Lean Transformation of a ULT line

ULT freezer bank

One of our customers was looking for help to improve the efficiency of their Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) freezer line. They were performing a lean transformation of the line. The demand for ULT freezers had doubled in 2020 because these freezers are used to store COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer was recommending that their vaccine be stored at -70 Celsius, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recommended storage temperatures of -20 to 8 Celsius. One of the Manufacturing Engineers was leading a mission-based team to streamline the ULT line.

ULT freezer

Ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers are essential to any lab environment, as they play a critical role in helping to ensure the safe storage of precious samples. Operating within the -50°C to -80°C range, ULTs are used to store a variety of analytes and products, from biospecimen samples to enzymes and drugs.

The engineer requested Newell Automation’s support to improve the throughput of the foaming process.  One of our Senior Controls Engineer and our Account Manager reviewed the operation of the foaming jigs. They determined that we could improve the process by replacing the two-hand machine control with a momentary push button control and upgraded safety devices.  We proposed installing vertical light curtains on the loading side of the three foaming jigs and reprogramming the PLCs to sequence the machine with a single momentary push button press.  The proposal was accepted, and we scheduled and completed the work over two Saturdays to avoid any disruption to their production schedule.

This upgrade has improved Takt time by allowing the operator to perform other tasks while the machine is cycling.  The upgrade has also improved machine safety.  The light curtains act as an emergency stop and ensure that no one, including another operator, enters the hazardous area while the machine is actuating.