Mr Budzinski, in the pharmaceutical industry, fluidized bed pioneer Glatt is well known for its plant engineering. What are the current priorities for Glatt Ingenieurtechnik?
At Glatt Ingenieurtechnik, we specialize in products and granulation facilities that are used in food and beverage production, as well as in the fields of animal nutrition, chemistry, fine chemistry and biotechnology. We combine in-depth technology expertise with professional engineering know-how to deliver turnkey production solutions, even for greenfield projects.
This concept is currently unique in the market. What issues do your customers present you with?
In principle, our workflow starts in product development, with ideas to improve existing products. Fluidized bed technology is suitable for many challenging issues, whether it’s taste, appearance, smell, texture or tableting related. To cite an example, flavors or vitamins must be protected for further processing, such as during transportation – not only from the point of sale to the customer´s home but on their journey through the gastrointestinal tract as well.
What are the differences between fluidized bed technology and other drying methods?
We get involved at the particle design stage, when small components need to be produced with better margins, such as the optimizing the film thickness of a coating, defining the solubility of an instant product or finding the ideal particle size for dust-free dosing. The key difference is that several fluidized bed-based processes – spray granulation, spray agglomeration, spray coating and spray encapsulation – can all be performed more efficiently compared with alternative methods.
How does the support of product and process development look from the ground?
For reliable production updates, we offer one-week laboratory tests in our technology center in Weimar. Here, our experts work together in teams with the customer’s product developers: on the first day, the ProCell LabSystem laboratory plant is prepared; from the second to the fourth day, we conduct tests and laboratory evaluations; and, on the last day, we discuss the results and provide samples of the new product.
So, do product developers from around the world travel for tests to Weimar?
Customers worldwide both value our extensive facilities here in Weimar and often want to return. This is not always easy and depends on whether a raw material is allowed to be imported into the EU. If an ingredient producer has the necessary expertise, they could loan or buy a ProCell LabSystem. However, our customers keep coming back to Weimar to change, develop or improve their products, particularly because of the personal attention. With project lead times of 1-2 years, repeated trials are not uncommon. An intermediate pilot-plant step might sometimes be necessary, such as for large capacity scale-up projects or when significant quantities of product samples are needed for market tests.
As you say, tests are performed open-ended – meaning they do not automatically lead to an investment contract. If so, what is the workflow?
The next step is the conceptual design that provides an overview of the general conditions, investment costs, operating and ancillary costs, as well as a budgetary estimation. Parallel meetings are held at the new production location and, after basic engineering, we submit a firm quotation. When accepted, we then provide detailed engineering, including all specifications and execution planning. We qualify suppliers, consider offers, place orders, take care of the transportation and supervise the construction and commissioning.
In which currency are contracts concluded?
We work in all the major currencies, mainly Euros and US dollars. Linked to this is a payment plan and a time schedule. Thanks to our experience in international projects, we know how to secure transactions and many other things.
How long does the production of a fluidized bed apparatus take?
It takes 5-8 months on average, although each granulator is unique. We use trusted subcontractors, with whom we’ve worked for many years. For us, manufacturing is extremely important, so we do quality checks on a regular basis.
What are the milestones in plant construction?
Before a plant is handed over, everything is thoroughly tested. After the Factory Acceptance Test, the customer becomes responsible for installation. We provide supervision, monitor the assembly, verify the positioning and carry out interim inspections. We do a Site Acceptance Test on delivery and help with the start-up phase. In the case of warranty parameters, we demonstrate these parameters on-site using the customer’s apparatus in a performance test.
How do you ensure compliance with country specific provisions?
Thanks to our broad presence, we can conduct any appropriate reviews with our own experts. This applies to our American colleagues, who deal with FDA regulations and GMPs, as well as for our Indian team of more than 400 employees, who are well versed with Asian regulations.
In Europe, we take care of issues such as EHEDG, risk analyses and explosion protection, among other things. Moreover, we’ve significantly expanded our capacities in classic white biotechnology at our location in Dresden. For our customers, Glatt’s high standards are key, meaning that the core of our process technology is of German origin.
Initially you mentioned the turnkey factory building…
We supply everything that the process requires, such as solutions for material handling, sanitizing, main pipelines and electricity. We also engineer processes for fermentation, liquid preparations and packing stations. Should a particular building be a problem, we can create engineering designs and supervise construction, anywhere in the world. We have a free hand to choose the appropriate equipment and have already realized turnkey biotech production facilities that are fully equipped with licensed technology.
By the way: material handling, what role do sustainability issues play from a customer perspective?
The resource-efficient use of energy and raw materials is part of our plant concept. Energy recovery systems are easy to implement and bring significant savings. This is widely accepted in Europe, but less so in countries where energy can be used for practically nothing.
And finally, how would you summarize Glatt´s secret of success?
A key point is that we accompany our customers from the very beginning to the end of each project. We meet their needs, starting with the initial idea to develop the product and process together. It’s an approach that’s unique to Glatt. We have the experts, the technological know-how and the infrastructure – that’s the benefit of collaborating with Glatt Ingenieurtechnik.
Thank you for the interview, Mr. Budzinski.
Volker Budzinski is sales director process technology food, feed & fine chemicals at Glatt Ingenieurtechnik in Weimar, Germany.