«We rarely had a project in our house that ran so smoothly and simply»
Dr. Plodek, you are the Quality Control Services Team Leader at Dr. Pfleger in Bamberg. Does the purchase of a pallet change facility belong to your field of activity?
This is naturally a legitimate question. At Dr. Pfleger, the quality control has basically nothing to do with the purchase of machines and facilities in the production area. I worked until February 2020 in the production, among others as a Production Manager, and I changed over to Quality Control in March 2020, to achieve here my further training as a «Qualified Person». The purchase of a pallet change facility was my project, which started in 2018. It was important to me to accompany this project up to its end also in my new function.
When did Dr. Pfleger start to address the pallet management issue?
This has actually been an issue for quite a long time. It became really concrete in 2017 and an in-house project was launched at the beginning of 2018. We previously used a simple conveying technology to transfer the goods loaded on wooden pallets into a lock, where they were repalletized manually on aluminum. The problem: at that time, the lock was a gray area where the clean and the contaminated areas were meeting in one space. Even though this had been accepted by the authorities, it was always the subject of discussions on the occasion of audits.
Which challenges and tasks did the purchase of a new solution focus on?
At Dr. Pfleger, we are constantly striving to increase the automation level in the factory. It was thus clear that this had to be considered also for a new pallet management solution. Then, as mentioned previously, the material lock had to become a completely clean area. And another central point was to be able to push over safely our manifold loaded goods – e.g. small square containers, bagged goods, cylindrical and conical containers from 5 to 700 kilograms – without damaging them. And, last but not least, another major challenge was that the modification had to take place during factory operation, in compliance with all GMP requirements.
Was it clear for you right from the start that the solution would be a fully automatic pallet change facility?
We also discussed other ideas of semi-automatic solutions, but we quickly found out that we could not get around a fully automatic pallet change facility if we wanted to meet all challenges and tasks.
Once you decided internally to purchase an automatic pallet change facility, how did the evaluation take place?
We first explored the market within the framework of a classical project management, we contacted various suppliers and we asked hand-picked suppliers to work out a concept with the corresponding offer. We also contacted Müller Intralogistics. We have been knowing this Swiss supplier for many years, even in the time when it was still called Fördertechnik AG. In fact, we have some eager Müller fans in our Company, who are convinced of the customer solutions from Münchenstein.
How did Müller Intralogistics score in this phase?
Contacting was very unbureaucratic, the meeting on location took place very quickly, all arising questions were answered immediately and competently. We were presented within a very short time a first meaningful concept at which we could orientate ourselves. All this was very, very positive.
And why did you finally opt for a pallet change facility of Müller Intralogistics?
We integrated the pallet change facility afterwards in our factory. Normally, this is done when building the premises, and corresponding space is provided accordingly. But here the premises imposed certain restrictions, as space was limited. Müller Intralogistics' concept was the smartest and the whole pallet change facility was actually the most compact – and all this with a good price / performance ratio. Together with the conveying technology, this facility was a “well-rounded” system.
The period after purchasing is still before commissioning. How satisfied were you during the phase until the Site Acceptance Test?
The communication and availability of Müller Intralogistics have been great also during this phase. Questions were answered competently and quickly. Cooperation is always based on mutual confidence. We never had the feeling that we could not rely on each other. Regarding this specific point, we have had in recent times other experiences with Southern European suppliers, with which we always had to be closely on site to accompany and monitor work progress. With Müller Intralogistics, we never had the feeling that we had to push the work, our partners from Münchenstein kept the lead. I think that our mentalities are quite similar and that we tick in the same way, and this benefits the cooperation. This made the whole project very uncomplicated and pleasant for us.
The fully automatic pallet change facility – including the connection to a driverless transport system – is now in operation in your factory. Have the new work processes been put in place quickly?
First of all I must say that all our requirements have been met. We have now a complete clean area in the material lock, thus also a higher automation level, which was also a goal. We had to adapt some work processes reaching into the production. At the beginning, I must admit that I was a bit concerned whether everything would run smoothly when commissioning the pallet change facility. Obviously, no production interruptions were allowed. In hindsight, I am myself surprised that, apart from some small “childhood diseases”, everything ran very smoothly. The colleagues in the bulk production and in the packaging departments are pleased with how the work in the pallet management area has been simplified. Nobody misses the manual repalettizing of the different loaded goods (he laughs).
All this sounds as if you can recommend Müller Intralogistics...
Definitely yes. We rarely had a project in our house that ran so smoothly and simply. The mutual confidence, the assurance that we could totally rely on each other, led to a sustainable solution. And nota bene, Müller Intralogistics was not more expensive that the other suppliers. I must mention that we did not request from Southern European suppliers.
Brief profile Dr. Pfleger Arzneimittel GmbH
- medium-sized company based in Bamberg
- belonging to the Doktor Robert Pfleger-Stiftung
- 390 employees in production, development and sales
- range of 60 medicines and medical products in the areas of urology, dermatology, gynecology and self-medication of pain, hoarseness and hair health.
Brief profile Dr. Alois Plodek
- education: pharmacy studies
- function: Team Leader Quality Control Services
- working at Dr. Pfleger Arzneimittel GmbH since 2017
Picture rights: © Dr. Pfleger Arzneimittel GmbH, Bamberg, Germany