Suite success

Refurbishment usually means downtime, but when the central dispensary of the Paisley facility of Life Technologies needed a makeover, the Easter holiday gave Hosokawa Micron the break it needed

Five state-of-the-art containment suites for compounding, installed in record time

Refurbishment usually means downtime, but when the central dispensary of the Paisley facility of Life Technologies needed a makeover, the Easter holiday gave Hosokawa Micron the break it needed.

In times of increasing economic volatility, it is important for manufacturers to be flexible in their business approach. This is true not only for suppliers of capital equipment but also for the end users whose own products must get to either their clients or the marketplace within a set time frame. A constant 24/7 production schedule frequently means suppliers of consumable goods have limited periods for equipment upgrades. Such was the case at Life Technologies, Paisley, a subsidiary of the global biotechnology tools company Life Technologies, which provides products daily and worldwide to hundreds of thousands of scientists in fields as diverse as personalised medicine, forensics and biofuels.

Life Technologies specialises in anticipating the needs of the scientific community to facilitate the quality, scope and speed of research – which, by its very nature, moves at a challenging pace and with a sense of urgency that, in turn, propels the innovation process of Life Technologies.

So, when the central dispensary suite of downflow booths at Life Technologies needed upgrading, this sense of urgency was evident as the room is normally in use for three shifts, five days a week, with some weekend working – a severely reduced production schedule was not an option.

Life Technologies planned for a complete suite makeover during the Easter 2009 shutdown. It was then necessary to find a partner for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of the replacement booths with whom the company could be assured of both quality and the ability to manage the project within the given time frame. From an initial enquiry at the start of January 2009, technical specifications were developed and, after a stringent selection process, Hosokawa Micron was awarded the contract on 26 January, leaving just 54 days to the start of site installation.

Both the Life Technologies project team, headed up by Elaine Ritchie, and the Hosokawa Micron project team were quick to arrange a site meeting and develop the booth design concept – the replacement of four aging downflow booths with five, state-of-the-art containment suites. The client’s requirements were specific in order to meet its very high cGMP standards and an ‘off-the-shelf’ booth design was not feasible. There were also certain room constraints (as with any facility upgrade) that needed to be taken into consideration, not least the support columns that seemed to have been located in the most awkward positions, appearing always to be in front of at least one booth doorway.

A solution was eventually found and all five of the 2m wide recirculation format booths were located along one wall as required by Life Technologies. In-fill panels between each booth were designed so that externally, the appearance was of a continuous stainless steel wall interspersed with glass doors.

Of paramount importance to the design was the reduction in potential cross-contamination between the booths. Hosokawa’s solution was to provide sliding glass doors to each booth yet still retain the requisite make up air facility required for the booth operation. Furthermore, the doors would be operated via touchless sensors, again reducing the potential for cross-contamination. In addition, the design had to incorporate a wealth of IT equipment necessary to track and log the material being dispensed (both in liquid and powder form), all of which had to be hidden or of cGMP design and incorporated within the rear wall of every booth.

With a design concept finalised, Hosokawa Micron developed both the booth and room general arrangement drawings within a week of the site meeting. These were immediately approved at the original revision, confirming that the initial design discussions had proved invaluable in getting the required input from the project teams and future users.

A concentrated manufacturing period followed, including procurement of third party items such as motors and fans, all to be delivered in time for build up and Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT). Close monitoring of the project schedule and anticipation of potential slippages or delays was imperative. The plan was routinely updated to keep all concerned informed.

Despite a few minor problems along the way, the acceptance testing was undertaken as planned on the 31 March, just 45 days from purchase order award and only a concept of the design. Having accomplished the first major milestone on time there were a few days respite while the Hosokawa Micron installation team stripped and packed the booths ready for onward transportation.

As the production staff finished for the planned shutdown on Thursday evening, the Life Technologies contractors worked through the night to strip out the room ready for the installation crew arriving with the wagons on the Friday. The build required a great deal of co-operation with the number of personnel involved not just for the build but also electrical, IT and room finishing. The staggered build allowed commissioning to be undertaken literally as each booth was completed, with the last booth commissioned on day six. Final finishing of the room necessitated removing the sliding glass doors while the new floor was poured and allowed to set. Even this did not create a problem as the doors were re-hung on the Sunday, final tests performed and the booths signed off ready for the start of the working week.

The Life Technologies production staff coming in for the 6:00am shift had something of a shock on their return to work. They had left a rather tired and well-worn room and returned to a bright, new, state-of-the-art-facility all within a few days (and nights).

Hosokawa’s demonstration of flexibility in both design and project execution together with the proven quality resulted in Life Technologies returning to the company directly for a further booth for its quality facility. Fortunately there was a lesser sense of urgency and a slightly more generous time frame and booth number six has recently been successfully installed and commissioned.