Preventive maintenance (PM) is something that pharmaceutical manufacturers should employ on a regular basis, though it remains somewhat alarming to see how many wait until they experience an “uh-oh” moment before acting. Tablet-press manufacturers can offer varying guideposts for the timing of such PM intervals, but there are some easy signals to remain cognizant of that should prompt proactive behavior. A few of these include odd noises, erratic tablet weights, and premature wear on contact parts such as cams and compression rolls. Today’s presses can produce tablets at an astounding rate, with extraordinary accuracy, but only when they are looked after in meticulous fashion.
The most effective PM is that which is performed on an almost daily basis, even if only implemented informally. Adherence to such methodology will not only ensure that the tablet press itself remains in like-new condition, but that it also continues to compress tablets that strictly conform to the target physical parameters as mandated by the user. The importance of paying such consistent attention to the condition of one’s press increases to an even greater degree in some specific cases, such as when employing higher compression forces (e.g., those regularly in excess of 50 kN).
Any regimented inspection program on a modern tablet press will examine components including:
- cams (e.g., fill, ejection, dosing)
- punch seals and restraining mechanisms
Some tablet-press suppliers offer their own programs that will, in turn, augment those put in place by the user. The suppliers retain the advantage of understanding exactly why their machines were designed in a particular fashion, and their employees often retain encyclopedic knowledge of subtle features and procedures. A supplier-driven program typically includes a visit from a service technician who performs a thorough assessment of each installed press. Goals of such a program will typically include:
- identification and replacement of worn or non-working components
- simplification of standard operating procedures and implementation of checklists
- equipment-based suggestions for improved yields and production rates
- introduction of new enhancements, features, and upgrades
- implementation of various training programs
- user team formation and goal setting for improved efficiencies and decreased changeover times
- heightened awareness of safety inspections and use of installed safety features
- a direct link to related initiatives, such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
Arguably the most valuable aspect of this type of program is the fact that the press manufacturer will provide a detailed summary analysis of their findings. Such analyses succinctly capture all pertinent facts but also provide a guideline that the user can reference for their own preventive procedures. Tablet presses represent some of the most significant equipment-specific investments a solid-dosage manufacturer will make, and the care afforded them should be commensurate.