When it comes to the food we eat and the medication we need, detecting contaminants and foreign objects such as physical pieces as well as pathogens is of paramount importance. This goes without saying, however little thought is given to how the food and pharmaceutical industries achieve the standards that exist to protect the public from getting sick as a result of ingesting something they shouldn’t.
What is the Pharmaceutical Industry?
The Pharmaceutical Industry researches, develops, produces and markets the medicine that the public uses to treat illness and disease. The government regulates this industry for length of patents, safety, testing and marketing. It can cost pharmaceutical companies $1 Billion or more to develop a single new drug, and for every successful drug that makes it to market there are up to 20 failed drugs that never materialize a sellable product. As you can see, it costs a lot to develop successful medicines, and this is one of the main reasons why pharmaceutical companies painstakingly pay close attention to the quality of the product as it’s being produced. False positive test results, contaminants and other wastes of resources can further delay what would be otherwise considered a safe and effective drug, or stop production altogether. Patent periods allow pharmaceutical companies to recuperate the cost of developing the drug, but revenue must also cover the cost of research for failed drugs, recalls, litigation, marketing and so on.
Pharmaceutical companies use the latest technology to help ensure their products remain contaminant free. Much like the food industry, these companies employ the use of specialized and custom build metal detectors. Metal contaminants such as stainless steel bits and shavings account for the bulk of foreign objects found in medicines. The normal use of production lines will inherently include these materials and often times at incredibly small sizes. Human production line workers will often not be able to physically see these objects and they would otherwise pass through the production line and into the end product. Metal detectors such as those built by companies like Fortress Technology are able to detect the very smallest of these entities.
When a detection occurs, all product that was produced since the last successful test of the detection equipment will be removed from the production line and rechecked with a known working detector to be able to compare results. If needed product will be destroyed given a detection occurs again. While costly, it is a more cost effective measure than to allow product that cannot be 100% guaranteed to not contain a contaminant making it to the public.
In order to ensure the accuracy of the detection equipment, a certified engineer must regularly inspect the equipment and conduct proprietary tests. This specialized knowledge is needed in order to properly confirm the detection systems as working as well as update them as new versions of the software that runs them is released.
Lastly, companies that manufacture the metal detection systems also need a way to confirm correct performance of the systems in order to meet the requirements of several programs such as FSMA, SQF, GFS, BRC as well as other audits.
These machines have an incredibly important role in ensuring the safety of the end product. As a result, the technology that is built into these systems needs to be able to accommodate several requirements including:
Digital Signal Processing
Ultra Sensitive Detection
Auto Test and Self Diagnosing systems
Automatic Configuration for Iron-Enriched
Easy System Setup
Flash Memory Stability
Multi-level Password Protection and security
Detailed Data Collection for analysis
Compatible with high Speed Lines
Adjustable height and tilt
Ability to move to different rooms or different parts of the production line
Not all drugs and medicines are created equal and as such, each may have their own requirements in order to be properly scanned for contaminants. These machines need to be versatile enough to be able to accommodate the varying sizes and compositions of the pills, tablets, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals that may be manufactured on a given production line. They’re specifically designed for the inspection of individual tablets traveling at high speeds through the production line. Despite this, accuracy of the inspection needs to be on point, with the ability to retrofit to any product with easily changeable height and angle specifications.
Because of all of these variables, these metal detection systems are typically custom built for a specific client in order to ensure the level of accuracy needed.
One Step Towards Safety
The widespread use of Industrial Metal Detectors allows us to purchase and use products developed and manufactured by large pharmaceutical companies with a sense of trust that they will do what they’re marketed as being able to do. We owe in part the use of these detectors a sense of gratitude that we’re able to have access to safe and reliable medicines that keep us healthy or allow us to fight off disease. We somewhat take for granted the many steps that are required in order to make sure that what we ingest into our bodies without so much of a second thought is safe and will not do additional harm. Metal detectors are but one of many of those steps, but an integral one.