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