How to optimise the blister card production process in pharmacy?

Optimise blister card production process

Every pharmacy seeks to satisfy and optimally care for its patients while maintaining a sustainable business model. This means dispensing prescriptions accurately and efficiently, providing quality care and ensuring employee satisfaction. Current issues, such as workforce shortages, can add unforeseen challenges; an important mitigation strategy is to automate and optimise blister card production. This form of adherence packaging has so many benefits for your patients but can be labour intensive to fill.

Optimising the blister card production process involves analysing, modifying and improving the various stages of production. The aim is to improve efficiency, quality and productivity, reduce costs, save time and increase customer satisfaction.

What do you need to consider to optimise your blister card production process?

Optimise blister card production

1. Workflow and Space Management

The close link between workflow and space management is essential for significant process improvement. Optimising the layout of space according to workflow ensures that pharmacists can produce more smoothly and efficiently. A well thought-out spatial organisation rationalises the movement of consumables and drugs from one stage to another. This reduces waiting times and unnecessary steps.

Optimise blister card production

2. Stock Management

Optimised stock management will significantly improve the blister card production process.

To optimise stock management, here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Analysing past demand allows you to forecast the quantities of drugs needed per week or per month.
  • Define an optimal stock level for each product based on average demand and delivery time. This will avoid stock-outs while reducing surpluses.
  • Adopt the FIFO (First In, First Out) method to prevent products from expiring, i.e. use the oldest products first to keep stock fresh.
  • Carry out regular inventories to check the accuracy of data and identify discrepancies. This will enable errors to be corrected quickly and stock to be kept under precise control.
  • Maintain a well-organised inventory of drugs and supplies needed to produce blister cards. This will help to avoid stock-outs and facilitate rapid access to drugs.
  • Ensure that stock management staff are trained in best practice and the systems used.

Optimise blister card production

3. Effective Planning

It’s important to establish a well-defined schedule for producing blister cards in line with patient needs. This ensures optimum use of pharmacy resources and compliance with production deadlines.

To establish and optimize a production schedule, the following elements can be considered:

  • Minimum number of blister cards: Ideally, the production of around 50 blister cards should be grouped together in a batch. This number will vary with the size of the pharmacy. For example, a central fill facility with a high volume of blister cards will benefit from producing larger batches.
  • Public holidays: Staff may be reduced or facility may be closed on public holidays;  this must be taken into account in the scheduling to avoid delivery delays.
  • Number of weeks to produce: For patients on multi-dose blister cards, consider producing a two-week cycle. The number of weekly packs produced can be adapted to particular patients / facilities.  For example, if the dispensing history is consistent (i.e. patients are not high acuity), it makes sense to produce multiple weekly packs at once. Productivity will be improved vs. producing a single week at a time, as the same drugs will be collected and dispensed for a longer cycle period.  If you dispense up to 4 weeks however there is a risk of having many corrections to make due to prescriptions changes.  These factors need to be balanced; our findings indicate that a 2-week production cycle is most optimal.
  • Maintenance: If blister card production is automated, it is also important to align the production schedule with the preventive maintenance schedule. It is not ideal to postpone system maintenance because of delays in the production schedule.
  • Optimal concentration: If a doctor prescribes 75mg of a molecule. Rather than giving 1.5 tablets at 50mg, consider giving 3 tablets at 25mg. This avoids having to handle fractions of tablets, and having to position them by hand; this speeds up the production process.

Optimise blister card production

4. Writing Procedures

Writing up blister card production procedures is essential for a number of reasons:

  • Consistency and quality: Production procedures define the steps to be followed in detail. This ensures consistent, high-quality production, minimising variation and human error.
  • Staff training: Procedures serve as a guide for training new staff. They standardise skills and ensure that every employee follows the same practices.
  • Process optimisation: By documenting procedures, it is easier to identify weak points and make improvements. This leads to greater efficiency and lower costs.

Optimise blister card production

5. Staff Training on the Technologies Used and Internal Procedures

The efficiency of the production flow, productivity and the quality of the end products depend largely on the operators. It is important that they are trained in the technologies they use and in the internal procedures to be followed. To ensure that the training of pharmacy staff is effective, it is possible to:

  • Establish an initial training plan for all new employees.
  • Regularly assess the knowledge of pharmacy staff and offer them ongoing training. Creating an evaluation grid will make this step easier. For example, it could cover stock management, error management, blister card checking, optimisation, production processes, etc.

Optimise blister card production

6. Set Up Routines

Setting up routines will help your team to become more operationally efficient. It’s also a good way of better managing time, available resources and stress.

Optimise blister card production

6.1. Examples of Daily Routines

The pharmacy manager or team leader can set up a short daily meeting at the start of each shift (5 to 10 minutes). During this meeting, various subjects can be discussed, such as stock shortages, supplier changes, the day’s productivity targets, workload, new processes introduced, preventive maintenance planning for equipment, etc.


When blister cards are produced with automation, it is advisable to ask operators to:

  • Note of all the errors found during the checking in a table created for this purpose. This will ensure errors are tracked and eliminated.
  • Generate a system inventory report. This will enable replenishment to be carried out to cover a predefined production time (depending on volume: a few hours to a day).
  • Clean the printers to avoid any related production stoppages.

The pharmacy manager or team leader is advised to:

  • Check whether the system contains inactive containers to ensure optimum efficiency, as containers may be deactivated due to a stock shortage or a change of supplier, for example.
  • Check the errors found using the error sheet and take corrective actions to eliminate them.
  • Extract the replenishment statistics for the last month. Then determine the minimum daily replenishment level to avoid a production stoppage.

Optimise blister card production

6.2. Examples of Weekly Routines

Each week, the pharmacy manager or team leader may:

  • Discuss a training topic with the team at a daily meeting. The subject can be chosen, for example, by looking at the production errors noted over the last few days.
  • Ensure that there are no more than 5 empty containers in the automated system.
  • List drugs that are approaching their expiry date, so that you can use them before they expire and save money.
  • Review the statistics by operator. This will give a complete overview of production and identify problematic stages so that they can be eliminated.
  • Create a dashboard containing production statistics, the number of errors found, the number of corrections made, the number of drugs wasted, the number of replenishments, and so on. Accompany it with expectations when it is presented to the team to ensure that everyone is aligned.

Optimise blister card production

7. Share Management's Vision and Define its Expectations

Staff must be aware of management’s vision and expectations, particularly in terms of productivity, error and correction rates, wastes, etc.

Each of these objectives must be SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. 

An example of a SMART objective: Produce an average of 80 multi-dose cards per hour (currently 72) by the end of December 2023.

Optimise blister card production

8. Automation

Optimising blister card production starts by reducing the number of drugs that have to be added manually. This will cut blister card production time and reduce the risk of error.

To determine whether it is preferable to dispense a drug manually or with an automation, a number of criteria need to be considered. In particular, it is important to take into account the frequency of use, specific handling requirements and storage conditions.

Would you like to understand how SynMed technology can help you optimise your blister card production process? Talk to one of our specialists!

If you have a SynMed system and would like specific information on optimising your system, please consult the following documents!