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VETTER Pharma automates with ESSERT


Headquartered in Ravensburg, Germany, Vetter is a global leading contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) with production facilities in Germany and the United States. Currently employing 4,900 individuals worldwide, the company has long-term experience in supporting biotechnology and pharmaceutical customers both large and small. Vetter services range from early-stage development support including clinical manufacturing to commercial supply and numerous packaging solutions for vials, syringes, and cartridges. As a leading solution provider, Vetter appreciates its responsibility to support the needs of its customers by developing devices that contribute to increased patient safety, convenience, and enhanced compliance. Great importance is also given to social responsibility including environmental protection and sustainability.

In order to make the internal grad of automation more flexible, and to follow the trend towards smaller lot sizes in the pharmaceutical industry, the company was looking for an innovative, flexible, and reproducible automation solution. The aim is to automate processes that were previously carried out manually, such as the separation of transparent glass bodies (syringes) and depositing them in trays.

Three integrated robot workstations use the latest 3D vision technology and ESSERT’s speed bin-picking process to separate the materials, as well as provide empty trays and restack full trays.

The use of the flexible RETRAYER system has a positive effect on the process quality and also significantly reduces human intervention and thus the risk of possible product contamination. This enables employees to perform more efficient and complex tasks.

The RETRAYER Edition of the Advanced Robotic Workstation Platform meets all necessary criteria for 100% compliant operation in the pharmaceutical industry. Another robotic solution in the field of syringe assembly (assembly of plunger rods and backstops) is currently being completed.

The challenge

Monotonous, manual activities, such as separating transparent glass bodies and providing empty trays and restacking full trays, should be automated. One of the objectives was not only to entrust qualified employees with more demanding tasks but also to positively influence the process and product quality. In order to familiarize the entire workforce at an early stage, a provisional robot cell was presented in advance at a company meeting.

“One of the major challenges for us was reproducibility and the cooperative collaboration between man and machine. Performance is an equally important factor,” explains Markus Behrendt, the project manager responsible for plant and site expansion at Vetter.

“We have known classic robot cells in our everyday production since the early 90s. Our declared goal is to integrate innovative, open, and high-performance systems into our production.

In order to move this goal forward, we considered during the evaluation phase the purchase of components or cooperations with integrators,” Behrendt continues.

“We talked to many people from the industry and with various robot manufacturers, for example at the Hanover Fair. In this process, the name ESSERT in Ubstadt-Weiher was mentioned over and over again.”

The current status

The robot platform convinces with its flexibility, reproducibility, the integration of state-of-the-art vision technologies as well as the speed bin picking process.

“The ESSERT company has succeeded in developing a platform that can be used in a highly flexible and modular manner, regardless of the industry,” says Arno Schroff, department manager for plant and site expansion at Vetter.

“The functional design with the built-in mode illumination is well-thought-out and valuable. The advantages of the platform are obvious: Whether something has to be gripped, assembled, or inspected, the robot platform offers numerous fields of application. A further system has therefore already been ordered”.

With the automation solution, Vetter is in a position to push ahead with its strategic goals, to make the workplaces of its employees more attractive, and to positively influence the process and product quality.