Improving Ergonomics and Safety in Modular Biopharma Facilities

As pharma facility capabilities continue to grow, expand, and speed up, High Purity New England puts a focus on the employees working in this evolving environment.


Pharma manufacturers and their contract partners are increasingly leveraging modular facilities, to support faster turnovers, expansions, and increased overall efficiency.

Modular equipment is often heavy, bulky, wheel-mounted—designed to be pushed and pulled to wherever it needs to go. Well engineered Material-Handling Equipment (MHE) is called for to help move modular platforms safely, while mitigating health and safety risk. Consideration for lifting and material handling is a key element of an effective Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) policy.

Typically, single-use bioprocessing creates a subset of equipment and materials that have to be handled before and after each new drug campaign or batch interval. Given the value of manufacturing, as well as the awkward size, weight, and shape of some process configurations, equipment handling must be controlled and managed carefully to prevent operator injuries and damage to the facility.

With most pharma facilities having wheel-mounted equipment, the push towards more flexible facilities, modified ballroom floorplans, and intermediate scales in commercial production means that effective ergonomic material handling equipment needs to be the norm.

After observing manufacturing engineers, equipment technicians, and cleaning personnel struggling to move heavy pharma equipment, High Purity New England sought out the best solution on the market to solve this challenge. Thus HPNE began offering a solution for their valued customers - an innovative line of electric tugs, featuring a hydraulic coupling point which eliminates the need to push and pull the enormous weight of the items being moved. The ISO and CE certified tugs are designed to integrate with most cart vessels, columns, tanks, and skid designs and feature automated motive and load-handling controls that make starting and stopping heavy loads safer.

Focus on Ergonomics: Planning a Safer Environment

Pharma has been deploying electric handling mechanisms to move equipment around facilities for a long time, but with single-use manufacturing, operators face an increased risk of suffering back injuries. Where proper handling processes are not in use, there is also an increased chance of other operational problems, such as accidents and damage to chromatography columns, tanks, drums, and other objects.

A study by the Ohio State University Spine Institute found that constant pushing and pulling of heavy weights is a chronic root source for a growing number of back injuries on the facility floor. Researchers said the effects of manual labour on the spine are cumulative and few notice any problem until the final “event” that causes a debilitating back injury.

Extra Value: Efficiency in Manufacturing

Mechanizing equipment handling and implementing well-planned material-handling processes provides numerous advantages during production. This includes process optimization and lower operating costs, as equipment has less wear and tear, and needs repair less often. With HPNE’s high performance powered tugs, a single operator is able to move equipment without assistance, resulting in less overall time spent away from production and increasing safety.

One of the more notable benefits is the reduction in workplace accidents and injuries, which can have a negative effect on operations and employee morale, as well as financial implications in more extreme circumstances. By utilizing specialized handling equipment such as electric tugs, there is a decreased risk of handling related injuries occurring in a cleanroom environment.

Plan to Move: Designing a Material Handling Plan

Pharma is always investing in new and innovative equipment, but the task of moving and positioning these items safely is getting less attention than it deserves. While addressing this early in the planning stages of any pharma facility installation is ideal, it’s never too late to look at implementing a comprehensive material handling plan. Ensuring optimum ergonomics, efficiency, and safety is a must in any pharma facility, and can be achieved by implementing an electric tug into the manufacturing process.

Whether implementing safety procedures into an existing facility or into new construction, HPNE provides a range of options that can improve material handling plans. With multiple sizes to choose from, our MasterMover product line is able to move anywhere from 100 lbs. to 26,000 lbs. Combined with the leveraged weight transfer system, powerful drive motors, and hydraulic coupling point, a compact machine can move significant weight. The 316 stainless steel chassis is easy to clean and suitable for use in a cleanroom environment. Electric tugs provide the ideal solution for moving heavy pharma equipment in a biopharma cleanroom, allowing for the continuous improvement of safety and ergonomics. 

Want to explore better ways to get things moving? HPNE has been focused on bringing innovative engineered solutions to the pharmaceutical market for over 20 years. Learn more about these innovative Electric Tugs here or contact the HPNE team directly here.

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About HPNE

As the industry needs grow, High Purity New England, Inc. continues to supply the biopharmaceutical industry with a range of innovative products, from drug discovery and development to fill-finish, including their flagship product, custom single-use assemblies, as well as pumps, sensors, bioreactor systems, storage and handling solutions and other single-use solutions. Along with their own manufactured products for the global market, they are also a distributor for more than 18 brands in North America.

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