The Bachem Group is a listed technology company specializing in peptide chemistry. Focus is placed on the development of innovative, efficient manufacturing processes and the production of peptide-based active pharmaceutical ingredients. Biochemicals for research purposes as well as exclusive customer compositions round off the product range. With subsidiaries in Europe, the US and Asia, the company employs more than 1,000 people, operates worldwide and generated sales of CHF 261.6 million in 2017. This represents an increase of 10.6 percent compared to the previous year.
Challenging industry-specific features
“Operational excellence” is a maxim that the partner of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry is committed to. And this means Bachem attaches great importance to quality and innovation – both in production and logistics. “The project task was to build a warehouse at the center of the company site, which maximized storage capacity. In addition to storage rooms for specific storage classes (e.g. acids or alkalies) or storage conditions (e.g. cold storage cells), we also opted for two fully automatic high-bay warehouses – one each for solids and liquids. These offer the possibility to store products in accordance with the qualified conditions of the pharmaceutical guidelines, to quarantine and release them, and to store a maximum number of products within the space available to us with as few employees as possible,” explains Oliver Tretzack, project manager at Bachem AG. Since liquid materials with a low flash point are stored in the high-bay warehouse, explosion protection requirements were also placed on the equipment used for this.
Stöcklin Logistik AG, also located in the Basel area, was awarded the contract for implementation.
“A decisive factor for awarding the contract was a large number of automated reference systems, which have been in use successfully in the pharmaceutical industry for many years now, sometimes in a potentially explosive atmosphere,”
says Hans D. Koch, project manager responsible for the Swiss intralogistics system supplier. The latter also had to be taken into account when constructing Bachem’s new storage facility for liquid materials. In addition to the Machinery Directive, both the requirements of the Explosion Protection Directive and the EMC directive, which deals with the electromagnetic compatibility of equipment, had to be complied with.
Lean and safe processes thanks to automation
After the contract was awarded in May 2017, the new complete system was accepted in October 2018 and put into productive operation. A 20.4-meter-long MASTer-18T pallet crane, which is designed for double-depth racking and which serves 468 storage slots, is used in the solids warehouse, where less critical goods are stored than in the liquid materials warehouse. A single-motor, 2-tine telescopic fork ensures the pallets can be stored in a space-saving manner on cap profiles. The 17.7-meter-high pallet crane is designed for loads of up to 600 kg.
The conveyor system of the high-bay warehouse for solids is identical on the first floor and third floor. Pallets to be stored are loaded lengthwise onto a hydraulic lifting device by means of a hand pallet truck and the labels are scanned by the operator. The load carriers are then lifted to the conveyor belt level and conveyed through a profile checker to the turn table. Here the weight is measured and recorded. If these parameters are OK, the load carriers are lifted, rotated by 90° and conveyed to the high-bay warehouse. During onward transport to the high-bay warehouse, these special hygienic pallets, which are sealed all round, pass through a rapid-action fire protection door and moved to the pick-up station, where they are placed on the pallet crane. The same conveyor elements are used for removing pallets from storage. The average handling rate is 30 pallets per hour. The facility is operated over a period of 12 hours, five days a week.
Explosion protection requirements covered throughout
The storage system for liquids has also been designed for precisely this throughput capacity. However, in this environment several restrictions had to be taken into consideration due to statutory provisions. As a result, the facility was designed in accordance with the provisions of the Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC), the Explosion Protection Directive (2014/34/EU) and the EMC Directive (2014/30/EU). “The pallet crane in use there was set up in explosion protection zone 2 in the floor area, from the floor to a height of two meters,” says Hans D. Koch. In addition, the system was designed in accordance with temperature class 4. Another explosion protection zone is located in the preliminary zone of the high-bay warehouse on the first floor, from the floor to a height of one meter. In this area, the drives as well as the sensors and the profile control system had to be provided with explosion protection. As a further safety measure, the decentralized electrical cabinet, control panels and the drive motor for the door in the liquid materials area were installed above the explosion protection zone.
The 260 pallet positions in the liquid materials warehouse are approached by a 17.7-meter-high MASTer 24-DT pallet crane with a fixed 2-tine telescopic fork for single depth storage, which is designed for loads of up to 1,400 kg. Chemical pallets and europallets are used as load carriers. The material is stored in intermediate bulk containers (IBC) of various height classes, which are made of steel or polyethylene and attached centrally to the pallets. This ensures an even load distribution. A special feature is that IBCs of type 1 (1245 x 840 mm) with a maximum weight of 1400 kg can also be conveyed without being placed on pallets. However, type 2 in steel (1220 x 1020 mm) and type 3 in polyethylene (1200 x 1000 mm), each with a capacity of 1000 liters, need to be transported on pallets.
Intelligent inventory management and material flow control
The conveyor system of the high-bay warehouse, which was specially designed for liquid materials, was installed on the first floor. This means that pallets received in the incoming goods area can be loaded onto a chain conveyor with rigid pallet centering for three different pallet types using electric stackers. Following this, the width of the respective pallet is measured and the dimensions of the load and pallet cavity as well as the weight of the load carrier are checked. If no errors are identified, it is moved to the high-bay warehouse for storage.
The flow of the new central warehouse of Bachem in Bubendorf is more or less managed by StöcklinWMS (Warehouse Management System) with the integrated StöcklinWCS module (Warehouse Control System), which is connected to SAP WM via an interface. This manages stock in the high-bay warehouse, from the receipt of goods to their subsequent release. Batches, durability data and serial numbers are also taken into account, among other things. The material flow computer, on the other hand, which is equipped with a visualization system, manages the entire material flow, taking daily requirements into account.
Convincing fire protection concept implemented
“Fire protection was also a topic that could not be underestimated, especially in the case of Bachem,” adds Hans D. Koch. Both the solid and liquid storage facilities are equipped with escape routes and sprinklers on the shelves. Furthermore, Stöcklin also installed three rapid-action fire protection doors. These were equipped with an emergency power battery pack, which means the areas next to the fire doors can be cleared in the event of both a gas and fire alarms and the associated power failure. “The fire protection door in the explosion protection area has the highest priority, and is the first to be closed in the event of a gas or fire alarm,” says the project manager. The two doors in the storage area for solids are then closed.
Operational excellence, also in relation to intralogistics
With the construction of the new central warehouse, Bachem has now brought together under one roof the intralogistics processes that are required for the proper handling of preliminary pharmaceutical products and active ingredients, while at the same time further optimizing safety aspects.
“The fully automated system solution implemented for the timely and demand-based supply of materials for production purposes meets our expectations, and Stöcklin also met the agreed deadline,”
emphasizes Bachem project manager Oliver Tretzack. “The new high-bay warehouse supports our growth strategy and will make a contribution towards further expanding our leading global position in the peptide market.”