Contract Packaging

Spring 2014

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Four steps to innovation Pharmalab Inc. By Jim Butschli, Features Editor, Packaging World magazine In its Levis, Canada hometown near Que- bec City, Pharmalab Inc. (www.pharmalab. ca) has found that low unemployment rates sometimes make it difficult to find qualified personnel. To help cope with that chal- lenge, the contract manufacturer of natural health, pharmaceuticals, nutraceutical products, and food supplements has switched from manual cartoning to automated robotic cartoning with the recent addi- tion of five new MK-DLT inte- grated Delta 3 robotic cartoners provided by AFA Systems (www. afasystemsinc.com). Antonio Muniz with Logic Tech Pack Inc. (info@logictech pack.com) served as a consultant and AFA agent for the project. Pharmalab produces powders, liquids, creams, and solid-dose capsules and tablets, all under customer brand names. ese are packaged in a variety of formats, primarily pouches and jars, which are sold in Canada and the U.S. Manufacturing and packaging is done within the company's 100,000-sq-ft facility in Levis, now twice the size it was before a major expansion project in 2011. Of the facility's 10 packaging lines, six are dedicated to pouch production, two to solid-dose products, and one each for liq- uids and powder filling. Anas El Alaoui, Pharmalab's Plant Man- ager, says, "We made a major expansion primarily for warehouse and administrative purposes, but all the old warehouse area was transformed into a packaging area with four pouch lines added to the two we had before." El Alaoui says eight of the lines run 24/7, while the liquid line runs on a two-shift, five- day-a-week schedule, and the powder filling line operates on one shift, five days a week. Centering on cartoners Before the expansion, all cartoning was done manually, with operators handling the output of two upstream horizontal form/fill/seal pouch machines. "We used to do that work manually with three people per shift," says El Alaoui. "e first person folded the carton, the second one put the pouches inside, and the third worker put it into the corrugated box." With demand increasing and qualified workers becoming more difficult to find, Pharmalab realized it had to increase its cartoning efficiency and manage labor costs. Step one in considering an equipment investment was to develop a URS (User Require- ment Specifications) documenta- tion of its equipment needs. is information was sent to at least three different cartoner manu- facturers. "We went through our due diligence with each of the three companies and we chose AFA," says El Alaoui. AFA earned Pharmalab's business for a variety of reasons, he explains. "eir knowledge of that business, their experience in making carton- ers, their understanding of the technology, and the results from the references they gave us were among them. We also went to see their cartoners work in other industries. eir technical service was better than the others, and the price was good." Robotic cartoning adds efficiency, subtracts labor costs Robotic cartoning replaces manual operations, alleviating labor shortages and costs, while increasing line efficiency for contract manufacturer Pharmalab Inc. 6 • C O N T R A C T PA C K A G I N G • M A R C H | A P R I L 2 0 1 4 CARTON SETUP. The robotic system opens cartons, which vary in thickness from 7 pt to 10 pt, with two common sizes measuring 7 x 12 cm and 12 x 17 cm. 04b_PWrepurp_Pharmalab.indd 6 3/18/14 1:40 PM

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