Typical Pharma Unidirectional Flow Plant Design VS “U” Shaped Plant Design

stepscience plant design

Often Pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Lean objectives are counter-intuitive.

Let’s look at very basic requirement of unidirectional flow for a factory (low-risk products), a classic textbook design is having raw materials entering the facility on the one side and leaving on the opposite side (refer to case on the upper right side).

It is crucial to design a facility correctly at the conceptual stage. Rubbing out of a line during conceptual design stage can be a million times cheaper than trying to do so at the final stages of the project.

The challenge with this “GMP compliant design” is that as the sales demand is high and capacity is limited. If there is temporary reduction due to a machine break down, there could be increased stock sitting in the raw material warehouse and the finished goods warehouse being empty. So, shifting materials around is a waste.

One way to overcome this problem is to have a “U” shaped plant design, this means awnings, dock levelers, road access and traffic flow is usually safer for your staff, i.e. their paths do not cross.

In the example shown by the downer right side case, you can see that the raw materials and finished goods share a common site access point, ramps, doors and dock levelers. But most importantly, the raw material and finished goods spaces can be expanded or contracted to suit real world changes.

Increasingly, we are seeing Lean Manufacturing principles being applied to Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences plants and now Medicinal Cannabis facilities.