How pharmaceutical robots are being used in 2024

April 24, 2024
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Robots in the pharma industry: Key trends

  • Accelerating drug discovery with robotic testing and synthesis: Robots rapidly screen potential drug compounds and even autonomously synthesize new molecules, streamlining the drug discovery process. 
  • Extracting valuable insights through advanced analytics: Robots generate vast amounts of data in labs and manufacturing, which advanced analytics tools transform into actionable insights that optimize processes and predict outcomes. 
  • Revolutionizing personalized medicine with automation: Robots enable the production of customized drug formulations and dosages by analyzing patient biomarkers, paving the way for highly tailored treatments. 
  • Enhancing safety and compliance through automation: Robots reduce human error and risks in production, while automated monitoring and documentation systems meticulously track processes, helping achieve stringent quality standards. 

How pharmaceutical robots are being used today

Pharmaceutical robots are already being used very widely in the pharmaceutical industry. 

Let’s take a look at how they’re helping out: 

High accuracy in mixing and dosing

Pharmaceutical robots bring a second-to-none level of precision to the production floor by meticulously measuring and combining ingredients. This automation virtually guarantees a high degree of consistency in drug formulation, crucial for maintaining the efficacy and safety of medications.

By leveraging robotic technology, pharmaceutical companies can reduce human error and variability, which results in uniform product batches that meet stringent industry standards. This kind of precision is essential not only for the quality of the product but also for regulatory compliance and patient safety.

For example, ABB’s IRB 120 robot is known for its accuracy in handling and dosing small volumes, making it invaluable in the production of highly potent medications where precision is paramount.

Minimize contamination risks with sterile filling and closing

Robots are great at maintaining sterility during the filling and closing processes in drug manufacturing. Operating in controlled environments, these machines fill bottles and apply closures with exceptional precision.

This not only speeds up the production process but also significantly lowers the risk of contamination, which is a critical concern in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The robotic systems are designed to operate in cleanrooms and other sterile settings, minimizing human contact and maximizing cleanliness.

Companies like Steriline, an Italian pharmaceutical equipment manufacturer, provide robotic solutions specifically designed for sterile environments. These robotic systems handle tasks such as filling, capping, and closing of vials and syringes.

Promote correct labeling for patient safety

Accurate labeling is vital for patient safety, ensuring that individuals receive correct and clear information about their medications. Pharmaceutical robots enhance this aspect by eliminating the inconsistencies commonly associated with manual labeling processes.

These robots are programmed to apply labels perfectly each time, promoting readability and accuracy. This technology helps prevent medication errors and increases the reliability of pharmaceutical products, thereby ensuring that patients receive the correct dosage and drug information.

Marchesini Group offers advanced robotic labeling systems that achieve high precision in label application, reducing errors that could lead to serious patient safety issues.

Optimize efficiency with robotic packaging and palletizing

In the pharmaceutical industry, packaging and palletizing can be repetitive and time-consuming. Robots are used to automate these tasks, which enhances operational efficiency and allows human workers to focus on more complex or sensitive activities.

Robotic arms can quickly package products and organize them onto pallets for distribution, streamlining workflows and reducing labor costs and potential errors. This automation not only boosts production speeds but also enhances the overall scalability of operations.

For example, FANUC’s M-410iC/185 robot is popular in the pharmaceutical sector for its ability to quickly stack goods on pallets, optimizing warehouse and shipping operations.

Maintain unwavering standards through robotic quality control

Robotic systems equipped with advanced sensors and vision systems are integral in maintaining high-quality standards in pharmaceutical production. These robots perform continuous and meticulous inspections of products, reliably identifying and flagging any deviations from quality norms.

Their 24/7 operation guarantees that all products adhere to regulatory requirements and meet both company and consumer expectations. This level of consistency is crucial for building trust and maintaining the brand reputation.

Companies like Standard Bots are pioneering quality control through machine vision, with collaborative robots like RO1 setting the standard. 

Handle delicate tasks with precision using pick-and-place robots

Pick and place robots are specially designed to handle delicate tasks with high precision. These robots manipulate individual components and products, ensuring that each item is accurately assembled and placed without damage.

This is particularly important in the pharmaceutical industry, where the integrity of the product must be maintained to ensure its therapeutic effectiveness. The precision of these robots helps prevent product waste and reduces the risk of human-induced errors during assembly.

Advance personalized medicine with adaptable collaborative robots (cobots)

Collaborative robots, or cobots, are a huge advancement in the pharmaceutical industry by enabling the production of personalized medicine. They work alongside human specialists in a shared workspace safely, providing the flexibility needed to produce customized medications.

