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PharmaMed: Pharma-grade Automation

Tackling old pharma problems with new ideas.

Exterior Pharma Med

Can you provide a brief history of your company?

PharmaMed was founded in 2012 by Walt Stewart and Dustin Hanson. Both had extensive experience in custom automation in the pharma and medical industries. Their vision was to build a company focused on great customer service and where their employees were treated like family. Headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota, we work with clients nationwide, including leaders and world-class brands in the pharmaceutical and medical industries.

Front EntranceWhat sets your company apart in the industry—what makes it shine?

PharmaMed employs Passionate Problem Solvers who can solve even the most complex issues. Their dedication to customers sets them apart from the rest. PharmaMed doesn’t give up and is always willing to work with its customers to get things right. “Our mission is to solve the unsolvable production problems that other engineering firms can’t or won’t, so you can increase efficiency and grow your business.”

What went into the decision to join PMMI?

At PharmaMed, we like the idea of doing things to benefit our employees and our business. We saw the many advantages of PMMI for our employees, like training reimbursement for our employees, name recognition, networking opportunities, and discounts for tradeshows we already attended.

Have you participated in any PMMI programs since becoming a member or have plans to in the future?

 We bought our PACK EXPO 2024 International Booth since becoming a member. While we have not participated in any other programs yet, we plan to take advantage of the employee training and the tuition benefit for continued education in the near future.

What’s your approach to new product development? How do you come up with ideas for new machines and market-test them?

We are always paying attention to the products currently offered by other companies, and we listen to our customers’ needs. This helps us see gaps in the market. When we go to trade shows with sample machines, potential customers always ask us, “Where can we get one of those?”.

How has your product line broadened over the years?Shop 1

We started with one small machine, a brush washer/dryer. Over the past 11 years we have now expanded to offer seven standard products, including the brush washer/dryer: a blister sleever, blister accumulator, vial tray loader, wallet sealer, compact case packer, and robotic syringe denester.

Do your machines incorporate PackML or other OMAC standards? If not, do you plan to do so? 

We haven’t incorporated these standards as of yet, but we are currently looking into Pack ML standards for our machines. We have had customers who ask about this often.

Can you share your annual investment in R+D (% of sales)? 

We always research new technologies and processes when running a custom automation company. We estimate that, on average, 10-20% of sales is directed towards R&D.

Where do you find most of your employees? What sort of background or specific talents/skills do you look for? 

Our philosophy has always been to hire someone with quality personality traits and train them to do the job. We find our employees through multiple channels, including North Dakota State University engineering interns. We are lucky to have a nearby college with a great program where we can get new people. We look for people with good character traits like integrity and respect for others and people who are team players and hard workers.

Why do employees love working for your company?

At PharmaMed, we offer flexible schedules, a caring leadership team, challenging design projects, and a team-oriented atmosphere. We all work together to accomplish each project, and the leadership team works hard to make sure everyone knows their role is important.

How do you balance standardized machine configurations with those requiring customization?

We do mostly custom automation and bring in our other standard products as needed to fit into product lines. Our team of “Passionate Problem Solvers” does an outstanding job merging these together to make one functional line.

Are you incorporating lean manufacturing?

Yes, we incorporate lean manufacturing. PharmaMed has just moved into its new corporate headquarters, and so we have implemented protocols and SOPs to support a more efficient approach to running our business. As a facility, we recycle everything, including in our manufacturing process and operations. We recycle metal shavings, reuse metal that can be repurposed, and other similar things.

How do you approach project management?

We have a dedicated Project Manager for all projects. This person follows the machine design/build and is part of all discussions/communications with the customer throughout the entire project.

Shop 2What’s your process for handling a customer’s initial inquiry and needs assessment? 

When a customer reaches out to us initially and inquires about our products, we listen to their needs. If there is a potential match between the challenge and the solution, we write up a quote and give them an estimated timeline.

Once a customer issues a P.O., what happens next? What can they expect? 

Once the P.O. is issued, we have a 5-step Process for our customers:

        1. Discovery – This is where we learn what our customers' needs are – because we do custom automation, this is a process where we must come up with a custom solution. This is where our Passionate Problem Solvers really shine.

        2. Design and Engineering –

            ·       Project Schedule

            ·       Engineering

            ·       Presentation of design 

            ·       Revision

            ·       Procurement

        3. Assembly and Debug

        4. Delivery and Set up

        5. Ongoing Support

What influences a new machine's turnaround/delivery time, and what happens during this process?

The Project Manager communicates constantly with our customers at all project stages. Influences on a machine’s turnaround time are different for every machine, but can include:

        ·       Current Backlog

        ·       Growth initiative

        ·       Project Scope, size, and difficulty

        ·       Customer changes

        ·       Lead time for parts and other integrated equipment

        ·       Difficulty with product runs

What’s the process for Factory Acceptance Tests?

Because our products are custom-made for the pharmaceutical and medical industry, our FAT process can be quite rigorous.

    ·       Pre-FAT (In order to ensure a successful FAT, all of our machines are put through a Pre-FAT to simulate the test criteria from the customer).

    ·       Customers come on-site to perform the FAT. A detailed FAT protocol was executed during their time on-site.

    ·       Performance runs are completed.

    ·       An action item list is created for any issues.

    ·       Issues are fixed.

    ·       The customer is given proof that the changes are made.

    ·       The machine is then shipped.

 

How do you handle field service and training? Do you have dedicated training personnel, or do Service Technicians typically conduct training?

All PharmaMed machines use our S/S/T Program (Setup, Startup, Training). Field service and training are done by our Service Technicians onsite with the majority of installations.

Do you have PMMI Certified Trainers?

We don’t currently have PMMI Certified Trainers, but it is one of the PMMI offerings that has piqued our interest. Now that we are members, we can work towards it.

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