Express Pharma

Coping with COVID-19: AGI glaspac

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Dealing with hampered production and lack of input raw materials, AGI glaspac has put in measures to cushion the blow. For starters, a hold on non-critical capital expenditure and a slew of cost reduction initiatives. While 60 per cent staff in key areas like plant engineering, production, and warehouse are on rotational shifts, the rest are working from home. Rajesh Khosla, President and CEO, AGI glaspac gives more details to Viveka Roychowdhury

The nation-wide lockdown, announced on March 24, to contain the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted pharma supply chains. One week later, members of the ancillary segments, who would like to partner the pharma sector as it fights the COVID-19 crisis, are stepping up to the challenge and hope that things will get better in the days ahead.

Rajesh Khosla, President & CEO, AGI glaspac admits that logistically, it has been difficult to supply to the pharma companies. AGI glaspac’s pharma segment, which currently contributes 30-32 per cent of glass packaging in the Indian pharma packaging industry, is facing hampered production, affected supplies and increased stock. So far, the company is working partially with limited raw materials like sand and soda ash, the key input raw materials for glass packaging.

He is however hopeful that this will change as some of the state governments have now included the packaging industry in the list of industries exempted from the lockdown.

He also points out that the recent exemption of non-essential goods will help most of the factories with supply materials. His stance is that the glass-manufacturing sector should be proactive at this stage as the pharma companies are putting in considerable efforts to fight this crisis.

Emphasising the key role of glass packaging for pharma companies he says, “Glass is the only packaging material with the GRAS status from the US FDA. The manufacturers also use a cleanroom environment for pharma glass manufacturing to prevent contamination in glass bottles. Hence, it avoids all kinds of contamination during the storage and supply of products for the pharma company.”

Like many of its peers, AGI glaspac has taken precautions to safeguard the health of employees, respond to clients’ requests as well as adhere to the government regulations to contain with COVID-19. Khosla highlights changes in three areas: input material; workforce; and outward transportation.

Anticipating increased demand as well as possible supply chain glitches, the company has had to ensure that input raw materials used for glass production are stocked up for the next few months. The company is also looking at alternative vendors in certain cases.

According to Khosla, soda ash, a primary raw material, has been stocked for up to two months to cater to the demand. AGI has its own sand manufacturing plant, but due to the lockdown, there are chances that certain operations will run partially.

The situation is a bit better on the fuel front as according to Khosla, oil, gas and other fuels won’t be hit as the industry has informed the company that there won’t be any shortage. As machinery parts and cartons used for packaging have been stopped or delayed, the company is reportedly looking at alternative options from local vendors.

To safeguard employees, contract staff and others, Khosla says that the company has driven various awareness programmes through banners, leaflets, workshops, etc. to bring in safety as the utmost priority for the workers.

“Almost 60 per cent of our employees are now working from home in the Hyderabad and Bhongir plants with the rotational shifts (alternate days) in our important departments like Plant Engineering, Production, Warehouse, Quality and a 100 per cent work-from-home situation across all our other sales offices. Our production and engineering teams continue to work,” says Khosla.

The company has also initiated temperature checks and sanitisation at entry and punching areas. Hot water dispensaries have been implemented in various areas. The employees are only following virtual interactions for customer and internal meetings. All the outgoing and incoming transportation is being carefully monitored to avoid any spread of the virus.

“We have given truck drivers proper awareness and information on the outbreak of the virus. Truck drivers are not allowed to enter without washing their hands. Hand sanitisers have been made available for the truck drivers and cleaners,” reveals Khosla.

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 situation will impact the company’s revenues. As Khosla reveals, “All non-critical capital expenditure is on hold. Cost reduction initiatives have been identified wherever possible.”

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