Machinery IndustryPackaging machines > Uhlmann Pac Systems in the interview

Werner Blersch, Uhlmann Pac Systems, in the interview

Value-added packaging machines by efficiency increase, flexibility, simple operation and traceability

The packaging machine sector is pursuing its own way. Other than in the machinery industry the number of packaging machines has been dropping in the last three years while sales developing much more dynamically than that of the machinery industry as a whole. Thus the average value of a packaging machine has been rising by 34% since 2012.

Blister machine BLU400 from Uhlmann Pac Systems.

So a trend has been established to value-added packaging machines. From the world market leader with packaging machines for the pharmaceutical industry, Uhlmann Pac Systems, Werner Blersch, Product Manager, comments on this trend in the interview.


Mr. Blersch, to which extent you can confirm this trend for Uhlmann?

Foto from Werner Blersch, Product Manager at Uhlmann Pac Systems.
Werner Blersch

I can confirm this trend, the number of items is decreasing while the value of the machines rising.


In regard to the declining number of items, we may consider that we supply exclusively and worldwide the pharmaceutical industry. And this sector is experiencing a process of consolidation. It also belongs to this process that pharmaceutical companies are using their machinery equipment much longer, renewing it later and also taking out more performance.


The trend to value-added machines for the pharmaceutical industry consists of various factors.

Value-added packaging machines by traceability, efficiency increase, simpler operation…

Which factors constitute this trend to value added machines in particular for the pharmaceutical sector?


One factor concerns traceability and protection against forgery. For a continuous traceability of medicines drugs must be distinctively marked. However, there are no internationally standardized specifications, neither for the track & trace process nor for the protection against forgery. So a fast and a simple format conversion, integrated into the machine control, has become an immensely important factor making the marking more efficient and also safer.


We provide each packaging unity with a distinct, sequential 1D or 2D-code that is accordingly managed by the related integrated software solution, also passed afterwards to the superordinate IT levels. TRACK & TRACE by Uhlmann, the solution that meets the specifications regarding protection against forgery, may be realized either as solution integrated into the packaging machine or as machine device next in line. Of course, this requires clearly higher efforts regarding smart hard- and software solutions in order not to endanger the required efficiency of the entire plant.


A further factor concerns the efficiency increase, demanding for making the operation of the machine still simpler and safer. That demand considers also the fact that on the worldwide export markets, other than in Germany, operators are changing more frequently.


What is a simple operation made of?

Machine operation Smart Control from Uhlmann Pac Systems.
SmartControl from Uhlmann

Many aspects play a role. The machine picture should match the expectations of the young generation that is accustomed handling smartphones.


Furthermore the format change: It occurs one to two times per day or per week. Many errors may occur here. The format change cannot fully be automated with blister machines as it is also combined with cleaning. But we have succeeded to a large extent in automating the setting and the adjustment of the format components; our HMI provides distinctive instructions, ensuring their execution via checklists thus avoiding error-prone manual adaptations. Customers already acknowledged that this approach led to substantially fewer SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) in the packaging area as these instructions are already contained in Uhlmann visualization!


Finally simple operation means to meet the individual know-how resp. the experiences of each operator. For this purpose the instructions for each individual process step are divided into various degrees of in-depth specifications depending on the prior knowledge of each operator.

…product-gentle processes and flexibility

Two further factors are to be still called here. Handling filled ampules, vials, cartridges and syringes, so-called Liquid Products, demands for a very product-gentle approach. How easy may glass break and withdrawing medical liquids cause downtimes and material damages. Some syringes e.g. have a value of €1,000.


Finally flexibility increases the machine value. The machine must flexibly adapt to the most diverse locations at the customers. This requires not only modular process unities but also a flexible modularity of the total structure of the machine.


Flexibility also means that the machine must enable a product change for example from ampules to syringes, even in case such change is not currently pending. However, if markets require changes in five or ten years, the customer will be prepared without having to buy a new machine.

Complete production lines enter into the foreground of customers’ interest

Are there still further factors for added-value packaging machines apart from track & trace, efficiency increase, simpler operation and flexibility?


A couple of years ago the customer was still focused on the individual machine, i.e. only blister machine, only cartoner. Since approximately 2010 the customer asks ever more frequently for the complete process from the tablets feed up to the complete folding boxes. We meet these requests with the two blister lines BEC 300 and 500.

Blister machine BEC300 from Uhlmann Pac Systems.
Blister Express Center 300 from Uhlmann

Of course, this approach is ending in value-added plants. Today's machines have been becoming such efficient, such flexible and such powerful that one machine replaces two older ones redeeming its, of course, higher initial costs in two years.

Automation technology: Servo-drives strongly increasing

How does this development affect the automation technology of the machines?


In particular the number of servo-drives is strongly increasing. Instead of one mechanical upright shaft for the entire machine each process unit now provides its own virtual upright shaft. So the speed of the material flow can be varied with constant process times in each case. This opens up many more degrees of freedom to the customer.


We have already talked about the HMI for simplified operator guidance. How does it look like with the machine control?


We use the integrated control technology from Schneider Electric/Elau, i.e. PacDrive3.


Are robots used?


With Liquid Products one robot per machine is used by default for material handling. The robot picks supplied parts depositing them into formed blisters. Some customers also use two robots per machine. Regarding Liquid Products the range of application for robots will not expand from our current view. Mr. Blersch, thank you for the interview.

 


With Werner Blersch talked Thomas Quest.

Bookmark and Share

Logo from Uhlmann Pac Systems.


World market leader with blister machines for the pharmaceutical industry.

Uhlmann Pac Systems GmbH & Co. KG as core of the Uhlmann Group.

Group turnover €294m 2014/2015 with 1,800 employees.

Export share 80%, on-site in eleven countries.

 

Uhlmann Pac Systems GmbH & Co. KG
Uhlmannstr. 14-18
88471 Laupheim
Germany

Phone: +49(0)7392-702-0
Fax: +49(0)7392-18972

Email: info(at)uhlmann.de
Internet: www.uhlmann.de/en.html