Syntegon’s goal is to make life easier for consumers, patients and customers. This is especially important in times of crisis like the current Corona pandemic. When travel restrictions reduce personal contact to a minimum, other means of communication are required to make sure that time-critical projects do not come to a standstill. Working from home and holding meetings online were obvious alternatives in many business contexts. But what about formats that should be taking place on site?
Customers usually come to the manufacturer’s plant for an FAT (Factory Acceptance Tests). During Corona restrictions, however, this is not always possible. Together with a large US-based pharmaceutical contract manufacturer, Syntegon took the opportunity to transfer the FAT of a new GKF 1400 ASB 100% capsule filling machine with automatic troubleshooting to the virtual level.
Overcoming distances thanks to AR
Although it is no technical novelty, the virtual FAT and especially the use of Augmented Reality (AR) was a premiere for many participants. Instead of just communicating with the customer via webcam, Noah Ochs, the technician from Syntegon, used a Microsoft HoloLens. “The customers see on their screens exactly what I see through the glasses. At first it felt a bit strange having to pay attention to how I hold my head and hands,” he explains.
But Noah also had a great advantage: apart from his sound technical expertise, he already had experience with Virtual Reality (VR) – and the desire to test new technology in his working environment. In addition to the HoloLens glasses, Noah was also filmed by a webcam. This way the customer always had an optimal overview of what was going on.
A method with future potential
Despite the special circumstances, the team needed only two and a half days for the virtual FAT. “The process included all the typical steps of an FAT at Syntegon and was of course performed as thoroughly as usual,” explains project manager Paola Perri. “Although the preparations of a virtual FAT with live broadcasting were a bit more complex due to the legal and technical specifications, everything went very well.”
The effort even paid off twice: since the flexible and modular design of the GKF 1400 ASB 100% provides highly versatile filling options for a wide variety of product types, fast format changes are particularly important. Noah Ochs performed such a changeover live “on camera”. The customer can use the recording for internal training purposes. Paola Perri is convinced that virtual test and training formats will become more and more common in the future. “This method definitely has future potential beyond Corona – even if it will never replace personal contact with our customers.”