Prof Victoire de Margerie: "When crisis is an opportunity for innovation"20 Apr 2014
Leading a company always starts with a strategy: a combination of analysis, vision, intuition, will, focus, consistency and readiness to size opportunities. And it requires resources - both human and financial. But crisis means scarcity of resources. Good teams always find money but what if there is not enough financing to attract or keep a good team?
There comes innovation, even with a technology older than a century! Hot melt extrusion (HME) was invented in the 19th century for the food industry (the famous spaghettis) and then developed as from the 1930s to form and shape various materials: metals, plastics or composites. And Rondol has used its broad knowledge base and considerable experience in related applications in order to innovate and approach a new market: the pharmaceutical industry.
As from 1990 in the US, academic research had started investigating extrusion capability to manufacture drugs. And HME offers precise dosing, content uniformity and good stability at various Ph and moisture levels - all key elements to a process control consistent with the FDA initiative for controlling the manufacturing process through quality control measurement during processing. Not to forget the potential available in terms of automation (continuous process) and reduction of capital investment (extruders less expensive than pressure vessels). But there were no machines specifically adapted to healthcare requirements until 2008.
Innovation indeed means understanding new customers' needs and deciding to invest on satisfying them. Rondol has understood that the pharmaceutical industry required machines with a smaller screw diameter, a longer barrel length to screw diameter and with a system allowing easy clean between production lots. And we have answered those specific requirements first in 2008 while developing for Johnson & Johnson in the USA the first commercial 10mm twin screw extruder (minimum lot size between 50 and 100g), then in 2009 by offering to Abbott in Germany, now Abbvie, an "easy clean" barrel that allows quick access to screws and barrel for cleaning, screw configuration change and unrestricted wipe down thanks to a removable barrel liner and also in 2010 by setting up for Evonik in Germany this same barrel with a length to screw diameter ratio of 40 (the standard ratio is 20) which allows a "soft" extrusion in order to avoid the degradation of formulation ingredients.
But it was not enough for the pharmaceutical industry that demands technology and machines that comply with GMP ("Good Manufacturing Principles"). In 2012 we have therefore decided to launch a range of breakthrough products: the GMP 10 mm twin screw extruder for customers willing to monitor clinical trials, the GMP 21mm twin screw extruder for customers willing to industrialize production of drugs or medical devices, and of course all related GMP downstream equipments: our 5T injection moulding Medika 50, our 10 T full electric compression press etc…