Also, cobots can be easily programmed and retooled for various tasks, making them ideal for small-batch production that requires high precision and adaptability. This flexibility is particularly beneficial in developing treatments tailored to individual patient needs.

Standard Bots’ RO1 is a cobot suited for tasks requiring flexibility and care, such as the production of personalized medicines. These robots can work alongside human technicians without the need for traditional safety barriers, allowing for a more integrated workspace.

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Benefits of automating with pharmaceutical robots

Automating with pharmaceutical robots can pay huge dividends. Let’s take a look at how: 

  • Huge boost to productivity and efficiency: Pharmaceutical robots operate 24/7, leading to a potential 30-50% increase in production throughput compared to traditional methods.
  • Superior quality and consistency through robotic precision: Automation can reduce product defects in pharmaceutical manufacturing by up to 80%, ensuring consistently high standards.
  • Create safer working environments by automating hazardous tasks: Robotics integration can minimize workplace accidents in pharmaceutical environments by as much as 70%, protecting worker health.
  • Realize long-term cost savings through automation: Pharmaceutical companies leveraging robotics can achieve operational cost reductions of up to 40%, enhancing profitability.

Challenges and risks of implementing pharmaceutical robots

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to implementing pharmaceutical robots. As much as we like to focus on the positives, there are some downsides to consider. 

Let’s take a look: 

  • Give some thought to the upfront investment in robotics and automation:  Implementing pharmaceutical robots and automated systems requires significant capital expenditure, which can be a barrier for smaller companies.
  • Plan for employee retraining and skill development: The shift to automation necessitates retraining programs so employees can effectively manage and maintain the new systems.
  • Cybersecurity should be a big priority: Increased connectivity in automated pharmaceutical facilities brings cybersecurity risks;  robust safeguards and backup systems are essential.
  • Job displacement is a real issue worth considering: While automation transforms jobs more than eliminating them, companies can proactively address potential job losses through retraining and preparing employees for new roles within the evolving industry.

The future of robots in the pharmaceutical industry

Unsurprisingly, pharma robotics is already bringing a tremendous amount of change to the industry. 

But, if anything, robots are poised to go even further. As cobots (collaborative robots) become more sophisticated, they'll work hand in hand with humans in previously unthought-of areas. 

Here are some of the changes that pharma robotics is bringing to the table: 

  • Accelerating personalized medicine with cobots: Cobots capable of delicate lab procedures will fuel the development of personalized medicines tailored to specific patients. Their precision and repeatability will reduce the cost and time associated with producing small, customized drug batches.
  • Improving all-around safety with robotic automation: Robots will continue taking over dangerous tasks in pharmaceutical manufacturing, including handling toxic chemicals, operating heavy machinery, or moving materials. This significantly improves workplace safety and frees human workers for more complex, value-added roles.  However, human oversight still remains critical for quality assurance.
  • Streamlining clinical trials with automation:  Robotics offers potential in clinical trial administration. Robots can automate participant recruitment, document and sample management, and even aspects of data collection and analysis. This could reduce trial costs and speed up development timelines, though human clinicians and researchers remain indispensable for trial oversight and result interpretation.

Summing up

You heard it here first: Pharmaceutical robots are transforming the pharma industry before our eyes. 

From automating day-to-day, boring jobs, to enabling personalized medicine, their potential is pretty much infinite. 

It boggles the mind to imagine how many more lives could be improved and saved thanks to these pharmaceutical robotics working 24/7 with quality levels that are unreachable by even the most skilled humans. 

But of course, it’s not an either/or scenario: pharmaceutical robotics is paving the way for a collaborative future where humans can put their brains to work in even more complex tasks. 

Next steps

Ready to bring high-end pharmaceutical automation to your business? Try RO1 by Standard Bots, an adaptable 6-axis partner fit for SMEs and industrial giants. 

  • Affordable automation that works for you: RO1 prioritizes the core automation features that streamline your operations and boost your bottom line, starting at 50% of the competition's cost. 
  • Precision performance, scaled to your needs: RO1's 6-axis design and robust 18 kg payload capacity deliver the speed and accuracy your workflow needs. 
  • Designed for safe collaboration: Advanced safety protocols enable efficient human-robot teamwork. Safety first! 
  • Evolve with AI-powered flexibility: RO1's intelligent adaptability, on par with GPT-4, keeps pace with your changing needs, future-proofing your investment.

Our expert team provides ongoing support, guaranteeing you get the most out of automation with RO1. See the transformation for yourself — try RO1 risk-free for 30 days!

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