A comprehensive suite of digitally enhanced Remote Service options heralds a new era of communication, interactive dialogue and immersive virtual reality experiences for GEA pharmaceutical clients.
Based on in-house solutions, application-specific collaborations and established partnerships with its pharmaceutical customers — wherever they are in the world — GEA now offers a digital portfolio of Remote Services that facilitates more effective communication and interaction, minimizes the need to travel and, at the same time, expedites project execution. This platform contains process simulations, digital twins, augmented/virtual reality (VR) systems and remote support solutions that provide the perfect environment for digitally enabled project execution and delivery.
“COVID-19 and the resulting travel and contact restrictions were a timely, albeit unplanned, test for our Remote Services, which have exceeded all expectations regarding customer acceptance and experience, time savings and effectiveness,” notes GEA’s Heinrich Meintrup, Head of BU Pharma & Healthcare, adding: “As such, we’re now offering them as our new business standard and will continue to expand our offering concerning Remote Services.”
“Our aim with the digital platform is to be closer to our customers and their needs, encourage more interactive dialogue and become a more agile solution provider. During the sales phase, for example, we can explain and walk the customer through the plant of interest using virtual reality. Furthermore, we’ve equipped our test centers with video cameras and conferencing facilities that lets clients participate in live product testing without being present,” he says.
Once an order has been placed, the same tools can be used during the process execution phase to facilitate remote meetings, design reviews and regular status updates. “As the interaction is more focused, both sides can easily bring the required expertise into the meetings and act faster. It’s much more hands-on and collaborative, resulting in a more positive customer experience and a clearer understanding of what GEA will deliver. All in all, it improves both the speed and efficiency of the process for all parties,” comments Heinrich.
Plus, important project milestones, such as factory acceptance tests (FATs), can now be completed online. The benefit of remote tools and the ability to offer online support also extends to site work, including installation and IQ/OQ testing at the customer’s premises.
GEA has also partially digitized its training program and made it less dependent on the availability of physical equipment. VR tools can now be used that show operators how to (dis)assemble and operate machinery even before it’s installed onsite and digital twins provide a realistic equipment handling experience in terms of operating, cleaning and maintaining plant.
In addition, the application of Computational Fluid Dynamics and the Discrete Element Method has facilitated the development of high-fidelity virtual models of GEA’s research and manufacturing equipment, which represents a rapid, low-cost alternative to traditional research programs based on the physical testing of equipment. They also allow for the aggressive and risk-free investigation of process boundaries.
“In the ever-more digital age, online tools offer a wide range of ways to access, share and disseminate information,” concludes Heinrich. “As we navigate the new normal and go beyond the restrictions put in place by COVID-19, such as social distancing and remote working, I am sure that these proven cyberspace-enabled concepts will allow us to work more efficiently, faster and sustainably in the collaborative world of pharmaceutical research, development and production. GEA now offers a smarter way to collaborate.”