Master Plan for Plant Engineering What Really Lies Behind a Successful Pharmaceutical Project

From Anke Geipel-Kern

Behind any complex pharmaceutical project, stands the supplier with a well-oiled machine, ensuring smooth internal processing and creating an important link between sales, the project manager and the pharmaceutical client. In an interview with Glatt expert Stephan Rüscher, PROCESS took a look inside the engine room. His credo: To make things easy for the customer!

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Many gears have to mesh to make a project successful.
Many gears have to mesh to make a project successful.
(Source: ©Alphaspirit -

Higher, faster, further — anyone planning a pharmaceutical plant today knows that record breaking is not limited to sports. Pharmaceutical projects are also in competition and are expected to produce for the market as quickly as possible. While project durations of five years were common in the past, today everything has to happen much faster: Two, or three years at most — no more time may pass before launching.

And as the number of highly active substances increases, so do the demands on containment and therefore on plant design. Glatt’s engineers could write a book about it.

Stephan Rüscher is Head of Internal Sales New Installations and Mastering at Glatt.
Stephan Rüscher is Head of Internal Sales New Installations and Mastering at Glatt.
(Source: Glatt)

“Plants are becoming more complex and customers’ demands for digitalization are increasing,” says Stephan Rüscher, who is the head of internal sales for new plants and mastering at Glatt.

Both developments pose a challenge for pharmacists and equipment manufacturers alike. The technical team in the pharmaceutical company needs time and people to meet the user requirements. A lot of wheels also have to mesh on the supplier’s side and be kept turning throughout the course of the project so that the end result is a plant that meets the pharmaceutical customer’s specifications down to the very last detail.

The mixture makes the difference

“That’s exactly what we do,” Rüscher explains. His team of 14 takes over when the sales department has done its job, acting as a gearbox, so to speak, that translates a technical request into machinery and turns it into a functional process. A total of 228 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry guarantees that the “New Systems Sales Department” creates the foundation for decisions on which orders — some of them worth millions — are awarded. Rüscher, who has been at Glatt in Binzen for 23 years, studied electrical engineering and industrial engineering, acquiring expertise in the latter subject in the USA. He relies on a diversified team: Engineers, technicians, industrial engineers — all of them skilled in a number of areas — and process experts from mechanical engineering to electrical engineering with all the relevant process knowledge. The company operates on an equal footing with its customers and also acts as a sparring partner.

“Open, honest and project-oriented communication is our credo. We accompany our customers on the way to the perfect system solution and help them to realize their project,” emphasizes Marketing Director Axel Friese.

Honesty also means that the team questions the feasibility of a specification. “We comment on the requirements, because our goal is to guide the customer project to success with good ideas,” the team leader emphasizes. Behind this is a complex machine with defined workflows and employees with clear areas of responsibility. “Orders at Glatt are structured in two phases: The quotation phase and the order phase,” explains Rüscher. This might sound simple, but it’s not. After all, every project is unique and all pharmacists have minds of their own, with the special requests to match. “Our specialty is integrating the customer’s needs into the equipment so that the customer gets the right solution for their needs with proven components,” he says.

The Glatt Sales Configurator is an important tool in this process. Behind it lies a software system that supports the entire offer process consistently and efficiently using a central database.

We believe in making things as easy as possible for the customer.

Stephan Rüscher

The highlight here is the product configurator, which the sales team can use to create customized system variants for clients worldwide. “We can also configure complex systems relatively easily on the screen with the click of a mouse,” Rüscher explains. A risk assessment is also part of the process. After all, managing the potential project risks is one of the major challenges the team faces. The supply chain in particular is subject to countless imponderables, as was vividly demonstrated just last year by the freighter stuck in the Suez Canal. However, fluctuating raw material prices and availability are also among the risks involved in the project.

Making complex things as simple as possible

Within a few hours, a robust multi-page offer is created that simplifies complex issues and includes an overview page where the planned project can be understood at a glance. An overview drawing and the project presentation are also included. With the core documents consisting of an order confirmation, a layout drawing and a P&ID drawing, the foundation is then laid for the plant construction at Glatt. Rüscher’s team pulls the strings, always steps in when it comes to troubleshooting and communicates with the vast Glatt universe. The more complex the project, the greater the number of departments that need to be brought on board. The customer is unaware of the complexity of the processes that take place in the background. Their communication partner is the project manager, who is part of the sales and service team and who communicates with colleagues on a daily basis. The project management remains responsible until the plant is installed at the customer’s site, after which the service department takes over.

And where does Rüscher see opportunities to further improve dialog with the customer? “We want to become even more transparent and make offers even simpler.” Digitization is currently the number one topic driving pharmaceutical companies. The desire to integrate digital processes is increasing. Many specifications explicitly require a 3D representation of the plant. Here too, the ball is in Rüscher’s court. “In the future, we plan to provide digital solutions that make life as easy as possible for the customer.”