Since the introduction of disposables and gaining popularity of Single-use Technology (SUT) for biopharmaceutical manufacturing there is nevertheless an ongoing controversial discussion on the advantages and disadvantages versus a conventional stainless steel environment.
In a “classical” facility design any validation cost effort can easily be distributed to a considerable number of production runs thus contributing only to a non-decisive amount to the overall production costs. The scale for such plant is nearly unlimited as is the scale of operation. The “flexible” approach using disposables and single-use equipment offers significant advantages regarding changeover work and time thus a high throughput of different processes will definitely take profit as any cleaning and related validation and costly analytics doesn’t apply to a larger extent.
Despite the potential benefits loudly advertised by the respective industry, these potential advantages derived from single-use equipment and disposables can be significantly diminished by lack of detailed process cost analysis, missing economic analysis and cost comparison between conventional and SU technologies as well as underestimating the cost of long term dependency on consumables. Due to missing appropriate standards, there is a widely non-compatibility between the equipment and consumables of the various suppliers, resulting in a strong dependence on the consumables of a single supplier once a single-use equipment has been purchased, curiously leaving some customers with surprise that they hardly have any room for price negotiations on the required consumables.
This paper’s focus is on the very different arguments for the application of SU equipment and consumables, including advantages and limitations of SUT, understanding improvement of process robustness, contribution to lean production as well as environmental impact of disposables.