Swift conversion, cross-machine control, and reliable remote maintenance: in exceptional times such as the Corona-Crisis, it becomes apparent just how fast and comprehensively pharmaceutical manufacturers need to react to changing production conditions. Demand and availability can change at any time. Digital tools can more efficiently organize such requirements for agility.
With that in mind, Fette Compacting is now making a comprehensive set of digital solutions available for tablet and capsule production.
Full Speed Ahead for Smart Solid Formulation Production
Even before the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it was clear that digital tools are decisive factors for the success of future pharmaceutical production. Now, corona has significantly increased the necessity of such aids. Social distancing guidelines mandate the use of live chats and video conferences for remote maintenance, as well as augmented reality applications for increased precision.
Although the innovative cycles in pharmaceutical engineering usually extend across several years, particularly agile methods are allowing for more flexibility and more specific deployment of resources. Even if main processes associated with tableting and capsule filling remain mechanical for the foreseeable future, digital solutions will mean that all associated processes will become faster, safer, and more efficient.
Agile methods for faster development
Fette Compacting remains focused on the optimization of digital tools for pharmaceutical production. On the basis of pharmacists’ requirements, we’ve dedicated a new division to creating software solutions for tablet and capsule manufacturing. The goal is to improve the efficiency of production as a whole by supporting operators, maintenance technicians, and their supervisors and utilizing data intelligently.
The new division – OSDi – builds a bridge between the manufacture of Oral Solid Dosages and the digital future. The OSDi team utilizes the agile methods of Design Thinking and Lean Start-Up, which are also widely established in Silicon Valley. These methods are linked by the fact that they are consistently oriented toward user requirements. In fact, users are considered in the development process right from the start, particularly operators, maintenance technicians, production managers, and quality managers.
In practice, this agile approach enables the OSDi team to draw up new product sketches on the basis of users’ “pains and gains.” These sketches are then sent back to the customer for a second opinion. Using the feedback obtained, the unit collaborates closely with the customer to create a “click dummy,” a prototype, and, finally, the finished tool. The customer’s perspective is considered through each step of the process. This way, ideas with less potential can be detected swiftly and rejected if necessary, which reduces the development process and conserves resources.
Interactive learning content and virtual training
Fette Compacting has already created digital tools to address a preliminary stage which is decisive for success: training new personnel. Via an app, experienced trainers make 3D-animated learning content available. Using interactive graphics, animations, and detailed instructions, new employees can familiarize themselves with the entire process of solid formulation production. In several modules, the learning platform illustrates how individual parts of the machine are assembled and protected from wear, for example. After each module, the trainees are obliged to complete a small test on the training content. Learning progress is depicted in an overall summary.
Fette Compacting is working on a range of virtual training units to enable work processes to be practiced. The first available unit concerns the preparation of an isolator for cleaning. Without blocking the real machine, employees can practice the process as often as they want using virtual glove ports, VR glasses, and a gaming notebook. The standardized process is supported by an avatar and a virtual checklist. Once participants feel sufficiently confident, they can move to a test mode where they can clean the isolator without instructions. Those who pass the test receive a certificate. Gaming elements such as a high score also make VR training more fun and increase the motivation of the participants.
Digital overview and communication of potentials
OSDi also has initial applications ready for ongoing production: the team has developed a Fleet Manager to provide a swift overview of machines at all locations. A single glance at a mobile end device indicates which machines are running and which ones are down. Users can arrange their machine park in the app and focus on individual production halls or manufacturing lines.
Those who wish to access machine data live without being bound to a cloud solution can use a special Fette Compacting interface which provides access to real-time production data independent of the respective location. The KPI dashboard offers an overview of the current production and machine status, and monitoring functions can be used for recording and exporting all process values.
Detecting possible error sources at an early stage is becoming increasingly important. A condition monitor collates production and machine data, then harmonizes and visualizes them on any device via a secure cloud. Maintenance teams use the app to capture real-time status of their machines and plants. A comparison with historical measurements indicates deviations at an early stage and prevents downtimes. It can even be used to configure third-party machines.
A performance manager further extends the functions of the condition monitor. Among others, the performance manager visualizes measurements and notifications from all connected devices – live and chronologically. In this way, it picks up any statistical deviations and communicates performance potentials.
Swift detection and troubleshooting
Lastly, troubleshooting has become more efficient thanks to OSDi tools. With a smart guide, operators can remedy frequent errors at the instruction of technical experts. The app runs on a mobile device or a desktop computer. Images, animations or videos provide information on the respective error and illustrate the steps for a solution. Furthermore, users can create their own instructions for their machines, regardless of the brand.
If the troubleshooting guide is not sufficient, a smart remote tool offers personal live chats and video conferences with experts. Operators use the app on a mobile device and can implement the instructions provided by experts directly on the machine. Augmented reality increases the precision of troubleshooting via visual tools such as a “finger pointer”. This remote tool saves solution instructions in a customer archive enabling users to access it at will.
All in all, OSDi currently includes eight functional applications for solid formulation production. The fact that more apps and services will follow is clearly foreseeable in line with the agile methods already used.
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