Case Study: Pharmaceutical Packaging Same Footprint, More Productivity: Designing a Vial Filling Line in Saudi Arabia

Author / Editor: Peter-Christian Rehm / Dominik Stephan

A case study on packaging – Designing a line that exactly fits into an existing space and boosts productivity at the same time is a challenging task. Despite the demanding set-up and a tight timeframe, Bosch Packaging Technology accepted the challenge. With joint forces, the processing and packaging specialist installed a tailor-made vial powder filling line for Tabuk Pharmaceuticals in Saudi Arabia within only a few months, while increasing the output to three times its previous amount.

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Before filling, the vials are washed in the RRN 2053 washing machine.
Before filling, the vials are washed in the RRN 2053 washing machine.
(Picture: Bosch Packaging Technology)

The Saudi Arabian drug manufacturer Tabuk Pharmaceuticals produces antibiotic cephalosporinsas powders filled in sterile vials, enabling high stability. Cephalosporin is used to prevent infections before, during and after a surgery, as well as for the treatment of the respiratory tract, skin or other kinds of bacterial infections. By receiving the drug as powder, physicians are able to store it conveniently, and only need to add suitable solvent or water for injection (WFI) to make it ready for usage.

Despite its relatively short history, which began in 1994, Tabuk Pharmaceuticals is one of the largest drug manufacturers in the Middle East and North Africa with subsidiaries in over 20 countries. The company develops, manufactures, markets and distributes branded generics and licensed pharmaceutical products globally.

At its site in Tabuk, the manufacturer used to process and package its drugs on stand-alone machines for each process step. As a consequence, the existing powder filling equipment, consisting of separate machinery, only achieved a maximum output of 60,000 vials per day. The rising market demand and an improvement of the process quality were the factors that triggered Tabuk’s decision to exchange the existing equipment.

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Decision for a big change

“Our project had two main goals: to upgrade the overall capacity and to improve the product quality,” explains Vice President, Tabuk plant operation, Dr Hussein Mahmoud. Hence, the experts from Bosch were asked to develop a tailor-made line concept that fitted exactly into the 450 m2 production space, where the existing machines had been installed. After a thorough review of both offer and project plan Tabuk Pharmaceuticals decided to put the challenging plans into practice.

The heart of the line—the AFG 3020 filling machine safely fills the powdered drug into vials.
The heart of the line—the AFG 3020 filling machine safely fills the powdered drug into vials.
(Picture: Bosch Packaging Technology)

The new line consists of a large number of different components: a washing machine and a sterilization tunnel, as well as filling, closing and capping machines manufactured in Crailsheim, Germany; a pure media system and sterilization equipment from the Bosch subsidiaries Pharmatec and Schoeller-Bleckmann Medinzintechnik (SBM), and additionally inspection and labelling machines from a third party supplier.

“With Bosch, we found a supplier with a profound line competence. They perfectly managed to integrate their own equipment into the limited space available within a tight time frame. This way, we received exactly the filling line we were looking for, combined with excellent project management and engineering know-how,” adds Dr Hussein.

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