In every emerging drug manufacturing industry or an already existing one, there is always a need to have an intermediate batch scale representing procedures and simulating that used for commercial manufacturing. In order to develop a reliable and practical method of manufacture that affects an orderly transition from laboratory to routine processing in a full-scale production facility, the following should be considered.
In order to facilitate smooth transfer of products from a laboratory scale to a commercial scale, there is need for be adequate records and reporting arrangement. How effective a pilot plant is may be determined by the ease with which new products or processes are brought into routine production.
To achieve this, there should be a good relationship and effective communication between the pilot plant group and the other groups (Research and Development, processing, packaging, engineering, quality assurance/control, regulating and marketing) with which they interact during the process.
Those employed during the scale up process should be individuals with qualifications required for position in a pilot plant organization. It should be a blend of good theoretical knowledge of pharmacy and some practical experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Practical experience in pilot plant operations is also invaluable.
The type and level of education within the group is equally important as they have to understand the intent of the formulator as well as understand the perspective of the production personnel. The number of people in a pilot plant depends in the number of products being supported and on the level of support required.
The space requirements of a pilot plant are of four types:
There should be adequate office and desk space for both the scientists and technicians to facilitate proper documentation of their activities and observations. This should be adjacent to the work area but sufficiently isolated to permit people to work without undue distraction.
There should be an adequate working area where the analysis and physical testing of samples can be performed (in-process quality control analysis) which helps in early identification of production error. This area should provide permanent bench top space for routinely used physical testing equipment like balances, pH meters, viscometers etc.
This has to do with where all the relevant equipment used in the pilot plant scale up techniques is kept. The equipment should be available in a variety of sizes known to the representative of all production capability. This arrangement helps make sure of the quality of the scale up data collected, as well as being prudent with expensive materials.
Intermediate size and large or full scale production equipment are essential in evaluating the effects of scale up on research formulations and processes. Equipment should be made portable where possible since the utilization of pilot plant equipment is occasional or sporadic and dependent on project assignments. Utilization of this area is most effective when it is subdivided into areas for different dosage forms (solid, semi-solid, liquid and sterile products).
Separate provision should be made for the storage of active ingredients and excipients. Different areas should be provided for the storage of the in-process materials, finished bulk products from the pilot plant and materials from the experimental scale-up batches made in the production. Storage area for packaging materials should also be made available.
See Also: Pharmaceutical Plant Layout
One responsibility of pilot plant operation is to approve and validate the active and excipient raw materials used in the formulation of pharmaceutical products. This should not be taken for granted. This is because pilot scale up, in itself, does not guarantee a smooth transition.
The raw materials used during small scale formulation trials may not meet the requirements of large volume shipments of materials used in full manufacturing scale. Also active ingredients used in a laboratory scale need to meet up with the rising needs of the product when subjected to scale up.
There may be variations in particle size, shape, or morphology resulting in different handling properties or differences in density, static charges, rate of solubility, flow properties etc., of active/inert ingredients as the batch size increases.
There is need for alternate suppliers of raw materials because a single supplier may sometimes leave the company defenseless with respect to price and supply quality. This means that several batches of products need to be manufactured with these alternate materials and their performance in the formulation and stability of the finished product, evaluated relative to the standard product.
During scale-up, alternative manufacturing equipment should be considered since most development work has been performed on small and simple laboratory equipment. The equipment that promises to be the most economical, the simplest, the most efficient and the most capable of consistently producing products within the proposed specifications should be evaluated based on the known processing characteristics of the product.
The size of the equipment should be optimized and the ease of cleaning should be considered especially if multiple products are to be manufactured in the equipment.
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