Machine con­ver­sion for AEROPHARM

A line for dosing inhala­tion powder into blis­ters had been out of ser­vice at AEROPHARM GmbH in Thuringia for some time and appeared to be a can­di­date for dis­man­tling. Over a cup of coffee, the idea was born to make it fit for a new product with a dif­ferent filling system. Account Man­ager Ben­jamin Jung ­reports on how Harro Höfliger’s Cus­tomer Ser­vice suc­ceeded in this quest.

Mr. Jung, what did the con­ver­sion project involve?

Ben­jamin Jung, Account Man­ager Cus­tomer Ser­vice at Harro Höfliger, accom­pa­nied the MSP modernization.

Sus­tain­ability and the respon­sible use of resources are becoming increas­ingly impor­tant. This also includes using machines for as long as pos­sible and yet keep­ing them fit for the future. As Cus­tomer Ser­vice, we deliver a wide variety of cus­tomized solu­tions to extend the life­cycle of the line or adapt it to new require­ments. Mod­ern­iza­tions and upgrades of every kind, from retro­fits to com­plete machine con­ver­sions, are included, of course. Rebuilding the MSP − a machine for filling blis­ters with inhala­tion powder − of AEROPHARM GmbH was the biggest project of its kind that we had imple­mented in ­Cus­tomer Ser­vice to date.

What was specif­i­cally required?

The MSP with drum dosing system had served reli­ably for years, filling blister strips for a dry powder inhaler with powder con­taining active ingre­dient. Due to a product changeover, our cus­tomer had taken the line out of ser­vice some time pre­vi­ously. I’ve served this phar­ma­ceu­tical com­pany for about 15 years in var­ious roles at Harro Höfliger. Over a cup of coffee, Pierre Solcher, Head Ser­vice & Qual­i­fi­ca­tion, and Dr. Sebas­tian Moritz, PD Group Head, and I got to talking about whether it would be pos­sible to breathe new life into the line with a new filling system and retro­fitting options. It turned out to be possible!

How did you go about it?

My col­leagues and I took a close look at the require­ments. The line con­sists of three mod­ules: for forming, filling/sealing and for cut­ting. With the con­ver­sion of three drum fillers to a new dosing system, it was nec­es­sary to com­pletely replace one module and modify the other sta­tions. At the customer’s request, space was also to be cre­ated inside the con­tain­ment for an optional X‑ray system for filling con­trol − this meant extending the line by 1.5 meters. For dosing, we had one of our other filling prin­ci­ples in mind, which was estab­lished on the market and was in a posi­tion to meet the spe­cial require­ments of AEROPHARM GmbH. In order to deter­mine whether this rep­re­sented the best dosing solu­tion for the product and which format parts were required, we pro­ceeded in much the same way as we do with a new machine and had our Pharma Ser­vices carry out powder analyses and filling exper­i­ments with active mate­rial in the cleanroom.

“Already during the ini­tial project phase, it was clear that we needed a com­pe­tent partner to help us imple­ment the com­plex project require­ments. So we turned to Harro Höfliger with whom we have a long-standing busi­ness rela­tion­ship. It didn’t take long before the idea of upgrading an existing machine was born, knowing full well that this wasn’t going to be an easy task and would involve a cer­tain amount of effort. In sum­mary, it’s true to say that it was the right deci­sion.”Pierre Solcher,
Head Ser­vice & Qualification, 

Where did the con­ver­sion take place?

A logis­tics com­pany brought the line back to Allmers­bach to the plant in which it had once been con­structed. Project man­age­ment was in the hands of Cus­tomer Ser­vice and we accom­plished the design, instal­la­tion, elec­trical instal­la­tion, con­trol engi­neering and tech­nical doc­u­men­ta­tion with our own resources. But of course we worked hand in hand with the var­ious spe­cialist ­depart­ments on-site, for instance with regard to val­i­da­tion, con­tain­ment or camera con­trol. After com­mis­sioning and the fac­tory accep­tance test in our pro­duc­tion plant, the site accep­tance test was also com­pleted suc­cess­fully at the facility of our cus­tomer, with whom coop­er­a­tion had been excellent.

Were there any other changes besides the new stations?

The MSP was con­verted in this process to a more advanced con­trol tech­nology − from Pac­Drive M to ­Pac­Drive 3 − and the oper­ating system was upgraded from HMI 1.0 to 2.0. This gives our cus­tomer the ­assur­ance of being able to use their line for many years to come ­without any poten­tial prob­lems with dis­con­tinued ­com­po­nents, a matter par­tic­u­larly close to our hearts in Cus­tomer Service.

Which advan­tages, beyond assured spare parts, does a con­ver­sion offer?

Con­ver­sion or retro­fitting, in which a machine is improved or recon­fig­ured to meet cur­rent require­ments, is a sus­tain­able, future-proof alter­na­tive to pur­chasing new and often entails lower invest­ment costs. Apart from the com­plex mea­sures on the MSP as described, the majority of the line remained unaf­fected. The extended ser­vice life of a machine not only saves on resources, but also usu­ally reduces the effort required for the cus­tomer to retrain the oper­ating per­sonnel, as the familiar basic func­tion­ality remains. Giving a line a second life, so to speak, inspires me and our experts from Cus­tomer Ser­vice every time anew.

“The overall con­cept con­vinced us not only in terms of the eco­nom­ical use of resources, which also plays an enor­mously impor­tant role for us. We received com­pe­tent sup­port from Harro Höfliger in all project phases and the work was always solu­tion-ori­ented. We’re looking pos­i­tively to the future and are well equipped for upcoming challenges.”
Dr. Sebas­tian Moritz,
PD Group Head, Phar­ma­ceu­tical Development, 

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Photos: AEROPHARM GmbH, Helmar Lünig