Turnkey line for AstraZeneca

The con­tinued growth of one of AstraZeneca’s oncology med­ica­tions meant that they needed to auto­mate the pack­aging process. A Bausch+Ströbel and Harro Höfliger turnkey line ensures that the syringe set can be assem­bled safely and pack­aged efficiently.

Syringes, injec­tion nee­dles, book­lets, car­tons, cases – until recently, a sig­nif­i­cant amount of the packing process for this product by AstraZeneca was done by hand. Global increases in demand for the med­ica­tion, how­ever, made it nec­es­sary to auto­mate the pack­aging process within the pro­duc­tion line.

For Harro Höfliger, that meant finding solu­tions to insert the syringes and injec­tion nee­dles into the plastic tray, package them into folding car­tons and ship­ping cases, and finally arrange them on a pallet allowing for seri­al­iza­tion and aggre­ga­tion to meet cur­rent and future market demands. It also included sys­tems that kept a close eye on quality control.

Another require­ment was that the machine processes needed to be adapted to the pack­aging mate­rial with its com­plex design as far as pos­sible. This was achieved, among others, with a tailor-made solu­tion for the intri­cate sep­a­ra­tion of the nested plastic trays and cover.

“A col­lab­o­ra­tive approach throughout the project made it clear that in Harro Höfliger we had chosen the right partner for the turnkey line.”Paul Bradley, Project Man­ager at AstraZeneca

Bausch+Ströbel, an Excel­lence United partner, was also involved, deliv­ering the machines to assemble the pre-filled ­syringes with plungers, and to label them. Such close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the cus­tomer, Bausch+Ströbel and other tech­nology sup­pliers resulted in a turnkey line that show­cases the strengths of Harro Höfliger’s MKT hor­i­zontal car­toning machine and MCP mod­ular case packer.

“Reli­able processes and seam­less quality con­trol were crit­ical in order to meet the demand for our med­ica­tion,” says Paul Bradley, Project Man­ager at AstraZeneca. He admits that the task was an ambi­tious one: “A set of the ­med­ica­tion can be sup­plied with either two pre-filled syringes with nee­dles or with just a single syringe and needle. As a ­result, Harro Höfliger received specifi­cations for two for­mats with no changeover.”

Click here to dis­cover the entire pro­duc­tion and pack­aging line

Smooth han­dling

All in all, the pro­duc­tion and pack­aging line is made up of seven sta­tions, with sev­eral in-line con­trol sys­tems. They ensure that the del­i­cate syringes do not break, splinter or are scratched, that the sterile com­po­nents are not dam­aged, and that the patient only receives com­plete, flaw­lessly pack­aged prod­ucts of the highest quality.

The process begins with the unloading, infeed, assembly and labeling of the pre-filled syringes. “Our com­bined exper­tise, along with pre­cisely coor­di­nated tech­nology and project man­age­ment processes, allowed us to quickly find solu­tions to seam­lessly inte­grate our sys­tems,” says Martin Kern, Sales Group Man­ager at Bausch+Ströbel. The next step intro­duces the den­ested plastic trays into the process. Servo-driven trans­fers tilt the syringes at a pre­de­fined angle to be able to pre­cisely place them into a one- or two-syringe tray.

The high-per­for­mance MCP (Mod­ular Case Packer) from Harro Höfliger scores with its optimum acces­si­bility, fast format changeover and repro­ducible set­ting options.

The supply of blister-packed injec­tion nee­dles with a safety system con­tinues to be exe­cuted man­u­ally. Oper­a­tors insert them into the product mounts in strips of five. The spe­cial form of the mounts ensures that once the nee­dles are auto­mat­i­cally sep­a­rated, they will be placed in the cor­rect ori­en­ta­tion, lying flat in the tray. This place­ment is cru­cial in ensuring that the plastic cover can be posi­tioned and mounted opti­mally in a later step.

Tac­tile quality con­trol checks whether each product’s cover is posi­tioned 100 per­cent cor­rectly, ensuring only per­fectly closed trays will be brought to the car­toning machine. The feeder is spe­cially adapted to the folding carton with its char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally inclined folding closure.

Reli­able cartoning

No set is pack­aged without patient infor­ma­tion or book­lets: sup­ple­ments cor­re­sponding to market-spe­cific guide­lines are placed on the tray as it is being trans­ferred to the car­toning machine. In the MKT machine prod­ucts are inserted hor­i­zon­tally into the folding carton, 30 packs per minute for both required formats.

The sub­se­quent weight con­trol deter­mines whether each folding carton is cor­rectly packed. If it detects a devi­a­tion, the package in ques­tion is auto­mat­i­cally ­rejected. The appli­ca­tion of tamper-­ev­i­dent labels or vignettes ensures the required pro­tec­tion against manip­u­la­tion and meets spe­cific market requirements.

A con­trol unit also checks the cor­rect ­posi­tioning here, along with the com­plete­ness and leg­i­bility of the printed vari­able infor­ma­tion, which includes batch number, man­u­fac­turing date, expi­ra­tion date and any require­ments for seri­al­iza­tion and aggre­ga­tion as per market demands.

AstraZeneca’s suc­cessful oncology drug may con­sist of two ready-to-use glass syringes with a hypo­dermic needle or even just one syringe with a needle. For this reason, the spec­i­fi­ca­tions for Harro Höfliger pro­vided for two for­mats without format changeover.

Effi­ciency with a new design

Harro Höfliger’s mod­ular case packer MCP rounds out the end of the line. Apart from its effi­ciency in auto­mat­i­cally stacking, pack­aging and sealing prod­ucts, it also scores with the new turnkey design. The machine pro­tec­tion allows a com­plete overview of the pack­aging process, even better acces­si­bility and an ergonomic work area.

15 folding car­tons are fed on a single track, auto­mat­i­cally grouped and stacked, then care­fully side-loaded into the ship­ping case. The stacked car­tons are aggre­gated with the help of a camera system. The case is then sealed with tape, labeled, affixed with a serial number and iden­ti­fied with a corner wrap label. After a camera system checks the code one last time, the car­tons are assem­bled on a pallet.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, sci­ence-led, bio­phar­ma­ceu­tical busi­ness, their inno­v­a­tive med­i­cines are used by mil­lions of patients worldwide.

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Photos: Helmar Lünig, RAFF Dig­ital, AstraZeneca