1. What is the technical approach of FPS?
The strength of FPS is certainly its flexibility and its commitment to guarantee complete customer satisfaction. Each project is different from the next and the solution we offer is always tailor-made based on the customer needs and constraints; to achieve this, the technical department must always be prepared, committed to continuous learning and eager to find new technical solutions for designing the next project. The design is done 100% in-house by the technical department. To achieve the best collaboration, we nurture a unique culture shared by the entire design team: the mechanical designers, the electrical designers and the software designers. We have also implemented tools to speed up and simplify the design phase and to support the continuous exchange of information and technical solutions. The combination of culture and tools maximize design flexibility and stimulate the designers to search for increasingly innovative solutions. For the design of each new system, a technical project team is created at project kick off. It is made of a mechanical, an electrical and a software designer. Their task is to drive the development of the system from the beginning to the installation at the customer. All of which is coordinated by a Project manager.
2. FPS believes in continuous training and knowledge sharing. How do these values apply for the technical part?
It is clear to us that the best tool to be competitive on the market is to have trained and specialized technicians in containment; for this reason, we have created our own training courses: some courses are for new hires and others for technicians with years of experience at FPS. Also each new hire will benefit from the support of a tutor who will provide practical guidance. Training on the operation of the process equipment and their process itself will follow, managed by a staff with decades of experience in these areas; the goal is to convey the experience and passion for the job that the new employee will then carry over once this process is completed. Finally, the last step involves the integration in the technical department and allowing the successful trainee to get a high degree of independence in his/her daily tasks. And for technicians with experience, there are also plans for growth, continuous learning and specializations. FPS collaborates with technical institutes specializing in career guidance for newly graduated students interested in the technical/industrial sector. The goal is to convey passion and stimulate their desire to grow professionally.
3. How did you deal with the lock-down period at an organizational level? What steps have been taken?
FPS promptly reacted to this emergency by taking all the necessary measures required by the government authorities to protect its employees and customers. Where possible, smart-working activities were put in place and the production areas were redesigned in order to guarantee the required social distancing. The technical office has reacted very well to this new way of working (from home). The group dynamic and professionalism have made it possible to maintain the performance of the design group. As a result, projects continued almost normally and despite the difficult situation at the time. Also orders for new systems kept coming so the activity didn’t really suffer much.
4. During the emergency COVID-19 FPS presented a Swab Testing Station. Where did the idea come from?
We were inspired by a solution adopted in South Korea that was the first nation to use a "barrier" to perform swab tests by limiting contacts between patients and health care workers. FPS immediately wanted to take an active role and make a contribution to help with the health care crisis. Drawing on almost two decades of experience in the field of containment, a dedicated FPS team built the first cabin to work as buffers with maximum safety both for the patient and for the operator while carrying on dozens of Covid swab test per hour. I had the pleasure to personally contribute to the design of this cabin. Within 10 days we completed the design, built and test of this new protection system and I am very proud of the result.
5. What were the last significant projects?
We recently designed a high containment isolator for micronization: a multipurpose isolator used to micronize down to a few microns. It can accommodate a wide range of batch sizes and it ensures a containment performance target (CPT) of 50 ng/m3. A 4 ", 8" or 12" JetMill can be installed inside the isolator. To achieve this very high containment level, the isolator is made of 9 chambers on 3 different levels. In terms of dimensions, it is one of the largest isolators installed in the United States. The isolator design follows ergonomic principles and is optimized to significantly reduce maintenance and cleaning times. For example, with the 4" JetMill configuration, only 3 of the 9 chambers are used. This means that at the end of the batch, cleaning should only be done for 3 chambers. The machine is fully automated with a central control system and HMI touchscreen panels. The software is developed internally and completely customized depending on the customer needs and optimized to be easy to use. The project first milestone was the initial drawing, followed by a full week of simulation tests which led to the final GA and P&ID drawings. After a few months of manufacturing and assembly came the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT). Installation and validation activities will be performed by our dedicated customer support team during the summer of 2020.
6. What about the future?
We have embarked on a design and R&D process with an important actor in the packaging sector. The goal is to create high containment systems for pharmaceutical packaging. In addition, we are also growing in sterile applications and are experiencing good success there. Finally we are looking forward to 2021 when we will be introducing further technological innovations, which will be presented at the ACHEMA 2021 fair in Frankfurt. Stay tuned!