This week I had the pleasure of traveling to Paris with three of my colleagues to attend CPhI Europe 2014.
We have been scoping out a wide range of exhibitions over the past 12 months, screening them for relevance, with a view to exhibiting at some of them ourselves next year. This year we have been to Packaging Innovations, Making Cosmetics, Making Pharmaceuticals, Chemspec Europe and now CPhI Europe.
So How Does CPhI 2014 Compare To Other Events?
The striking thing about CPhI is its size – it’s colossal – far bigger than any of the other events we have been to this year. A global conference in every sense, there are 35,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors from 140 countries.
I had been informed prior to attending that it was a large event but I was still shocked by how massive it was. To put it into perspective, here is a picture of the Stand Locator in Hall 6 – keep in mind this is only one of six halls!
Who Exhibits at CPhI Then?
Many exhibitors were drug manufacturers – antibiotics, steroids, painkillers – or companies directly involved in the supply chain, like machinery or drug delivery systems, from pill coatings to inhalers.
I was surprised by the number of companies which were involved in the regulatory and support side. The legislation around medicines changes all the time and manufacturers can struggle to keep on top of it. When a new drug comes out, it’s important that it adheres to all relevant legislation, so many of the drug companies outsource this function to third parties. Doing this allows them to benefit from specialist knowledge as well as fixed costs.
Third party analysis and testing is also big business. Quality Control is critical in the pharmaceutical industry and it’s more important than ever to ensure products are being supplied in line with specification. Globalisation is accelerating and there are a lot of new manufacturers popping up in places like India and China, which may not have the same quality standards as well-established Western companies.
The ‘general consensus’ among people I met at the conference was that India is superior to China when it comes to product quality, although there is still a lot of knowledge-transfer required to encourage these companies to integrate quality control into their manufacturing processes. That being said, just because a product passes a specification, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has been manufactured under the correct conditions, like GMP.
Why Do People Exhibit At CPhI?
I got the impression that for many companies the exhibition was more about networking than new business generation. It serves as an opportunity to meet with people up and down your supply chain (both customers and suppliers) and reaffirm relationships with them.
While you can contact anyone these days via phone, email, internet, Skype and so on, nothing compares with being face to face with someone. I’m sure some business gets done – we saw meeting rooms with people shaking hands and opening bottles of champagne – but I imagine it would be rare to come away from an exhibition with a physical order. It’s more about what you do after the exhibition is over, like following up on any leads; be it someone subscribing to a newsletter, or someone who has the potential to become your new biggest customer.
Should ReAgent Exhibit At CPhI?
Honestly? I don’t think it’s worth ReAgent exhibiting at CPhI, for the foreseeable future at least. We currently work ‘towards’ GMP but until we have the experience and in-house ability to confidently claim that we are working ‘to’ GMP, our services wouldn’t be of interest to companies in this marketplace.
It’s still early days for us (we only took delivery of our first clean room last month!). There is also a certain level of automation required before we can properly service the pharmaceutical market – the contracts tend to be fairly large – with runs of hundreds of thousands of units and upwards, which would require significant investment.
The only real way I could see us servicing this market at the moment would be at trial-production stages for products which aren’t going to be used clinically, but where companies might want to prove that they can be safely manufactured, packaged and stored in preliminary stages. The problem is I can’t see how we could filter these enquiries out, which makes any marketing activity in this area almost impossible! I am going to suggest to our team that we hold back on marketing to the pharmaceutical industry until we develop our in-house capabilities to service it better.
While I thoroughly enjoyed CPhI, I think we should stick a little closer to home in terms of our offering; off-the-shelf organic chemicals, blending, packing and cosmetics. In time I can see us entering the pharmaceutical market but it will be years away and we have a lot to put in place.
It was still a great conference though and we had a great time in Paris!
Tomorrow I will be writing a blog post about what we learned from attending CPhI 2014 – including useful exhibition tips and some of the best (and worst!) stands.