Covid-19 responses from Nappy Valley and Schwäbisch Hall
INDEX™20 exhibitors include all the companies who are global leaders in the development of technology for the assembly and packaging of hygienic disposables such as diapers, femcare and adult incontinence products.
Over the past 12 months, these companies have been galvanised into the rapid development of various new solutions to assist in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
Italy was the first country in Europe to be affected by Covid-19 and its numerous specialists in hygienic disposables technology – many of them centred around the Pescara region which is affectionately referred to as ‘Nappy Valley’ – quickly turned their engineering prowess towards the development of converting solutions for facemasks and other desperately required items of PPE for frontline workers.
In April last year, one of the most well-known of these companies, Fameccanica Data, announced its patented FPM-E system for manufacturing surgical masks, guaranteeing high standards of product quality, hygiene and performance. The FPM-E was also designed to be installed in record time and its output to be maximised very quickly.
In May, Italy’s Special Commissioner signed an agreement to supply the government with 25 of these lines.
“This project was based on an extraordinary industrial, technological and human commitment and was born in response to service to the country in a moment of extreme difficulty,” said Fameccanica’s General Manager Alessandro Bulfon “We quickly designed and built a technology which combines high speed with the end product’s ability to overcome the limits of finding raw materials.”
By September, as part of the government agreement, Fameccanica was able to announce the stable and large-scale start of production and delivery from four of these lines, of the first batch of over 3.5 million surgical masks from Luxottica, at the temporarily converted PalaLuxottica building – initially created as a hub for networking and socio-cultural events – in Agordo, Biella.
The PalaLuxottica operation has subsequently been operating 24/7, producing around three million masks on a daily basis.
“The agreement with Luxottica and Fameccanica to make our country increasingly autonomous in the production of surgical masks is a virtuous example of collaboration between private companies and public institutions at such a delicate time in the country’s life,” said Italy’s Extraordinary Commissioner for Emergency COVID-19 Domenico Arcuri. “At the beginning of the pandemic, Italy had almost no production of facemasks. Today we are practically self-sufficient and we are the only country in the world now delivering 11 million face masks a day, free of charge, to schools.”
Optima, headquartered in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, is a leading supplier of packaging systems for hygiene products, but also of those for the pharmaceutical and medical sectors.
As such, it was very quickly able to offer fully-automated manufacturing machines with different performance levels for facemasks and respirators. Tried and tested packaging systems with different performance levels were flexibly adapted to the packaging of disposable protective masks.
Optima is also a manufacturer of special filling machines for vials of drugs and had already delivered one of these systems to Catalent, a supplier of medicines, clinical trial materials and health products, at its Biologics facility in Bloomington, Indiana.
Catalent has been entrusted with the processing of more than 75 Covid-19-related compounds, including antivirals, vaccines, diagnostics and treatments across its biologics, gene therapy, oral technologies, softgel and clinical supply businesses.
In order to deliver a second such vial-filling system to Catalent last August, Optima was obliged to pull out all the logistical stops at its disposal, working with partners Pfizer – responsible for the first vaccine in the world to receive approval and be administered – and German freight forwarders Fracht FWO and Kübler.
The first components of the line had already been shipped to the US at the beginning of August but there then followed weeks of planning and challenges to resolve, before an Antonov An-124 cargo aircraft was finally chartered and took off from Liège, Belgium for Chicago at the end of August.
On board was the rest of the Optima equipment, weighing a total of 38,000kg, packed into 15 crates. Seven heavy trucks were needed to transport the equipment to the airport.
Optima reports that it has learned a lot from the challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic but has discovered many new solutions. Proven technologies have been adapted along the way, and new ones have been created, while digital technologies have continued to gain in importance.
The company has now opened its new Digital Innovation Centre and launched its new Smart Services package. Specifically, virtual machine acceptance tests have ensured that many systems were delivered on time during the crisis, but made necessary the most complex acceptance procedure in the company’s history. Over 30 customer employees from the USA followed every step of the virtual factory acceptance test every day.
There will be plenty of new experiences to be shared by exhibitors at INDEX™20 following all that has been learned over the last year.