Pfizer plant in Germany achieves 50% to 80% OEE

Michael Becker, director of engineering, Pfizer GmbH, reported on a four-year project, "FAST," (Fully Automated Supply and Transport), recently completed at the firm's Freiburg, Germany plant. The plant produces tablets and capsules of Lipitor, Valoron and Neurotin for 80 different countries in a wide variety of package configurations. The highly automated, computer integrated plan helped the plant achieve OEE comparable with other industries, depending on the equipment measured.

The strategy called for separating packaging into two distinct segments. One is an Uhlmann Packaging System 1070 blister machine that's fully integrated with a case packer and handles high-volume jobs. The other is an Uhlmann Blister Express Center that deals with "flexible-volume" jobs in small- and medium-sized batches.

FAST concentrated on highly automated, state-of-the-art processes and "embedded" packaging into the complete project that also included autonomous "empowered" work groups, optimization of incoming goods, just-in-time materials supply to the packaging line, centralized robotic palletizing, paperless documentation, and the FDA's model of risk-based validation, all wrapped around a computer integrated manufacturing solution, called CIM.

Every plant would benefit from the approach in different ways, said Becker. Benefits depend on location, labor costs, and grade of automation. In Freiburg, the benefits include highly automated processes and the involvement of on-site operators. High-tech components supporting the packaging and manufacturing operations include a high-rise storage facility, radio-controlled forklifts, FAST-control unit and a local system provider delivering 99.8% availability of the material flow process. Support is given by on-site technicians who receive line alerts e-mailed to their cell phones.

Becker came to Pfizer six years ago from the automotive industry and struggled at first with validation opportunities and OEE improvements. "The automotive industry is not that different from pharmaceuticals," said Becker. "They have to deliver efficiency, quality, and safety, too, but they started the lean [processes] 15 years ago."

Changing some old preconceptions and getting employee buy-in were major obstacles that eventually paid huge dividends. A continuous process improvement plan now offers financial rewards for employees offering up ideas to improve production, reduce waste, and guarantee quality.

Becker's presentation took place in Ulm, Germany at Uhlmann Packaging's three-day "International Customer and Partner Days." The event, June 19-21, featured a wide variety of presentations including Healthcare Packaging Publisher Jim Chrzan speaking on "Trends in Pharmaceutical, Medical Device and Wound Care Packaging." Partner companies exhibiting included Alcan, Constantia Hueck, Honeywell Specialty Films, and Klockner Pentaplast. More than 500 guests were expected to attend.

--By Jim Chrzan, Publisher, Healthcare Packaging
More in Home