Most sustainability endeavors are center around trying to fix a problem. Regardless of the solution, whether its installing air filtration systems on cruise ships or campaigning for more safe meat production, it usually comes after an issue has become and emergency or crisis. But what if we caught the problem at its beginning, instead of at the end? Doing so gives us a chance to investigate and explore early-stage prevention methods that can not only solve issues, but prevent them from happening in the first place
Environmental sustainability is a rising topic in many fields of manufacturing, and the pharmaceutical industry is no omission. One issue in manufacturing pharmaceuticals is the amount of energy expelled during production. “Although different types of pharmaceutical manufacturing processes use energy in different amounts, HVAC systems, used to control the air quality of the process environment, consume more energy than any other system across all types of manufacturing” (Markarian, 2017). Reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint are major solution areas for the pharmaceutical industry. Not only can efficient energy lower costs, it usually reduces the amount of emissions released into the environment, which is a good base-line for finding a solution to this problem.
But how can this be achieved? Like in class, we discussed a “systems thinking approach”, and this same method can be used in lowering energy use. “Motors and drives are used throughout the pharmaceutical industry to operate HVAC systems, to drive laboratory or bulk manufacturing equipment, including mixers, pumps, centrifuges and dryers, and to move and operate filling and finishing equipment” (Improving Efficiency in Pharmaceutical Production, 3). Looking at the entire motor system as a whole will be more effective than examining each component individually. There are many steps that can be taken in efforts to reduce energy use in pharmaceutical plants globally. These include things like: locating and identifying motor application amongst the facility and documenting their conditions, looking in to potential upgrades to these systems, including implementation costs and potential annual savings. “In general, the energy savings of replacing a traditional system (i.e., a system using boiler-based steam and grid-based electricity) with a standard gas turbine-based CHP unit is estimated at 20-30%. The efficiency gain will be higher when replacing older or less maintained boilers” (Improving Efficiency in Pharm. Production, 8). About $7 million in unnecessary electrical costs every day because these systems are typically not provided with speedy drive systems and in most cases facilities are oversized. Buildings alone use an immensely large amount of energy, and if the size of the facilities were downsized, energy consumption as a whole will tend to decrease in my opinion.
In conclusion, if companies look to minimize the size of their physical footprint, reduce facilities sizes, and introduce more flexible, energy-efficient equipment the amount of energy will ultimately be decreased. Smaller cleaner rooms equate to less filtration in the air, less money spent on cleaning supplies, less waste, and ultimately a greater overall impact. Although it may not be possible to create a utopian facility, it is possible to limit the amount of energy in these facilities. For more information on this issue, these links can be extremely helpful and provide more ways for improving sustainability in pharmaceutical manufacturing: