Standardisation in automation

B. Braun Melsungen had a great idea and implemented it throughout the plant. Production for infusion solutions was to be largely standardised. B. Braun hoped this would lead to increased productivity, improved process stability and, at the same time, reduced operating costs. And it worked. With support from Festo.

B. Braun Melsungen AG is one of the world’s leading suppliers of solutions for the healthcare market. The pharmaceutical and medical technology company produces products for anaesthesia, intensive care, cardiology, extracorporeal blood treatment and surgery at 45 locations. Customers include hospitals, registered doctors and care service facilities. Founded in 1839 as a pharmacy in the Hessian city of Melsungen, the family-owned company has evolved into a global corporation within just a few generations.

Europe’s most modern production facility for infusion solutions
More than 600 million containers of infusion solution are used throughout Europe each year. Every third bottle comes from Melsungen, where infusion solutions have been produced and further developed for more than 70 years. In 2005, a new production plant, the Pfieffewiesen plant, was built just outside Melsungen. In its new Leading Infusion Factory Europe (LIFE), B. Braun has since been running Europe’s most modern production facility for infusion solutions.

Greater efficiency as a guiding principle

How can pharmaceutical production be made more efficient? This was a decisive question for B. Braun where infusion solutions for the new three-chamber bag was concerned. LIFE was designed to guarantee absolute minimal downtimes and optimised system availability. Experts from Festo therefore examined the entire value chain of both the primary and secondary processes of the previous production system. There was no doubt that standardised automation offered considerable potential for improvement.

This is easy to check since the more systems in the factory are equipped with identical automation solutions, the fewer fault-prone interfaces there are and the simpler it becomes to control, maintain and repair them. Uniform automation components – from the formulation system to filling and packaging – increase controllability as well. This makes the entire system more transparent and easier to control.

Customer-specific, uniform control cabinets

The host of different pneumatic components and solutions from production to packaging also offered a lot of potential for optimisation! Festo carefully looked at the solutions used together with B. Braun. We established our system recommendations on the basis of the customer’s requirements. This included, among other things, the design of a standard control cabinet to be used throughout the factory. We compiled all the requirements for connecting to the process control system and developed customised valve terminal cabinets.

Our valve terminal CPX/MPA is the core of the standardisation model. Thanks to its flexible control concept, all position indicators, actuators and valves can be connected to it. The control cabinet manages a total of 4,000 diaphragm valves and process valves for infusion bag production.

The new standard components were installed and implemented by all project partners. This was a challenge, because B. Braun’s machine and system builders are scattered all over Europe. Fortunately, Festo is as international a company as B. Braun. Our international sales and service structures simplified assembly and the delivery of the specified control cabinets to all the global companies involved. We coordinated the work and provided personal support to ensure the systems were implemented in line with the recommendations.

Full service during the planning and design phase

Festo designed, produced and delivered 45 ready-to-install valve terminal cabinets that were fully assembled, including design engineering data and circuit diagrams, with a functions guarantee and at a fixed price. Thus B. Braun received not only a ready-to-connect module for its machine builders, but a complete value chain package.

The system solutions from Festo resulted in a host of advantages, such as a simplified purchasing process, less design and engineering effort, reduced process costs and a decrease in the workload for specialised staff. This means our customers benefit from additional time savings, first of all because working with a single supplier not only makes purchasing more transparent and simple, but faster too. And secondly because the systems could be commissioned earlier. Automation with pre-tested, ready-to-install modules is always preferable to the installation of individual components with numerous interfaces.

Greater efficiency during operation

The advantages of standardised process automation also have an impact on operating costs, and the Leading Infusion Factory Europe is a great example of this. All machines and systems, from the mixing systems to the filling machines, sterilisers, inspection machines and packaging machines, are operated with the same or similar pneumatic automation solutions. The effort in training maintenance staff is immediately reduced. Unavoidable system standstills can be eliminated more quickly. On the whole, system availability is significantly increased.

B. Braun also saves money on spare parts; as only a few different components are now being used, larger order quantities for the same parts result in economies of scale and lower procurement costs. And this means less warehouse space and less time spent on maintaining master data. Stock turnover is also increased, which in turn reduces stock devaluation.

In general, cutting down system complexity speeds up all processes. It makes system operators much more flexible, right from the planning phase for maintenance measures. The biggest advantage is that you only need one contact person for the entire pneumatic system.

Conclusion for maintenance at B. Braun:

"We are better able to plan and train staff, organise spare parts, and this significantly reduces our costs," confirms Klaus Sonntag of B. Braun.

As a systems operator, you’re always in some way dependent on the quality and punctuality of your suppliers.”

Increased productivity, reduced costs

Before construction of the new building was completed, B. Braun’s old system was using automation products from six different pneumatic suppliers. This made maintenance and repair relatively complex and costly. B. Braun can now rely on uniform product technology, from the process installations to the packaging machines.

Overall, consistent standardisation at the Pfieffewiesen plant has significantly reduced project durations and engineering costs. The general reduction in complexity has a positive effect on system operation and availability. Operating costs as well as maintenance expenses have dropped. The pharmaceutical manufacturer has also been able to increase efficiency as it is now much easier to organise staff and plan spare parts.

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B. Braun Melsungen AG

Carl-Braun-Str. 1
D-34212 Melsungen