Multivac (Germany) - In 2020, as COVID-19 continued to negatively impact the US economy, our government partnered with the company to produce 250 million individual cotton swabs each month to contain the spread of the virus through an aggressive testing campaign. MULTIVAC was presented with a brief for 24 automated packaging lines installed during a short eight-week timeline producing individually and securely packaged sterilized swabs.
A US-based medical supply company producing essential medical products plays a vital role in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 by making critical test swabs for virus detection.
In 2020, as COVID-19 continued to negatively impact the US economy, our government partnered with the company to produce 250 million individual cotton swabs each month to contain the spread of the virus through an aggressive testing campaign.
MULTIVAC was presented with a brief for 24 automated packaging lines installed during a short eight-week timeline producing individually and securely packaged sterilized swabs. With standard installation times running two to three weeks for a single line, the project would require rigid project management and collaboration between multiple business units.
When it comes to the automated packaging of sterile medical products, MULTIVAC plays a pioneering role in the marketplace with a portfolio of machines for packing complex and sensitive products in the pharmaceutical, diagnostic, and biotech sectors.
MULTIVAC designed the packaging lines to exceed expectations. Each line, consisting of an R 535 thermoform packaging machine with vision system, an H 130 handling module, Bell Mark printers, Lantech box equipment, and Pearson palletizers, needed to be installed, integrated, tested, and calibrated. To meet the 8-week time frame, MULTIVAC outlined four phases lasting two weeks each with six complete lines installed during each of the four phases.
R 535 Thermoformer Machine:
MULTIVAC Clean Design™ Thermoform packaging machines are specifically designed to pack sensitive life science and healthcare products efficiently and effectively. They can be individually equipped for use in different cleanroom classes and offer a high degree of process reliability thanks to their capability for complete line clearance, pack reproducibility, and security against product loss.
Linking to higher-level data systems enables seamless product traceability achieved over the entire process chain providing the highest level of transparency.
The R 535 thermoform packaging machine is the largest configurable line from MULTIVAC. Offering a broad range of equipment options with extremely high package output, the R 535 meets the most challenging of customer requirements.
High-performance thermoform packaging machines from MULTIVAC process flexible and rigid film, aluminum, and other packaging materials, with a thickness of up to 1,200 µm and a film width up to 830 mm. They provide a maximum forming depth of up to 210 mm and a maximum cut-off length of up to 1,300 mm.
H 130 Handling Module:
Once packaged, MULTIVAC's H 130 handling module loads the packages into boxes for shipping and distribution purposes.
Setting the Installation up For Success:
Leadership, project management, and field service advanced planning contributed to a successful installation. Further mitigating potential issues with the installation, Austin Brown, Stephen Gibbs, Marcus Goldman, and Carlos Vasquez traveled to MULTIVAC Headquarters in Germany making sure everything was working as intended for the factory acceptance tests. Southeast technicians assisted the Northeast region in getting phase two and phase three set up and operational, ensuring that the technicians were well prepared with a quick learning curve once it came time to start the installation of the lines at P4 in Portland, TN.
The lines were tested and cleared to be shipped by the project management team, following a proper acceptance protocol. By performing the FAT at MULTIVAC headquarters in Germany, any potential issues were resolved before installation in the field.
The Project Management team led by Stephen Gibbs and the Service team led by Tony Dewesee came together for a 2-day project kick-off meeting to define project goals, expectations, and roles and responsibilities. The kick-off meeting served to clearly define the project roadmap, setting the team up for success.
Calling on Reinforcements:
Unwilling to pull all available field technicians for the installation crew, MULTIVAC'S service team called in reinforcements. Independent contractors were brought in to primarily assist with the mechanical aspect of the installation working with MULTIVAC technicians in any way possible. Arriving with limited knowledge of MULTIVAC machines, the contract labor could assemble, place and level multiple machines in a day with minimal oversight.
During the Installation:
Gary Wilcoxson, project manager, remained on-site for the installation, managing the project and all outside integrators. On-site project management kept the project on schedule and allowed the service team to install the packaging lines.
The installation was an epic success. A group of three technicians including Mike Stone, Matt Mader and Grant Griffith made up the core group that were solely responsible for installing half of the lines as well as fine tuning, testing, and commissioning of all the lines. We also rotated in additional field technicians from the Southeast region as they fit in the schedule. We were able to utilize previous experience with the customers installs during the first week to accelerate the learning curve. The collective team moved quickly and executed as one keeping the project ahead of schedule.
MULTIVAC's team completed phase three and four ahead of schedule, thanks in large part to the overall team and leadership of the project. Currently, the installation is complete, all COIs have been signed off, and the project is halfway through commissioning.
- 240 semi-trailers
- 60,000 square feet of warehouse
- 24 complete packaging lines producing 250 MM swabs per month
- 8-week timetable
- Integrators: MULTIVAC, Bellmark, Lantech, Pearson, ID Technology, JR Automation.
When all 24 lines run at 15 cycles/minute, each will produce 25,000 swabs an hour, totaling 250 million swabs per month for the facility. MULTIVAC installed all 24 lines in eight weeks.
Regarding how the MULTIVAC team performed during this project, Project Manager Gary Wilcoxson said:
"I am proud of the work our team has accomplished, and it has been a great experience working on a project of this magnitude and knowing the impact for the US and the world producing COVID swabs for our customer and the US government… I take pride in the work MULTIVAC has done, and the people involved working as a team."
MULTIVAC applauds the Customer Service team for its efforts during this monumental project. Simultaneously to the project were other significant projects equally as important. Due to our technicians' dedication to supporting our customers, we were able to provide outstanding coverage.
MULTIVAC would also like to acknowledge the team of technicians that came in and performed calibration training and Yves Burgin for allowing us to have Natalie Berens from the Great Lakes region, who stayed for additional weeks with Bart Pace performing calibrations on the installed lines.