The prestigious international technology corporation, SCHOTT, has an exceptional reputation around the world as a manufacturer of special glass and glass-ceramic for a variety of industries. In particular, the famous CERAN® glass-ceramic cooktop panel surely makes a major contribution to the high profile of the company, which is based in Mainz, Germany. However, the companyʼs Pharmaceutical Systems business area also deals intensively with plastic. At the SCHOTT location in St. Gallen, Switzerland, the companyʼs 550 employees produce primary packaging for the pharmaceutical industry. The portfolio includes flasks, ampoules and carpules made of glass tube. For prefillable syringes, the customer also can choose between glass and the high-tech COC (cyclic olefin copolymer). “Glass is still dominating the syringe market. However, plastic is being used more and more frequently because it resists breakage so well and permits greater flexibility. Therefore, this business area is very important for us,” says Michael Feldhaus, Director of Technology at SCHOTT Switzerland.
Precision supplier of injection molding machines
The collaboration began in the late 1990s, when Netstal was selected as a supplier for high-precision injection molding machines. Production now takes place in the GMP Class B (ISO Class 7) clean room with a machine pool between 600 kN and 1,500 kN of clamping force. Three Netstal SynErgy series machines form the backbone of production. The SCHOTT location in St. Gallen has fully automated systems that comply with GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) and all other major pharmaceutical industry guidelines. The entire process of manufacturing the syringes is continuous and fully integrated. The granulate is fed from the storage silos to the injection molding machines. Injection molding and demolding are followed by additional process steps such as siliconization, camera inspection and filling transparent tubs. These are sealed and packaged separately in the final step. The fully automated manufacturing process is monitored continuously by the in-line process control. Industrial camera technology is used to check the dimensions and cosmetic appearance. The reliable quality assurance system and the strict quality controls guarantee the consistent high quality of the syringe sets.
Professional service guarantees continuous operation
To ensure highly efficient manufacturing, manufacturers cannot rely solely on leading-edge machine technology. Only by combining this with optimal service will the best overall package be found. With its “Service & Solutions” technical customer service, Netstal provides support to its customers throughout the entire life cycle of the machine, from commissioning to phase-out. “The technical customer service is a valuable support for us. In particular, the expert advice the Service team provides and its flexibility in scheduling are benefits we value very highly,” says Feldhaus. A sophisticated Service strategy is indispensable to ensure production around the clock, 360 days a year, and prevent unplanned downtimes from the beginning. Therefore, all injection molding machines undergo regular service inspections in which certain components are preventively replaced before they exceed the usual service life and possibly fail. Netstal also ensures a supply of necessary spare parts for older machines. These service calls can usually be planned well ahead of time – for example, at times at which a standstill of the system is planned anyway. For this purpose, the Netstal team is available even on weekends.
“The technical customer service is a valuable support for us. In particular, the expert advice the Service team provides and its flexibility in scheduling are benefits we value very highly.”
In addition, SCHOTT also has the injection molding machine calibrated by correspondingly qualified Netstal Service engineers. This ensures quality and product safety while simultaneously helping to ensure compliance with the stringent GMP requirements. It is clear to see that the intensive collaboration pays off for the Swiss SCHOTT location. Despite running nearly all the time, the machines perform with exceptional stability, which is reflected in very high machine availability. When Feldhaus summarizes the benefits of the collaboration with Netstal, he emphasizes the Service partnership mentioned earlier. “We can always reach the Service team. We have dedicated contacts and can always depend on Netstal.”