When ingredients arrive in a facility, Job 1 is to test them. Nothing hurts a bottom line like an adulteration scandal. Sabinsa relies on two pieces of high-tech equipment to ensure the incoming ingredients are what they are supposed to be. The high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) machine uses chemical analysis to break down components and specifically tell what is in each product. The FTIR machine uses spectroscopy that shines a laser beam to reflect and deflect light to render a molecular fingerprint to tell the exact quantity and quality of each component. Using both machines gives the best result.
Coating makes tablets dust-free, and protects the colors from getting on your fingers - think the golden color of curcumin (pictured here inside the tablet coating machine). Not all tablets require coating; examples include pills with a taste profile such as an Altoid.
Here is a full-fledged packaging line. The tablets or capsules are brought in, filled into plastic bottles, desiccants inserted to keep the pills dry, cotton placed in the top (optional), strength-ban seal placed, expiry and batch number printed, and sent to a customer's location. Even at the end of the line of packaging, it's not the end of the story - random samples are sent to Quality Control until the QC personnel approves.
You know those Expiration Dates on product labels? To get those, you need to run your supplements through stability testing. Two chambers are used for this test - one operates under real time, the other uses harsh conditions to accelerate time and ensure the product remains stable for a long time.
This is a pretty unique capability in a contract manufacturer. It's usually outsourced to third parties. To ensure all elements of product quality, Sabinsa has a microbiology lab that is used to test products for the presence of any bacterial growth. Finding bacteria in products is rare, but it's important to know your ingredients are on the level.
HVAC keeps things clean
Most facility engineering departments are crawl spaces with one HVAC unit. Sabinsa's HVAC (stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning units) vents have five units. This keeps air separate to ensure no cross-contamination occurs between projects. Clean water and water-cleaning systems are also in this spacious area.
This is a fairly unique blender - the octagonal blender helps provide blending for larger batch sizes (typically two tons and up). The interesting thing about it is not only can it blend large batch sizes but it can also get uniformity and consistency at the microgram level (think selenium). The validation process for such tiny ingredient quantities as 5,000 PPM can take a few days to engineer, but once this is formulated it can process materials that way going forward. Very cool.
Check out this barrel of golden curcumin combined with Sabinsa's black pepper extract, BioPerine, which increases the bioavailability of curcumin. One of Sabinsa's smaller encapsulation machines can create 300,000 capsules in an eight-hour shift.
Granulation equipment enables the company to create molecules of different sizes so they bind together. If all ingredient molecules are the same size, a tablet phenomenon known as capping can occur – the molecules slip off each other and create flaky tablets. Granulation provides a smoother and more dense tablet.
In-Process Quality Control
One of the most integral parts of any contract manufacturer is a check and balance throughout the entire process. Sabinsa has what it calls IPQC - in-process quality control. As production runs are carried out through the day, quality-control personnel take random samples of tablets, weigh them, and make sure they are under proper specifications. Ultimately, this saves both time and money.
If you're buying a raw material, very often you have to granulate it upon buying it. It's not cheap to granulate! Sabinsa incorporates granulation with tableting to save money.