacturers have to react to the seasons, with temperature fluctuation impacting the production line and requirements for cooling or heating equipment.
Those working in the manufacturing, retail and warehousing sectors should consider temporary cooling systems and chillers, which allow ambient temperature warehousing to be transformed into chilled and cold storage.
Chillers, which range in modules from 50kW to 1500kW, can be maintained as low as (minus) -40°C. This helps provide companies that are either considering or have already taken action to stockpile, with convenient, effective cooling for all applications, ensuring warehouses meet the required temperatures for the stored materials.
Additionally, manufacturers should also look at temporary contingency plans. Sector specialists Aggreko, for example, visit facilities and complete a thorough audit which assesses the circumstances facing manufacturers in the event of a power outage. This is a very real issue facing pharmaceutical companies, especially with an increase in production and storage.
Emergency generators are just one part of a wider contingency plan, helping to run the existing cooling plants and ensure no product is spoilt. Being proactive and thinking of the worst-case scenario puts manufacturers in the best possible position.
What’s more, this back-up power can be supplied within 24 hours of a power outage, as the audit ensures the Aggreko team understand the exact requirements and where it needs to be installed.
The necessity of stockpiling materials doesn’t appear to be reducing and pharmaceutical companies need more efficient and trustworthy storage quickly. As we await more clarity on the impact Brexit will have on industry, the utilisation of temporary chillers allows storage to be increased where extra capacity is required.