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Handling Systems

Material Handling for Maximum Process Reliability

| Author / Editor: Anke Geipel-Kern* / Anke Geipel-Kern

Transfer station with lifting device
Transfer station with lifting device (Bild: Glatt)

Whether a vertical or horizontal arrangement, involving containment, or taking a conventional form, the reliability of pharmaceutical process systems can only be ensured through perfect material flow — and Glatt is shaping the trend for integrated system solutions. Perfect pharmaceutical production is all down to the material flow.

The Glatt brand has made a name for itself among pharmaceutical companies — it regards itself as the number one in its field and has established business relationships with the top pharmaceutical companies across the globe. Fluidized bed systems and coaters made at its Binzen headquarters in Germany are used in 90 percent of all pharmaceutical companies.

Consequently, the company no longer needs to bang the drum quite so hard for these products — fluidized bed technology, coaters, and granulation lines are flagship products and a core pillar of the company. Receiving less attention presently when it comes to the company’s sales activities is the area of material handling, despite the fact that the Binzen-based firm boasts a sophisticated portfolio of lifting devices, containment flap systems, container mixers, and cleaning systems.

Material Handling for Maximum Process Reliability

Yet, this is all about to change. “Material handling opens up additional potential for Glatt and is now set to be established as a separate product group on the market in order to boost its position,” explains Erich Nussbaumer. The mechanical engineer is new to the role of business developer for material handling at Glatt and is primed to tap into additional market potential and further develop this business field.

Erich Nussbaumer: “Material handling forms part of the planning work for pharmaceutical systems right from the start and is a prerequisite for achieving maximum process reliability for the customer.”
Erich Nussbaumer: “Material handling forms part of the planning work for pharmaceutical systems right from the start and is a prerequisite for achieving maximum process reliability for the customer.” (Bild: Glatt)

“Material handling forms part of the planning work for pharmaceutical systems right from the start and is a prerequisite for achieving maximum process reliability for the customer,” emphasizes Nussbaumer. He has 23 years of professional experience in the pharmaceutical industry, 20 of which in international sales of handling systems.

Nussbaumer is therefore well versed with material flow and with the demands that pharmaceutical production facilities place on modern systems. He emphasizes that integrated systems are in demand, ideally from a single source. This is something that Glatt is able to offer thanks to its expertise and partnership with Dresden-based subsidiary Glatt System Technik.

What Are the Needs of the Customer?

Material flow is taken into consideration right from the planning stage. Only when the logistical processes from raw material handling to packaging are efficiently integrated, a well- rounded overall concept that has been optimized for the customer can be established. “The main criteria for product handling are essentially determined by the nature of the material flow, the degree of automation, and the level of containment,” explains Nussbaumer.

Bringing this know-how to market will in future be the task of the business development expert, alongside listening and responding to the needs of customers and initiating new product developments. The portfolio required for this is already in place.

Whether systems for ­vertical or horizontal material flow, involving containment or not — every requirement can be met thanks to the Dresden-based subsidiary which recognized early on — back in 1992 — just how important handling systems would be for Glatt’s systems business. Since then, the portfolio has grown continually and been constantly updated to reflect the latest technological developments. For example, the hydraulically operated lifting devices are soon to be joined by electrical devices.

Feeding system for horizontal product flow
Feeding system for horizontal product flow (Source: Glatt)

“Alongside a general redesign of the systems, we are also consolidating our GMP efforts,” emphasizes the business developer. A further benefit to all this is the fact that the new drive technology makes it even easier to operate the electrical lifting devices. In addition, a further development is investing in the trend of the future: The digital process chain is set to make product handling safer and prevent human error.

Barcodes have been around for a long time, but now, RFID chips on the bases of product containers as well as handling systems should guarantee traceability from the moment the materials are received to the point when the finished drug is produced, for example. “For major pharmaceuticals manufacturers, this is already an important part of the specification,” explains Nussbaumer. The matter of containment is a perennial hot topic.

Glatt granulation line (WSG Pro 60, VG Pro 200) with handling equipment (PCS 50 vacuum conveying system, lifting device, container, sieve)
Glatt granulation line (WSG Pro 60, VG Pro 200) with handling equipment (PCS 50 vacuum conveying system, lifting device, container, sieve) (Sources: Glatt)

Almost 80 percent of the active ingredients which are processed to form tablets, pellets, or capsules are highly active and therefore require enclosed systems up to OEB Level 5 for the contamination-free emptying of containers. Glatt has developed the TKS Containment Flap System for such applications. The material handling portfolio at the company has become an extensive one in recent years and ranges from weighing systems, lifting devices for loading various process systems, such as HSM (High Shear Mixer), WSG (Fluid Bed Systems), and tablet presses, sieve mills, mixing systems for barrels and containers, a wide variety of cleaning systems for small parts, barrels, and containers, storage and transport vessels such as barrels and containers, right the way up to products for loading packaging machines for drugs in solid dosage form. What’s more, these products are available for both vertical and horizontal material flows.

Vertical or horizontal product flow

With a vertical arrangement, gravity propels the product flow over several levels. The individual process stages are either directly linked together or are interconnected by means of containers with docking stations for filling or discharging. If the product flows horizontally, overpressure systems, vacuum transport systems, and/or lifting equipment are used. Both variants have their advantages according to Nussbaumer.

The vertical variant is gentle and saves energy, but it does require the room to be a certain height. The horizontal arrangement of process components, on the other hand, means it is possible to change from one product to another rapidly and the operator has the flexibility to implement a wide range of process variants.

Given that automation is now such an essential element in the production of solid materials, the specialists at Glatt will naturally also develop and plan complete control and information system packages specifically tailored to the customer’s requirements. “We follow our philosophy of ‘Integrated Process Solutions’ from a single source,” states Nussbaumer. What’s more, thanks to the close cooperation with Glatt Ingenieurtechnik in ­Weimar, the handling experts also boast global experience in the engineering and design of pharmaceutical production facilities — expertise which ultimately goes on to benefit the customer.

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