A forecasted expansion of the pharmaceutical machinery market is driven by enhancements in technology, automation, sustainability, and supply chain challenges, as highlighted in a recent infographic titled "Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: The Future Ahead," released by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies. 

During late 2023 and early 2024, PMMI's Business Intelligence surveyed pharmaceutical manufacturers to evaluate the industry's progress since the release of the organization's 2022 white paper with a similar title. The findings revealed an industry primed for growth yet confronted with various hurdles.

Establishing the foundation for the survey is the 2023 State of the Industry Report, also by PMMI. Per the report's findings, in 2022, shipments of pharmaceutical machinery amounted to $1.1 billion, representing 11% of the packaging machinery market, with a forecasted compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% by 2027. This growth trajectory surpasses that of several larger sectors, including the food industry, which is projected to have a CAGR of 7.3%.

“The pharmaceutical sector has recently announced high levels of production expansion investments. A large portion of the biggest pharmaceutical manufacturers have announced capacity expansion in the billions, with the majority of investment going toward expanding capacity in North Carolina,” says Rebecca Marquez, director, custom research, PMMI. “This has pushed forecasted growth of packaging machine shipments to the pharmaceutical sector up for 2023 and 2024 compared to other industries.

Marquez cites e-commerce and central pharmacies as reasons for this growth. As e-commerce continues to proliferate, there is a trend toward multi-client order fulfillment centers. This landscape will represent a significant growth opportunity for packaging machine builders. 

Also driving growth in pharmaceutical machinery is the rise of central pharmacies, providing the ability for third parties to fill prescriptions within the United States. Central pharmacies sit between the retail pharmacy and wholesaler and serve multiple pharmacies, sometimes of multiple entities.

Central pharmacies have been used by independent and chain pharmacies alike to control inventory costs of slow-moving drugs and to achieve cost reduction through scale. Increasingly, central pharmacies are being used to serve mail-order prescriptions in the growing e-commerce landscape.

Going into 2024, manufacturers identified reliability/repeatability (83%) as a top priority when evaluating and comparing machines and flexibility/faster changeover (76%) as a critical improvement for next-generation machines. The infographic also details the key trends affecting the pharmaceutical industry. 

Automating costs, labor, changing packaging formats due to sustainability requirements, and delays in acquiring parts were all identified as challenges for the industry in their respective categories. Finally, the latest data shows the top five ways OEMs and suppliers can best support pharmaceutical packaging operations, with equipment accuracy and reliability leading the way.

“We look at this survey as a pulse-check to see how pharmaceutical manufacturers were doing amid the growth. While growth is good, we did not want to ignore the many challenges and opportunities for the industry,” Marquez says. “How pharmaceutical manufacturers handle this wave of growth can set many companies up for success. It’s all in how they meet the moment.”

Pharmaceutical manufacturers seeking the latest automation, sustainability, e-commerce, and supply chain solutions can find them at PACK EXPO East (March 18–20, 2024; Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia). The largest show in the event’s history, PACK EXPO East is the perfect place to explore new technologies, see innovation in action, and expand business networks. Over 7,000 industry professionals from more than 40 vertical markets, such as food and beverage, cosmetics, personal care, industrial and household products, and pharmaceutical and life sciences, can collaborate and connect at the show.

For more information on all PACK EXPO East has to offer and to register for the show, visit packexpoeast.com.