It’s crucial that pharmaceutical manufacturers keep on top of latest technological innovations – It’s a highly competitive and fast changing industry, slow progress is not an option.
What are the key trends within the area of pharmaceutical technology?
- Augmented reality: Instructions and guides as interactive holograms
- 3D printing: Creation of physical components in hard composite plastic or stainless steel
- Industry 4.0 and Big Data: ‘Paperwork on glass’ and data analytics
- IoT in automation: Every (micro)component in the factory ‘online’
- Continuous manufacturing: Supply product without interruption
How is LEO Pharma utilising Augmented Reality & 3D Printing?
James: Augmented Reality assists our operators change over our production lines from one product to the next in a structured manner. It presents hologram icons which are located in various sections of the machine, and displays arrows to guide the user through the change over.
In the near future we will use the technology for troubleshooting breakdowns. The technology can also guide personnel through quality assurance and GMP activities.
Cormac: LEO Pharma have designed and built our own production lines which gives us full control of the equipment. 3D printing gives us the ability to prototype and test newly designed parts for these machines. Spare parts can be printed overnight in either composite hard plastic or stainless steel, thus allowing us to reduce our spare parts inventory.
We can also utilise the 3D printers to enhance existing components; for example by adding Kevlar or carbon fibre as re-enforcements.
How are LEO Pharma working toward continuous manufacturing?
The vast majority of pharmaceutical manufacturers use a batch production method. And we’re no different. We manufacture multiple products, all with various finished packaging configurations for our customers all over the globe.
To help LEO move one step closer to continuous manufacturing, we have launched a number of improvement projects throughout the company. These projects range from packaging rationalisation, which reduces the burden of batch-to-batch change overs, to re-designing our production planning strategy to ensure maximum uptime is achieved in the factory.
What does a process engineer’s average day look like & what do you like about your job?
James: LEO Pharma have a cloud based data platform which gathers production equipment performance metrics. We start the morning by analysing the previous 24hrs production for downtime instances and production yields. This helps identify risks and allows us to eliminate them using Six Sigma and Lean methodologies.
The cloud holds more than 4 years of equipment data which we use to trend the line performance over an extended period of time. These trends point us to the bottlenecks and poorer performing processes. We use this to identify required improvements, where we should spend the bulk of our time, and what equipment needs to be upgraded.
What I really like about my job is that every day is different and I am constantly learning. Different opportunities arise on a regular basis – each presenting their own challenge; and seeing the improvements realised is the key driver for me.
Cormac: As process engineers we are responsible for the design, implementation, control, and optimisation of production processes. We are currently running a continuous improvement program which is made up of 18 projects. The processes chosen for improvement were highlighted by the cloud based data trending. I am currently leading two improvement projects involving the introduction of new equipment and enhancement of existing sub processes on our production lines.
One of the projects was centred around the anti-tamper features on the packaging of our products. LEO Pharma introduced anti-tamper equipment a number of years ago and this has recently been upgraded as part of the improvement program. The project focused on repeatability of equipment performance and upskilling our production staff to ensure the improvement is sustained into the future.
I enjoy the hands-on work at LEO Pharma and the opportunity to work on a wide range of equipment types, from mechanical to electrical to robotics. LEO Pharma is investing in future technologies and being involved in these makes it an exciting place to work.