Accuracy is of the essence when setting up a capsule filling machine. Even aligning the feet is regarded as an essential element of machine installation to ensure that components interlock smoothly and products flow optimally. Normally, a team of the machine manufacturer’s handles the installation and the Site Acceptance Test (SAT) on site. But when a pandemic forces the world into yet another lockdown and distant travel is not an option, alternatives need to be found.
Double call from Spain
In Spain, this was the case among two pharmaceuticals producers: one manufacturer wanted to fill capsules with powder with an analgesic and antipyretic effect. Another wanted to manufacture pellet capsules for treating gastrointestinal problems.
“These were entirely different product and machine requirements which we had to comply with under exacerbated conditions,” explains Carsten Schulz, Project Manager at Fette Compacting. “Despite the pandemic, two factors made it possible to commission the plants in time: a digitally-connected team of experienced experts and the tried-and-tested technology of the FEC Series.”
FEC20: armed with a camera and a spirit level
The user had the goal of increasing his output of capsules filled with powder from a previous level of 140,000 capsules to up to 200,000 capsules per hour. At the same time, the machine was to be easy to operate and clean. “The answer came in the form of the FEC20,” according to Schulz. “We had already tested and documented it in advance in test runs with the product in the Technology Center in Schwarzenbek.” The FEC20 is designed for medium batch sizes and maximum user friendliness. For example, the tamping pin station can be easily removed for dismantling and cleaning outside the machine. If necessary, it can be immediately replaced with a pre-fitted station.
“For us, the decisive question was how to achieve commissioning during lockdown but to unchanged quality requirements,” recalls Schulz. “For effective collaboration, we have interconnected our locations using video conferencing. We supported commissioning via remote video with the result that there was only ever one service technician on site. Via a remote connection, the team passed on its experience concerning alignment of the machine feet using a spirit level or connecting the process equipment, for example. This enabled us to ensure that the plant harmonized optimally with the production environment.”
FEC40: ready for operation in no time at all
At customer number two, the first set-up step proved to be a challenge as the floor in the production room featured some irregularities. But the short project term was equally challenging: an FEC40 was ordered in summer 2020 which was to be delivered and installed by the end of the year. This model was the “big sister” to the FEC20, suitable for batches of up to 400,000 capsules per hour and with many identical components.
“We had already acquired a great deal of valuable experience in remote commissioning with the FEC20 at our other Spanish customer‘s,” says Schulz. “This enabled us to assemble our project team fast for the new case. For the future, I would imagine that we will rely on remote collaboration more frequently for SATs, and increasingly on the digital tools from our OSDi division. Depending on the geographical location, this will lead to leaner processes and a degree of flexibility which our customers in Spain have already come to appreciate.”
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