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Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News, October/Fall 2016

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pmpnews.com • Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News Fall 2016 22 Automation Frequent Changeover Needs Drive Demand for Flexible Filling Contract packaging expert invests strategically to meet growing numbers of SKUs and upcoming serialization requirements. By Daphne Allen, Editor K en Richardson has been with PCI for 23 years, and he's seen a lot, he tells PMP News. "The market is going to small- er lot sizes and multi-SKU/ multi-country programs," says Richard- son, VP, Global Engineering. "In the old days, we set up one product for mul- tiple shifts. Changeover was absorbed into those shifts. Now, smaller lot sizes and program complexity equate to many more changeovers." The new reality of frequent change- over is one of the driving factors behind Richardson's 2015 installation of a Uni- line linear monoblock bottle-filling line from IMA North America for PCI's Philadelphia site. Richardson also had a Uniline installed at PCI's Rockford, IL, site in 2016. "PCI was looking for flexibility," explains Darren Meister, VP of Sales for IMA North America (IMA Safe). "The Uniline provides very quick changeover for maximum flexibility." The Uniline performs four functions in one machine: filling bottles with tablets, desiccants, and cotton, and then cap- ping them. It utilizes a "servo-controlled, recipe-driven transport system that auto- matically adjusts to diferent bottle sizes," Meister explains. "The machine auto- matically adjusts itself for diferent bottle sizes, with minimal physical adjustments for other parts. It's a very simple change- over that you can perform through the machine's HMI screen (basically push button changeover)." The system can handle bottles ranging from 30 cc to 900 cc, in any shape, at speeds up to 150 bottles per minute. Richardson was pleased with the "reduced number of format parts, and tooling that is less expensive than tradi- tional systems," he says. "It's more eco- nomical for customers." The Philadelphia line is also much shorter than traditional bottle filling lines. "In the old days, to fill and cap bottles, you'd have 50 feet of conveyance and equipment," Richardson says. "The Uni- line takes an empty bottle and fills and caps it, all in 20 feet. "People used to believe in putting bot- tles in a queue, using equipment such as accumulation tables," he continues. "Now, everything is in one-piece flow— one bottle in, one bottle out. There's no accumulation—and it's very efcient." Such compactness also benefits changeover. "It's all about change- over—the reduction means less area to clean," he says. "The Uniline is really designed for ease of changeover and ease of cleaning. Being a contract packager, we really need to be efcient at clean- ing and changeover. The balcony allows any product that escapes to fall through to one area to be cleaned. There are no crevices." The Uniline utilizes IMA's Swift- Pharm electronic tablet counter, also using minimal format parts. "Its trays can accommodate diferent products in size and shape," Richardson says. "We had used a vibratory feeder before in Rockford on a bottling line, and we had replaced another company's feeders with IMA's. It's a single-head feeder that is able to increase line-speed filling times by five times." Meister says that the SwiftPharm utilizes electrostatic field sensing (EFS) technology for counting. "The unit estab- lishes a signature of a good product and determines that each product matches that signature." he says. "It was a major point for PCI—higher quality. "We do a learn scan, which takes a few minutes. This captures the signature of the free-falling product and ensures that PCI will add serialization to the Philadelphia line as it continues to invest in serialization capacity.

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