For several years, Europhartech has been implementing a continuous investment policy, firstly to make its production ever more agile and, secondly, to comply with future demands and legislation. Therefore, in order to anticipate new serialization regulation in February 2019, it has devoted more than 40% of its investments to the implementation of a serialization solution on its medicine packaging lines – a significant investment for an SME with a turnover of 20 million euros.
Founded 20 years ago in Auvergne region, France, the company develops and produces medicines and food supplements for pharmaceutical and veterinary laboratories around the world. It provides complete support for projects, from production through to shipment of the finished product. All of these activities are spread over two sites, with a total area of over 10,000 m². Each year, 400 million tablets are manufactured and more than 30 million cases and jars are packaged.
Europhartech differentiates itself through its ability to produce small and medium batch sizes to meet specific needs, such as fragile and niche products. It also possesses expertise in the production of medicines for healthcare centres, for which it designs pre-cut blister packs that facilitate unit dispensing.
Serialization and tamper-proofing will concern 10 to 12 million boxes a year – 70% of Europhartech's activity – all destined for the European market. For this project, Europhartech turned to leading automation and information solutions supplier, Rockwell Automation and serialisation machine specialist H2M Technologies.
Each of the five production lines covered by this project manufactures both medicines and food supplements, with manufacturing orders varying in nature and volume. The manufacture of a batch of medicines, to which the serialization and tamper-proofing system will apply, may be followed by the manufacture of a batch to which only one operation applies, or, indeed, neither. The solution therefore needed to adapt to the demands of each order.
Marking is currently performed by a conventional ink jet printer, and then read and verified by an obsolete camera. This system is poorly optimized for the production line, as some boxes were not marked. This caused their rejection, generating extra costs. Finally, the specifications impose a reduction in the rate of production line failures in order to increase productivity. The new serialisation solution will mitigate this marking problem, with a marking-rate target of 100%.
Project success will also depend on the smooth running of serial number exchanges. Its good execution will impose an irreproachable interfacing between Europhartech's computer networks and those of its customers. The solution must therefore assure data integrity.
Europhartech was advised and supported by Rockwell Automation and by H2M Technologies, a specialist company, which offers a variety of machines for track & trace solutions for pharmaceutical packaging lines, delivering serialization, aggregation and tamper-evident printing capabilities. In addition to the new production line configuration – now with two horizontal conveyors – new cameras with OCR capabilities have been deployed to greatly reduce or even eliminate rejects.