When a small Belgian contract manufacturer specialising in solid dosage forms and the Integra line of the Marchesini Group met, it was love at first sight. We will explain why in the interview that follows.
The location is Belgium, Antwerp to be precise, where we interviewed Mr Pieter De Waele, Ceo of Laboratoria Wolfs, a specialised contract manufacturing company of solid oral products, both pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals; a business whose mainstays are years of experience in developing and packaging nutraceuticals and proficiency in providing reliable and on-the-ball responses, thanks also to investments made in machinery and equipment to be able to offer incredibly reactive and prompt supplies.
Laboratoria Wolfs was established in 1946 as an independent pharmaceutical laboratory and, at the beginning, produced all types of pharmaceuticals; later, at the beginning of the Eightiesend of the Seventies, it decided to specialise with focus on the solids sector. It was indeed at this time that Frank Peteers appeared, who realised that the secret to success was specialisation. The company was selling its products domestically but also abroad and quite soon started to export generic drugs to countries of the Middle East and Africa too. Around the end of the Nineties, the decision was made to extend the factory and, in 2004, the current premises were inaugurated: a modern factory building built entirely to GMP standards. Right from the start, in addition to generic drugs, Wolf produced nutraiceuticals, again in solid form (capsules and tablets) and, to a smaller extent, bulk granule and bulk blend products. In 2007, further investments were made to purchase new machinery, while the turning point occurred in 2010, when the company changed ownership: the new majority shareholder owner is Miss Annie Vereecken. To maintain its GMP certification, new investments and improvements had to be made in production management: new tablet presses and other machines were purchased and, at the beginning of this summer, the company bought a new packaging line for tablets and hard-gel capsules by Marchesini, “Integra 200”. These operations gave Laboratoria Wolfs the breakthrough to raise its production quality level and to improve the grade of the finished product to be put on the market.
Question: Mr Pieter De Waele, what is your present production capacity?
The factory covers a surface area of 6.000 square meters, of which approximately 4.500 are used for production and packaging, 1.000 for warehousing and the remainder is for the laboratories and offices. In 2011, we produced 350 3.5 million tablets; half of which were Pharma products and the other half Nutraceuticals. We currently have 50 employees. Today, Laboratoria Wolfs is a contract manufacturer by 80% and a producer of its own brand products by 20%, but aims at increasing its business as contract manufacturer even furtherfocusing on small and medium sized batches. One of our many strongholds is the capability to perform all the processes in-house, as we call it ‘from raw material to finished product’. We take care of our customers products from the sourcing of the raw materials until delivery of a finished product ready for the market. Very often we translate our customers idea into a formulation.
Over the last 25 years we build a lot of experience in the area of filmcoating. Still being able to perform sugar coating within GMP circumstances, our strength lies now within the area of filmcoating. Having those years of experience we have gained a lot of knowledge when it comes to filmcoating of different types of products even the most complicated and apparently impossible to coat. including the film and sugar coating processes; we are presently the only ones in Belgium to be able to do the sugar coating in house for contractors. We have been doing it for 25 years and are now equipped to process all possible types of product, even the most complicated and apparently impossible to coat with film. We offer our customers a complete service: we research the raw ingredients, develop the formulation, provide advice on the packaging materials and purchase them, we perform the process, provide for the primary and secondary packaging and deliver the finished product, plus we specialise in small and medium batches. A fundamental aspect for us is flexibility and rooted experience in each step of the production process. Our personnel are trained to develop an extensive number of Pharma products, in oral and solid form, in our own Research & Development laboratoryies.
Question. In brief, why did you choose MG as your supplier/partner?
In September 2010, while we were looking to buy a wrapping machinebundle packer, we received an invitation to visit the Italian factory during the Open House week and we were impressed with the variety of stand-alone machines and packaging lines that Marchesini produces. Among the new machines presented was the Integra 200 blister line and we realised immediately that this line would have satisfiedbe able to satisfy our specific needs: to be able to quickly and simply handle the many size changes we have to face daily and to be able to package small batches of solid products with such differing characteristics. Straight away, we noticed the technological difference between Marchesini and our customary suppliers and, following another trip to Italy to try out the machine with our own products, the head of our packaging division could convince us of the added value of this line for our premises.agreed with us and Integra was ours.
We also purchased a wrapping machine from Marchesini that we have already installed on packaging line for a nutraiceutical productss line. The quality of the bundles obtained is much better than average and, even though our need for bundle packaging is purely logistic, such top quality means that our bundles are suitable for the large-scale retail trade.
Q. What are the strongholds of Marchesini’s Integra200 now it is installed at your factory?
We noticed its specific qualities as soon as we installed it. The capability to control the packaged product is even better than what we expected: the integrated robot does indeed offer us endless possibilities and resolves many of the problems that we had before in transferring the blisters to the cartoning machine; not to forget speed, which is extremely important for us and which we have increased considerably as opposed to the previous machine. Product loading is also better. Its design is just perfect for the GMP standards, with the mechanics enclosed at the rear and the tilted surfaces under the Galenic part where the product runs: all these factors make the life of operators easier and ensure ease-of-cleaning.
We appreciate the technological level developed by Marchesini Group, which translates into substantial advantages for us: for example, the line’s capacity to reset itself and start again after a feasible shutdown without the operator having to intervene each time. To drastically cut shutdown times on one line means to increase the speed and efficiency of the whole plant.
Q. What do you expect from a supplier?
We want a supplier who foresees technological developments and who interprets them, not just one that follows them; a supplier who assists us and helps us reach efficiency and increased production performance, being our top targets. We want a partner who helps us gain the certainties we need for our production processes and who supplies machines capable of keeping production under automatic control, which is indeed what is happening with Integra. The key word is transparency, not just towards the operator in comprehending what is going on, but also in helping us organise the production processes upstream. As a contract manufacturing company, we have to give our customers the certainty that the products delivered from the line are packaged to perfection, tracked and traced correctly and ready to be marketed with the assurance that no further checks are required.
Q. What is the situation of the nutraiceuticals market in Belgium?
Generally speaking, integrators and nutraceuticals will expand greatly in the future. From a production point of view, we have a continuous turnover of products that have a rather short average life on the market of around 3-4 years. They are sold on a large scale in chemists, hence the package has to meet the same requisites as those of a pharmaceutical. For products sold through large-scale retail on the other hand, the critical factor is always the cost and this involves various aspects and issues.
Q. What are Laboratoria Wolfs’s plans for the future?
We intend to fortify our standing as expert contract manufacturing company and to increase our customers in terms of pharmaceutical and nutraceutical contractors. We have outstanding expertise in the nutraiceuticals sector in terms of development, process and packaging, which we want to enhance, without forgetting that we started out as a pharmaceutical laboratory. We have rooted experience in production: we create more than 300 formulations a year: a major figure that we intend extending to the service of our customers, not just in Belgium but also in other countries such as Holland, France, Great Britain and Germany.