Handles a huge range of packaging formats to serve 23 export markets

Achieves an outstanding 1200 sticks per minute productivity

Design validated at pre-contract phase to operate in restricted space

Achieved and certified to Installation Qualification, Operation Qualification (IQ-OQ) standard

Mpac Langen helped Nattermann Pharmaceuticals to achieve new levels of productivity, opening up new market potential for a key product as a result.

Nattermann Pharmaceuticals, part of the worldwide Sanofi Group, has reformulated one of its most popular branded medicines: Antacid Preparation for use with stick packs. These packs deliver a measured dose of this highly popular treatment for the pain associated with excess stomach acid, and in a form that is simple and much easier to use than traditional tablet-based methods. Stick packs are convenient, fitting easily into a pocket, and foolproof to use. The medicine comes in liquid form, so there is no need to have water ready to hand, and the active ingredient goes to work faster when taken in this way. Yet, if there are strong arguments for moving to this new packaging approach, there are also some challenges.

In particular, the need for a highly flexible approach to packaging adds real complexity to the task. Dosages vary according to local regulations and so, therefore, do the size of the sticks, with 4 different variants available (140 mm and 160 mm are the most common). The number of sticks in each pack also vary, with 10 options now available, ranging from 6 to 50 in each pack. This means that a wide range of different packaging formats are needed in order to get the right products to market in the right quantities.

As Nattermann was planning its move to liquid doses in stick form, a key priority was to find a packaging machine that would cope with the number of variations required, while also meeting the targeted productivity standards. The company wanted to package 1200 sticks per minute on their production line, and it seemed at first that no machine would be capable of reaching this level of speed.

A new approach 

The decision to test out Mpac Langen’s capability came as a direct result of a chance meeting at the Interpack exhibition in 2011. Nattermann’s visiting experts saw a remarkable demonstration of rapid and flexible change over from one format to another on the exhibition stand and decided to explore the possibilities of using this built-in agility for their own needs.

The Mpac Langen machine was able to handle the required variations through format changes that can be carried out in minutes: 3 minutes under controlled conditions and no more than 10 minutes on a busy production line. This was absolutely essential for Nattermann, given the huge number of variants required to supply the 23 export markets currently served. In addition, sheer speed was a critical factor, as well.

At the new production line, Nattermann has installed 2 machines, each capable of making 600 sticks per minute. This means the packaging machine provided by Mpac Langen would need to deal with the output from both machines, being able to package 1200 sticks per minute. Nattermann carried out detailed research into the market but in the end decided that the Mpac Langen approach was best suited to their needs and was, in fact, probably the only option available that was likely to deliver the right results.

The key challenges

In addition to the need for flexibility and speed, Mpac Langen’s machine had to deal with a few other key requirements. Although Antacid Preparation is an “over the counter” drug, it is still part of the tightly regulated pharmaceutical market. Very detailed acceptance tests were required before the packaging process could be certified as having reached the correct regulatory standards and, in particular, the IQ-OQ standard (Installation Qualification, Operation Qualification).

In addition, each package must contain a product information leaflet, which is added as part of the overall packaging process. Once these requirements had been factored into the design there was one more very important challenge to face. In the designated production space, there was very little room indeed for the new machine. It had to be placed next to the stick manufacturing machines, but the free area was so restricted that only 2 feet (60 cm) of space was available around the machine, once installed. As operators had to be free to walk around it, this was a potentially serious issue. It was necessary to carry out a range of tests to validate the practicality of the design, and this was done as part of the pre-contract phase.


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