OCS Checkweighers carry out in-line weight monitoring on AVL Coster's filling lines.
Fully Automated Filling with OCS Checkweighers
Category: Weighing Systems | 29/01/2010 - 10:57:00
It is important that medications be taken as prescribed by a doctor. Otherwise, there is a possibility that undesirable side effects may occur. However, who can provide a guarantee that the same amount of active ingredient is always found in each tablet of every stick pack, blister pack, or sachet? In order to ensure this obligation, Enestia, the Belgian manufacturer of pharmaceutics and healthcare products, relies on exact weight measurements from the HC-MI checkweigher from OCS. The high degree of accuracy provided by this scale insures not only the exact dosage of medication, it also makes the need for manual and post-control sampling a thing of the past - saving both time and money in addition to increasing customer satisfaction.
Fully Automated Filling
Technical supervisor, Kris Schreppers, is quite aware of the responsibility that he and his colleagues have at Enestia. The Belgian company, headquartered on the Dutch border in Flemish Hamont-Achel, employs 160 persons and is specialized in the production, packaging, and sale of pharmaceutics.
Enestia is a United Drug Group company and an experienced, ISO 9001/ 2000 certified, contract manufacturer of pharmaceutics and healthcare products - a sign of the highest standards in quality management. The company is expected to be capable of managing the proper dosing and packaging of drugs for pharmaceutical and medical products or dietary supplements in a variety of packages such as stick packs, blister packs or sachets.
The production process
The compliance with defined standards of hygiene represents a critical priority in the production of pharmaceutical products. The production and packaging of stick packs is therefore performed at separate locations and only accessed through environmentally controlled locks. It is not surprising that the outer garments must be changed three times along the way to the production area.
In the production area, operations are performed in two shifts, and in some exceptional cases, three shifts may be required. Fully automated filling machines dose a powdered form of the active ingredient with probiotics into stick packs, which are then sealed. The product moves along the conveyor belt initially in one lane, before meeting up with the packets from a second filling machine. Then the filled packets advance in two lanes to the weighing unit to be weighed.
The weighing unit is the centerpiece of production and it decides whether the product dosage is correct before releasing the packets for trade and finally into the hands of the patients. The OCS checkweigher has been reliably operating since December 2007.
The column with the display is separate from the weighing unit itself. This allows optimal use of the available space and ensures the most effective use of pro-duction capacity.
The HC-MI supplied by OCS Checkweighers GmbH has 2-lanes which can deliver a throughput of 60 units per minute. When two parallel belts are in operation, 7,200 stick packs can pass through the weighing process every hour with a standard deviation of only 1.8 mg.
"The scale is ideal for the demanding requirements we set for ourselves in terms of weighing accuracy. The individual packets weigh no more than 3 grams and the scale must be capable of detecting even the smallest variances in the milligram range", explained Schreppers as he pointed to the tray with the packets that had been rejected after weighing. "Those did not meet the precise weight requirement." The checkweigher acknowledges each variance with a report and automatically sorts the noncompliant packets out of the line. The defect-free stick packs are then packed in boxes of 10 units each and readied for distribution to the stores and the consumer.
In-Line Weigh Checks
"We were searching for a solution that would best fit to our specific needs and ensure the highest possible level of accuracy", said Schreppers.
The high level of precision of the in-line weigh checks is made possible by the SW-D-FS weigh cell integrated into the checkweighers. This new generation of weigh cells provides critical advantages: For example, the SW-D-FS needs relatively little space and is designed for use in multi-track applications starting with 70 mm mid-lane positioning - ideal when space is limited, as in the case at Enestia.
OCS salesman Jürgen Corban likes to mention another advantage of the OCS products related to the demanding hygiene requirements: "Especially for a company like Enestia, in terms of the strict hygiene standards, there is an advantage in having a weighing unit supported on a docking station. It can be removed at any time without any problem for maintenance, service or cleaning." The production staff that works with the OCS checkweigher at Enestia on a daily basis quickly appreciated the intuitive operability and ease of use. "After only 18 months we had already attained a return on investment. That is really quite impressive", said Schreppers. Of course the scale conforms to the demanding quality guidelines provided by GMP ("Good Manufacturing Practice"), in particular, for production processes and environments involving drugs, but also for food products (according to the principles of HACCP).
A forward-looking investment
The contract was awarded to OCS Checkweighers because of the quality and accuracy of the scales. "It was never a question of saving a few euros - that would be irresponsible of us in such a sensitive area. A scale that measures accurately down to the exact milligram is, with respect to the responsibility we have assumed, quite simply indispensible and, in the true sense, essential to survival", explained Schreppers. In addition, OCS provides a comprehensive service, which in the words of Kris Schreppers - is simply "great" and delivers on what it promises.
There are approximately 20 scales supplied by a competitor of OCS that are still in use. However, based on the good experience with OCS, Enestia has decided on a long term plan to replace these units with the solutions from Kaiserslautern.
In the end, accuracy counts
Schreppers' conclusion is a clear endorsement of the OCS solution: "You have to see the big picture provided to Enestia by the OCS Checkweighers. We now have a high-tech, high precision scale backed by reliable manufacturer service and support. This system results in much less waste and hardly any need for post-control with manual laboratory scales, something which greatly hindered the workflow in the past", said Schreppers. "In addition, we have eliminated the time consuming sample controls, which were routinely necessary because the old scales were not as accurate as those from OCS."
"As a result of our positive experience with OCS, we have decided to integrate another HC 2-line into our production to support the quality requirements of our customers", reported a convinced, Kris Schreppers.