Pfizer builds new continuous manufacturing plant

Freiburg - 1.10.2015

Leading pharmaceutical firm Pfizer is expanding its production site in Freiburg, southwest Germany, and turning it into a continuous manufacturing plant. Around 20 million euros are being invested in the building and in new machinery and equipment. io-consultants is in charge of planning the pharmaceutical processes as well as the building layout, automation, logistics, and project management. The ground-breaking ceremony was held on 29 September 2015.

The continuous manufacturing facilities at the new building will be equipped with state-of-the-art process technology and will replace the current batch production. The first product to be manufactured there will be a remedy for peripheral and central neuropathic pain. Production will involve three individual steps: supply, dosage and mixing. Raw materials will be supplied via big bag racks thus enabling direct use of the suppliers’ packaging without any refilling or repacking. In the second stage, the raw materials will be dosed in the correct ratios. This process requires absolute accuracy and an immediate supply of new raw materials as soon as a big bag is empty and needs to be replaced. The last step is the actual mixing procedure. A special mixer unit processes all raw materials to achieve a homogenous mixture which can then be filled directly into tablet presses or capsule filling machines. Sophisticated Process Analytical Technology (PAT) will be applied throughout to guarantee consistent product quality.

While the first phase of the newbuild project focuses on the production of the single painkiller, the ultimate goal is the production of different products with an average flow rate of 5 kg to 400 kg per hour. One of the most critical aspects is therefore ensuring easy and accurate cleaning of the equipment to facilitate smooth and seamless product changeovers.
The fundamental alteration of the manufacturing process reduces the throughput time significantly. "The Freiburg plant is already a leading example for environmental protection and sustainability in the pharmaceuticals industry", says Michael Becker, Director Global Engineering at Pfizer Manufacturing Germany. "The new building and the shift to continuous production put us another step ahead. We will be optimizing the flow of raw materials, protecting the properties of the active ingredients even better, and further reducing our ecological footprint ". Completion of the project, including the installation of an automatic weighing unit, is scheduled for the end of 2016.

Pfizer currently employs more than 2000 staff at its German sites in Berlin, Freiburg, Karlsruhe and Munich (Hospira). Freiburg is one of Pfizer's most important manufacturing sites worldwide: six billion capsules and coated and uncoated tablets, and 200 million pill packs per year are produced here for the global market. All manufacturing and transportation processes are highly automated. In 2014, more than seven million patients in Germany alone benefited from Pfizer product. This current project is the result of a long-standing cooperation between Pfizer and io-consultants. The latter has already managed and organized various projects for Pfizer in a number of locations.

The ground-breaking ceremony in Freiburg was complemented by an in-house exhibition that provided further information about the construction project, the future production facilities and the manufacturing equipment and processes.

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