Pfizer opens modern continuous manufacturing plant
Heidelberg - 30.5.2017
Leading pharmaceutical company Pfizer opened a new manufacturing plant in Freiburg, on 23 May 2017. In this site expansion project, io-consultants was responsible for planning all pharma processes including layout designs, automation, logistics, and project management.
With the new plant, Pfizer will take its first major step into continuous manufacturing according to Industry 4.0 standards, making the company a technology leader in pharmaceuticals manufacturing. Every year, the 1,000-strong Freiburg team manufactures around six billion tablets, film tablets and capsules for Germany and the international market. The production line expansion means that annual output can be increased to around 10 billion solid medicines.
“With the new plant, Pfizer will focus on new continuous manufacturing methods to replace the former batch production. This conversion of the manufacturing system will significantly reduce throughput times,” explains Marco Lederle, partner at io-consultants. The new production facility consists of three levels: supply, mixing and receiving. At the supply level, raw materials are delivered in big bags to the high racks via an automatic miniload stacker and allocated directly to the supply container via respective racks. Pneumatic conveyors transport the raw materials to a continuous and automatic dosage system, which requires maximum precision as well as fast big bag changeovers. Five different raw materials can thus be supplied to the continuous mixing lines one level below. Process Analytical Technology (PAT) constantly tests the mixture quality throughout the entire process. The mixtures are then filled into containers at the next level below. Collection and delivery ensue fully automated via driverless transport systems; all transfers take place within a closed system.
The overall objective for the project is to process different products with flow rates ranging from five to 400 kg per hour. Easy and residue-free cleaning of the equipment is therefore hugely important to ensure fast and smooth product changeovers. Cleaning is largely automated.
Pfizer has invested a total of around 20 million euros in the expansion of the site and in new machines and equipment.
This project marks the continuation of a long-term cooperation between Pfizer and io-consultants. In recent years, the two companies have completed several pharma production facilities at various sites, including the containment plant in Illertissen which won the ISPE Facility of the Year Award 2008.
In Germany, Pfizer currently employs more than 2,000 people at three locations – in Berlin, Freiburg and Karlsruhe. Pfizer Deutschland’s headquarters in Berlin accommodate the Human Medicines and Consumer Healthcare business units. The Berlin HQ also controls all oncology products and services for around 50 countries across Europe and in Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. Karlsruhe accommodates the distribution centre, and medicines for the entire world market are manufactured and packaged in Freiburg.