Pharma Process Improvement Case Study

Business caseProcess Plant

  • A multinational pharmaceutical company struggled with a highly automated continuous mixer which was designed to produce 4000 kg/hr of paste.
  • Excess inventory and WIP was being stored in bulk tanks
  • The plant runs seven days per week and feeds a number of high speed packing lines each running at up to 500 units per minute.

Initial Condition

  • The mixing plant running at significantly less than 4000 kgs/hr,
  • Many short stops (eight to ten per hour) and re-starts of the line per shift—due to breakdown and loss of raw material feed.
  • If an operator is not available for immediate re-set, the plant could be left at a standstill for up to 20 minutes.
  • For 90 days prior to intervention, overall output averaged only 2200 kgs/hr with an OEE of less than 50%.

Target Condition

  • Increase daily output to 4000kgs/hr as required to meet process and production goals
  • Eliminate hourly stops and re-starts of line
  • Return product quality to previous levels

Planned Activities / InterventionPharma_adjust machine 2

  • The team used PCS- problem solving model to find root causes for the large number of stoppages associated with the powder feed (raw material) systems.
  • A team was put together including experienced plant operators, technicians and area management to work on these problems. A number of Problem Cause Solution (PCS) exercises were carried out to find the root causes.
  • Root causes determined included:
    • Control system settings not optimized
    • Feed systems unable to run at the desired maximum speed
    • Bulk density variations
    • Line blockages caused by valve timings not being optimally set
  • Countermeasures put in place to eliminate all of the above issues, along with skills upgrade for operators and sustainment plan

Achieved Metrics

  • OEE of the continuous flow line increased by 38%.
  • Running hours dropped by 200 hours to meet annual production plan
  • Average number of stoppage alarms dropped from an average of 8-10 per hour to less than 2
  • The problem-solving model is now available as a detailed guide in case further problems arise in future (knowledge transfer).