India's second largest drug maker by sales, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, is embracing automation and making it a critical part of the manufacturing process, the Wall Street Journal reports. Workers in the factory don't have much to do besides monitoring the pills spawned by the production line for any problems.
According to the company, if workers are less involved in the process there will be fewer mistakes. It also means that the company is more likely to pass inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said V. Venkatanaryan, head of Dr. Reddy's plant in Bachupally.
In spite of the great number of low-cost laborers in India, all of the company's plants are taking steps to fully automate their production process.
In the last 10 years India's pharmaceutical producers have developed into multibillion dollar companies, accounting for 40% of the generic drugs sold in the United States today. However, the FDA is subjecting those companies to harsher scrutiny with regard to manufacturing, testing and other safety issues which often arise from human error.
That is why many companies that can afford to automate are doing so, hoping to make sure their products don't get banned from the United States.
The article quotes Dilip Shah, head of the trade group Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, who says that all new plants set up by larger companies rely on advanced automation and midsize companies are following their lead.
Last year the FDA blocked drug deliveries from 21 Indian manufacturing facilities after finding during inspections that they were not following best practices. So far this year the number of Indian factories barred from shipping medicines to the United States is five.