In 2018, Omnicell, recognized the need to increase capacity at its St. Petersburg, FL, USA, facility and began searching for a flexographic solution to meet market demand. Specializing in high volume blister packaging, Omnicell produces various single and multi-pill packaging products for use in their autonomous pharmacy machines.
“We were at max press capacity with the packaging we were producing in our Florida plant, and we needed to find a new solution to ramp up production,” says Chris Hayes, manufacturing engineer at Omnicell.
Hayes and Omnicell leadership targeted an increase in production capacity while maintaining Omnicell’s quality standards. Hayes, a 10-year industry veteran, laid out clear targets for press manufacturers to meet and evaluated five flexo packaging press OEMs over the course of one year.
For Omnicell, the equipment needed to produce at top speeds for heat seal card applications and cold seal card applications. In addition, there were specific restrictions on the substrate thickness and width in order to effectively produce the complex blister packaging applications in their everyday production. Press speed, local service and support, responsive communication and niche auxiliary equipment were all important considerations when choosing the right press partner, as well.
After rigorous OEM testing and evaluation, Omnicell made the decision in 2019 to purchase an MPS EXL-Packaging 680 flexo press. Omnicell’s MPS EXL-Packaging press is equipped with six flexo stations, reversed flexo and reversed solvent and water-based gravure printing, hot air dryers, Kocher & Beck cassette die stations and three automatic unwinders from Martin Automatic. The press is also equipped with the latest 100% inspection technology from AVT, communicating with the stacker from Gannicott to remove failures immediately during production.
The Omnicell press marks a record length built for MPS, with a length of 118 feet/36 meters. Harm-Jan de Jong, vice president MPS North America, adds, “This has been an exciting project for us, as besides the printing aspect, this press features a lot of integrated embellishment equipment from OEMs that has to all work together smoothly.”
“The MPS press crushed every requirement we had,” adds Hayes.
Manufactured for blister packaging production, up to widths of 26”, the EXL-Packaging press can produce at speeds of over 500 fpm and “can do anything and everything that all other presses at the facility can do, combined,” says Hayes. “It prints better, has quicker changeovers, is fully automated, modular and easy to maintain. Our MPS press is incredible.”
MPS’ service played a big role in the move, as well. With a responsive service and support team, Omnicell has access to the knowledge they need to keep production at a maximum. “In the beginning, we weren’t hitting our production numbers as expected,” notes Hayes. “After speaking with the MPS team, they dedicated one of their field service engineers to our facility to run the press for a full week,” explains Hayes. “It turns out, the press could easily reach our production goals, however our operators were running the system slower than necessary.
“Communication with the MPS team, both in the States and overseas, has been great,” he adds. “Mike Weyermann was a pleasure to work with and gave his word that the MPS press could reach our production goals without a problem. If anyone in our facility needs assistance, we know we can contact Mike, Harm-Jan and the service team, and our requests will be acknowledged within the hour.”
Before the MPS machine, Omnicell had never successfully run a press perform at such high speeds. “The speed is almost intimidating,” Hayes mentions, “but after our MPS technician proved the press can run at record speeds for the long run – with no complications – he trained our operators to do the same, and we began hitting our production goals easily thanks to him and the MPS service team.”
Additionally, the MPS EXL-Packaging press was equipped with MPS’ connectivity solutions, connecting their machine directly to the MPS service team. Hayes states, “Having the ability for MPS technicians to log in and provide remote support, software updates, troubleshooting etc. directly to our machine has been phenomenal.”
According to Hayes, the Omnicell team has reached out to MPS’s remote support team numerous times with changes and ideas and they are always greeted with innovative solutions that meet their needs.
MPS’ willingness to tailor its solutions to the individual needs of the customer played a big role in the investment, too. Through continuous innovation and collaboration, MPS Systems designed a press solution optimized specifically for Omnicell and their future.
“MPS was willing to work with other vendors that specialized in the niche equipment needed to produce complex blister packaging, in a single pass,” states Hayes.
With the new MPS EXL-Packaging 680 press solution, Omnicell is equipped and eager to handle the increasing demands of the pharma packaging market for years to come. “I’d recommend MPS to any converter looking to increase capacity,” concludes Hayes. “Their press technology, service and the whole MPS experience has been incredible. Watching the speed of the machine, the quality of the print and witnessing the variety of applications possible, I know we made the right choice choosing MPS as our press partner.”