«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?
As part of classic project management, we sounded out the market, dealt with various providers and had handpicked suppliers draw up a concept with a corresponding offer. We also asked the intralogistics specialists from Müller. We have known the Swiss supplier for a long time, even from the time when it was called Fördertechnik AG. In fact, we have some outspoken Müller fans here at our company who are convinced by the customer solutions from Münchenstein.
How did Müller's intralogistics specialists score during 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 decide on a pallet changing system from Müller?
We integrated the pallet changing system into our operation afterwards. Normally, this is done when the premises are built, so space is planned accordingly. In this respect, we had a certain limitation in terms of space, we were limited in terms of space. The concept of the Müller intralogistics team was the smartest and the entire pallet changing system was actually the most compact in terms of space - and all this at a good price/performance ratio. Together with the conveyor technology, it was a "rounded" thing.
After the purchase is before commissioning. How satisfied were you in the phase up to the site acceptance test?
The communication and availability of the Müller employees was also super in this phase. Questions were answered competently and quickly. Cooperation is always based on mutual trust. We never had the impression that we could not rely on each other. In this respect, we had recently had other experiences with suppliers from Southern Europe, where we always had to be closely on site and had to accompany and monitor the progress of the work. With Müller, we never had the feeling that we had to fire up the work, as the partners from Münchenstein remained in the lead. I think that we have a very similar mentality here and tick in the same way, which benefits the collaboration. That made the whole thing very uncomplicated and pleasant for us.
The fully automatic pallet changing system - including connection to an AGV system - is now in operation at your plant. Did the new work processes settle in quickly?
First of all, it has to be said that all our requirements have been met. We now have a complete white area in the material lock, and accordingly a higher degree of automation, which was also a goal. We had to change a few work processes that interfere with production. At the beginning, I had a bit of a stomachache as to whether everything would run smoothly once the pallet changing system was up and running. After all, it was clear that there could be no disruptions to production. In retrospect, I am surprised myself that apart from a few minor "teething troubles", everything ran very smoothly. My colleagues in bulk production and in packaging are thrilled with how the work in the area of pallet management has been simplified. No one misses the manual repalletizing of the various loads (laughs).
It all sounds like you can recommend Müller as an intralogistics partner ...
Absolutely, yes. We have seldom had a project that was so uncomplicated and smooth. The mutual trust, the certainty that we could rely on each other one hundred percent, led to a sustainable solution. And it should be noted that the Müller intralogistics solution was no more expensive than the other suppliers, although it should also be mentioned that we did not ask for any suppliers from Southern Europe.
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