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Packaging Professionals Take A Look At New Owens-Illinois Products


March 22, 2001
Copyright © 2001 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Owens-Illinois’ plastics manufacturing plant in Las Piedras recently hosted a meeting of the International Organization of Packaging Professionals’ (IOPP) Drug and Pharmaceutical committee, a group made up of close to 30 representatives from corporations around the world.

"IOPP dates back to the 1950s, when it was called the Packaging Institute," said Lou Brodsky, a member of the organization and packaging engineer for Bristol-Myers Squibb. "We are one of several technical committees in IOPP, but the entire membership is made up of more than 5,000 members belonging to different industries."

Packaging is serious business for these professionals, most of them engineers with degrees in the less-known higher education degree known as packaging engineering.

"Few universities offer degrees in this particular subject. Among them are Michigan State, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rutgers University and Stout University. Packaging engineering in the pharmaceutical industry is a very technical profession, totally regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," said Brodsky.

"Among the criteria required in packaging pharmaceutical products is that the product maintain its efficacy, or the desired effect that the drug is meant to offer. We have to comply with rigorous qualifications delineated by the FDA regarding the stability of the chemicals and the ability to comply with a shelf life that could range from two to three years," said Ron Jaketic, from Carter-Wallace.

Packaging engineers are present in the $500 million-plus manufacturing process of a new drug right from the development stage. It is at this point that companies such as Owens-Illinois are contacted in search of the right packaging.

In 2000, Owens-Illinois’ worldwide sales reached $1.9 billion in the plastics division (the company has a 60% market share of the glass bottle production worldwide). With $5.8 billion in global sales, the company owns 21 glass manufacturing companies and 10 plastics manufacturing plants.

The company holds over 500 patents on bottle and closure packaging designs. The members of IOPP were given a look at some of these newly designed products and some that are still in the pipeline. Among the newer products are variations of child resistant closures, a device that will eliminate the use of cotton in bottles, bottles that dispense specific dosages, and a variation of syringes.

With 150 employees, the company’s sales between 1988 and 1995 rose from $3 million to $28 million. In 1996 and 1997, the company was severely affected by the loss of three major clients that transferred their operations to the U.S. But Owens-Illinois has recovered the level of business and sales to what they were prior to the loss.

One new direction was the addition in 1997 of a contract manufacturing agreement to its business. Since that period, Owens-Illinois has maintained a contract to produce components for one of the major electronic assembly operations in Puerto Rico.

"Owens-Illinois’ Las Piedras plant is one of eight plastics manufacturing plants that specialize in the healthcare industry. Established in 1988, the plant remains in Puerto Rico so we can be near the point of use. In our case, economic incentives do not drive our location analysis as much as proximity to our clients," said Luis Cintron, general manager of Owens-Illinois.

The Puerto Rico-based plant specializes in the manufacturing of bottles and closures (caps) for the pharmaceutical industry, particularly ethical drugs (prescription or controlled drugs) and over-the-counter drugs.

"Last year, we produced around 400 million plastic bottles and 300 million caps for the industry. We manufacture 70% of the bottles used by the pharmaceutical industry in Puerto Rico. In addition, we do injection molding and produce caps and special compacts used to package birth control pills and pills distributed in blister packages. Injection molding is also used in the manufacturing of medical devices and industrial applications products.

"The greatest challenge for the molding industry in Puerto Rico is the cost of energy. Notwithstanding our commitment and the need to be near the largest concentration of pharmaceutical companies per square mile in the U.S., our energy costs place us at a great disadvantage over other sister-plant operations," said Cintron.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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