For Andrew Lamore, the reason why Bürkert Fluid Control Systems is so appreciated by its pharmaceutical customers is down to a question of attitude. Founded in Germany, the company has maintained a consistent emphasis on quality in its goods and services.
"I think, fundamentally, that we're a bunch of small-town people that grew into a worldwide market leader," he explains over the phone from the company's office in Huntersville, North Carolina, US. "We are a big company, with the best technology in the world, but we're in this little valley in the middle of South Germany, where smalltown values are close to our hearts."
Notwithstanding the remote location of its US office, Bürkert has worked hard over the past half-century to establish itself as one of the world's leading suppliers of measurement and control systems for liquids and gases. As a manager in the company's hygienic segment, and a chair of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers: Bioprocessing Equipment, Lamore is privy to the engineering alchemy behind the company's products, and the rising demand for Bürkert's instruments, valves, sensors and controllers.
It begins with the decrease in the number of new pharmaceuticals entering the market in recent years. "It's clear: no big breakthrough drugs have come out in the past decade," explains Lamore. "When you've got a pharmaceutical company with massive infrastructure that buys a smaller firm, or a firm of any size that wants to expand their current facility, they're going to have an issue with integration and will have a significant knowledge gap."
Enter Bürkert Fluid Control Systems. Lamore and his colleagues are experts who specialise in the enhancement of process automation for their clients in the pharmaceutical sector. By partnering with the firm in refitting laboratories and warehouses with its fluid control systems, pharmaceutical companies of all sizes can influence their product's quality, visibility and consistency for the better. "The inherent flexibility of our product range means you have so many options to choose from," says Lamore.
One of the most popular choices for Bürkert customers is the ELEMENT diaphragm valve. "It's well known in the industry that we have the best positioner and the best automated control valve on the market," Lamore explains. All of the ELEMENT valves are made of stainless steel and can be fitted at any time with a 8693 modulating process controller. This allows the user to visualise readouts on the working state of the system from a distance, thereby decentralising automation and boosting efficiency for the client. "It gives customers the ability to take a process variable and connect it directly to a diaphragm valve," Lamore says. "It's an extremely flexible, yet intuitive system, which can be set up for full proportional-integral -derivative control and, at a later date, reconfigured to work in a traditional centralised control scheme, all while not breaching the sterile envelope."
Other successes for Bürkert include the creation of a new formulation line for insulin vials at Novo Nordisk's plant in Chartres, France. Again, the success of the new line hinged on the concept of decentralised automation, where any intelligence derived from success or failure during the production of the vials is integrated into the company's engineered Systemhaus solution, which also implements several features, including position feedback, bus communications and pneumatic control into one system. As a result, information on the system no longer needs to be located far away in a control cabinet.
It is this kind of innovative engineering solutions that mark Bürkert out in a market that prizes new and sophisticated ways of automating control systems, and gleaning data from individual processes as a result. This shift in priorities is one that Lamore describes as similar to buying a new car today: a decade ago all customers wanted was a car that started, now they demand Wi-Fi interconnectivity as standard when purchasing a new vehicle. "We're seeing that same trend in the pharmaceutical sector," he says. "The ability to automate and enhance the way data is interpreted by pharmaceutical manufacturers is going to determine their ability to compete in a global market."