Driving quality, efficiency

December 9, 2015

4 Min Read
Driving quality, efficiency

Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News staff

A generics manufacturer turns to the latest in variable-printing technologies to ensure legible text and graphics, reducing rejects.

Actavis Inc. has overcome printing legibility challenges and others with the help of Videojet Technologies. Producing and marketing generic pharmaceutical products for all significant therapeutic classes, Actavis is the U.S. manufacturing and marketing division of Actavis Group, reportedly the world’s third largest generic pharmaceutical company.

For about a decade, Actavis has been working with Videojet Technologies (www.videojet.com). “High quality, clear and consistent product, and package identification are critical in the pharmaceutical business,” said Jason Grai, senior manufacturing engineer for Actavis, in a statement provided to PMP News. “Having a close relationship with the coding experts at Videojet has definitely helped us overcome challenges and reduce costs and downtime, while improving our operational efficiency and productivity.”

Grai reported that he and other Actavis engineers who purchase and validate process and packaging equipment at the plant now turn to their Videojet sales engineer whenever a question comes up about the best way to solve a labeling or coding problem.

For example, the product labeling line was experiencing difficulties with older ink-jet printer performance. The dot-matrix printing often resulted in inconsistent or illegible printing of lot and date codes. As a result, the downstream OCR vision system used for quality control inspection was churning out an unacceptably high number of rejects. “Our quality level has to be 100 percent,” Grai explained. “Any rejects have to be completely redone, then re-inspected by our packaging inspectors before going back on the line. Clearly, with so many rejects causing lost time and productivity, we needed to find a clearer, higher quality printing solution.”

Videojet suggested Actavis migrate from its legacy ink-jet printers to robust thermal-transfer printers, such as the Videojet DataFlex Plus. Grai and his team liked this option because it was compact and easy to maintain, with no need to stock inks and solvents.

Another challenge was the unique bracketing required to mount the new printers on labeling machines to accommodate flexible positioning for different production runs. “Because we are a generic pharmaceutical company, we change over the lines frequently for different bottle sizes and different label sizes,” Grai explained. “When we informed Videojet we needed customized brackets with the flexibility to accomplish this quickly and easily, they arranged for engineers to come on-site and design the brackets for us. After the brackets were fabricated, a local Videojet technician performed the installation and provided our employees with a day of training on how to use the machine.”

To date, the Actavis plant has installed five DataFlex Plus printers running around the clock on its labeling machines to print lot numbers and expiration dates. Actavis has signed a Videojet Service Care Package to ensure the machines receive proactive care and repair services to continue to deliver peak performance over time. By signing on for Service Care, Actavis experiences professional services from Videojet Certified Service Engineers and receives proactive maintenance visits and checkups, additional operator training, on-site service, parts management, technical phone support, and year-round priority service.

Since installing the new DataFlex Plus printers, Grai reported that “the number of rejects has plummeted. The line also runs much more consistently, with fewer stoppages and more uptime. While it’s hard to put a number on rejects and downtime, I have to say the quality and efficiency improvements have been quite significant.”

It has been almost two years since Actavis sought Videojet’s counsel and assistance to solve its ink legibility problems. Since then, new challenges are being jointly addressed by Actavis engineers and Videojet’s technical team, resulting in the purchase of additional Videojet equipment.

According to Grai, another printer model that has paid off in higher efficiency and lower cost is the Videojet 2360, a large-character ink-jet printer frequently used for coding shipping cases. The printers provide consistently high-quality direct printing on porous and secondary packaging materials. They are capable of printing accurate, real-time alphanumeric codes, bar codes, and graphics and offer a range of printhead heights. “So far, we have purchased one of these for our production lines and expect to be adding more. Ultimately, we would like to roll out the case coders on each of our 15 production lines and integrate them with track-and-trace in our SAP system,” he notes.

Videojet’s 3320 laser-marking systems helped Actavis resolve another issue it had with legacy printers, in which blurry or indistinct print on the carton flap of boxes often made it impossible for vision readers to read the message accurately. This led to a high number of rejects and excessive waste. With the laser printers now online, lot codes and expiration dates can be clearly marked on the flap at a rate of about 100 per minute.

About 50 Actavis employees interact with various Videojet printers daily. Jason Grai concludes: “To run successful product and package printing operations, it’s helpful to have a partner like Videojet. We believe it’s important to work with a vendor that will come out, realistically assess your needs, supply high quality equipment, and then help you figure out how best to install, operate, and maintain it. With Videojet, they do all of that and more, which is why Actavis will continue to work with them in the future.” 

Sign up for the Packaging Digest News & Insights newsletter.

You May Also Like