OptiworX augmented reality system is in use in several filling and packaging lines at Vifor Pharma - since December 2017 at the company’s site in St. Gallen and since spring 2018 in Villars-sur-Glâne, to drive efficiency and productivity. Proven accelerated processes and a significant increased productivity lead now to global roll out.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing and packaging processes are complex: hundreds of adjustment points need to be set correctly, employees must run through many detailed checklists for changeover or line clearance processes. These processes, often managed using paper manuals, are slow and prone to errors. Effective runtime of the equipment is only about 30%. However manual changeover including set up as well as line clearance processes are the bottlenecks in this complex environment. These problems had to be tackled and Vifor was looking for a solution to turn this into a reliable, fast and cost efficient process.
In 2017 Vifor Pharma decided to implement OptiworX AR Suite, a dynamic team-based augmented reality system specially designed to meet the requirements of the pharmaceutical industry in moving towards digitization and Pharma 4.0™. At first the company began a pilot program at its St. Gallen site (Switzerland) using OptiworX Standalone to reach more flexibility and reliability switching frequent batch changes, line clearance and cleaning procedures. A second and third line followed in Villars-sur-Glâne to speed up change over lead times as well as to reduce onboarding time which should finally lead to higher precision of the processes.
OptiworX makes each task visible and gives Vifor’s employees the instructions – no matter how complex – they need at each step in the process through its software system. No need to look away. Fast AR allows mapping of any large environment, tested beyond 800 m2. Employees could use different devices such as HoloLens 2, Realware or tablets in the same process. The right device according to each operator’s skill level. The dynamic multi-user system allows to change the team size on the fly or do save shift changes during the process. With two hands on the process employees are able to do their jobs better and faster, and with much more flexibility and precision, even when processes become more complex. A further benefit of OptiworX is its vendor independence. The system can be installed on any line, any vendor or machines of any age.
Real life data exceeded all expectations. With OptiworX, Vifor Pharma cut change over lead times by 45% at its site in St. Gallen and even undercut the target lead time of 30 minutes. The employees gained more confidence in frequent batch changes and could actually insource small batches from Asia.
“The POC implementation of Goodly’s AR based Dynamic Teamwork System demonstrated the power of innovative pharma solutions. Measurable significant productivity improvement and a broad range of potential operational areas tell their own tale.”, said Dr. Benno Bischof, Head of Product Group, St. Gallen.
In Villars-sur-Glâne change over times with new employees were 27% faster on initial use, guided by OptiworX, compared to experienced operators using paper-based instructions.
“Applying augmented reality in shop floor operations allows a significant time saving of over 30% in machine settings”, highlighted Yvan Liard, Site Head of Villars-sur-Glâne. He added: “The AR-System makes training of new employees much easier.” Both experienced and new employees had a steep learning curve and an overall rapid improvement process was mentioned.
OptiworX is currently fully operational in several lines at Vifor Pharma Group in St. Gallen and Villars-sur-Glâne. Now global roll out has started in further packaging and filling lines and with added functionality. Vifor is also considering integration into an upcoming MES project.