Across the pharma packaging industry, one size does not fit all—the need for flexibility and variety in product formats continues to grow.
Innovation is a pharmacy automation company that knows this all too well. Focused on the retail pharmacy industry, they are located at a 91,000 sq ft campus in Johnson City, NY. They provide technologies that accurately and efficiently fill prescription orders, allowing their customers to package medications using integrated robotics designed to meet each of their unique needs.
The company uses induction sealers from Enercon, a Wisconsin-based provider of cap sealers, with decades of experience serving industries including pharmaceuticals, personal care and chemicals. “The introduction of induction sealers to our product line has allowed us to increase the quality and safety of mail order prescription medications filled by our systems,” says Alecia Lashier, VP of Solutions Engineering at Innovation. “We are now able to reduce damage during the shipping process by containing filled medications in prescription bottle, even if the bottle cap is damaged or removed.”
Enercon sealers also provide Innovation with the opportunity to apply different types of prescription bottle caps, which previously could not be sent through the mail, making prescriptions easier to open for patients.
Two different bottle sizes
Innovation embarked on a project to help the Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy (CMOP) for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The challenge with the project: prescription bottles were two different heights conveyed down the same line.
Innovation is unique in that it does not transport bottles in a carrier container across a conveyor. Instead, bottles are transported directly on the conveyor belt. While this method reduces the conveyor footprint, it presents challenges. The automation units, such as the induction sealers, require the different-sized bottles to pass through at exact heights, and these bottles had to achieve good seals.
With this new problem, Innovation set out to get a complete grasp of the situation before identifying a solution. “On every project, we analyze the specific needs of a program through inspection, data analysis, and simulation. Only once we truly understand the customer’s problem, do we look to find a solution,” says Lashier.
During the development process, Innovation looks tailor solutions to each project beyond standard industry offerings. At times, this results in adaptations of the existing product line, the introduction of new products, or new uses of industry products to meet the unique needs of customers.
Two sealers per line
Enercon Sales Manager Jim Phillips brainstormed with Innovation to find an out-of-the-box solution: two sealers per line, configured at the two different bottle heights required.
On each of Innovation’s three separate CMOP lines, two Enercon Super SealTM Touch Cap Sealers were integrated. The outcome allowed Innovation to continue to transport bottles on a single line and present them to the sealing units at different heights.
Super Seal Touch, with a stainless steel enclosure, protects product integrity by creating a hermetic seal on bottles that prevents leaks, preserves freshness and provides tamper evidence. It features an intuitive operator interface with a touch screen for ease of operation and recipe management. The system includes a new cap inspection system, detecting missing foils, high caps and stalled bottles, while offering quick changeover and optional network connectivity. An LED bottle centering guide provides operators with a beacon to easily align containers under the center of the sealing head. Controls for the system are developed in-house.
Because the project was so unique, testing was key. “Jim Phillips of Enercon was very helpful and went out of his way to test samples,” notes Lashier. Enercon completed several sample runs based on the parameters provided to determine the best sealing heads for sealing two different height bottles at the same time. The end result was a wide, deep tunnel for the shorter bottles and a wide tunnel for the taller bottles, achieving a quality seal on all bottles, regardless of size.
This project is currently underway, and will allow CMOP a new level of flexibility in mailing prescriptions to patients safely and efficiently.