Vial manufacturer, ampoule producer…and glass equipment builder. Faced wth the prospect of purchasing expensive European glass production technology, Kapoor Glass decided on a unique approach: it would customise the machinery itself. Greg Morris spoke to Udit and Dhruv Kapoor about the company’s success.
Pharmaceutical glass manufacturer Kapoor Glass was recently awarded the CK Somany award for Innovation and Technology by the All India Glass Manufacturers Association (AIGMF) for its work in progressing the industry forward.
AIGMF judges commended the company in developing a variety of customised glass manufacturing equipment which has enabled it to compete with large European corporations in the pharmaceutical glass sector, where quality standards are incredibly stringent.
Judges congratulated Kapoor Glass Director, Udit Kapoor, for the company’s development of an ‘indigenous hot-end camera system, along with operating software, to achieve online automation control over key production parameters to end up with quality production of glass vials of international standards.’
Among the systems that Kapoor developed were a hot-end camera inspection unit for ampoules, a cold-end inspection system for glass vials as well as a cosmetic inspection system for vials.
The award was the culmination of a strategy adopted by the company in 2010 to focus on the European pharmaceutical market. It meant producing high quality glass to meet the demanding standards of European customers but often at lower - or ‘Chinese’ - prices
Mr Kapoor said it was a privilege to be recognised by the AIGMF.
He said: “It was a real honour to get that kind of recognition, we had been chipping away working in our back yard and then to get that recognition at a global scale was testament to our team, staff, management, supplier partners and vendors. Everyone came together and it means a big deal to us to get that recognition.
“We had sent in the AIGMF submission without really expectng to win. When we got the call telling us we had won we were completely surprised. Judges said we were the most interesting company. When they saw our submission a lot of the big players in the Indian industry realised they were importing this equipment without realising it was being made in their own back yard.”
The hot end camera system, called Dimension+, was developed as a result of the increase in the speeds of ampoule filling lines and the resulting requirements of dimensional accuracy, inspection quality standards and thus reliability of its products.
The system was completely developed in house including the software development and all mechanical components.
The system has proven results at operating speeds of up to 100 ampoules/minute with rejections lower than 1% and a standard deviation of lower than 0.05mm on the stem/sealing diameter of the ampoule and closer dimensional tolerances for constriction and bulb diameters.
This results in an improved opening of ampoules by medical organisations with consistent pressures and a lower generation of glass particles.
Mr Kapoor said the company had changed strategy approximately a decade ago when it decided to focus on the European pharmaceutical market.
Kapoor worked with established European glass technology manufacturers, such as Italy’s OCMI, France’s Modern Mecanique and Germany’s Ambeg, to purchase forming equipment.
It would then purchase hardware such as cameras and robots from leading suppliers around the globe. Finally, its team of in-house engineers would customise the equipment to meet the company’s specific requirements.
It was at first a steep learning curve for the company.
Udit, pictured below left, said: “We started slowly but we learnt a lot very quickly! We went to Japan, we went to the main companies in these sectors and learnt all the intricate details about the processes.
“Our policy was to buy only the best hardware becaue it solves 90% of the problems. We have a good electronics team and we believe some of the best software engineers in the world are in India now. We would buy the equipment, the software engineers would then write a programme to make it all work and then we would integrate it.
“You have to give customers what they want and our customers want the best. The software has to be fleixble because no two customers want the same thing. All the equipment which we build and design and implement has to be adaptable, especially when we have global customers with different standards.”
Dhruv added: “The quality required by customers are changing every day as the world moves towards zero defect.
“It means we have to continuously innovate, we are always trying to get better. We continuously ask ourselves how are we better today compared to where we were yesterday? It is our mantra. There is a continuous improvement mindset which is basically how do we get to zero defect?”
A case of innovation was the recent implementation of the cosmetic inspection systems for glass vials, highlighted by AIGMF judges.
A customised system from European supplers would not have justified the cost. Instead the group designed a conveyor which included a six-axis robot which could identify and track each vial on the conveyor, special non-polymer grippers, a telecentric lens to avoid parallax errors, four high speed cameras which could take at least 25 images per vial, and special lighting to see the highest contrast between the mark to be detected reliably.
The system that it is now to be the blueprint for a succession of conveyors, which will be adopted throughout its facilities in the future.
Udit is the third generation of the Kapoor familty to work at the company. A graduate of Southampton University, UK where he completed a degree in Electrical Engineering, he joined the company 17 years ago.
The company was formed in 1962 by Dharmender Kapoor and has been 100% family owned since. Father Sanjeev Kapoor. was the second generation of the family to serve the business and is its Managing Directeor today.
After originally focusing on the domestic Indian market it now serves 32 countries with Western Europe its largest region.
It had previously been a domestic supplier but after the expansion of overseas corporate giants into the Indian market, coupled with the importation of Chinese vials and ampoules, it changed tact.
Udit’s brother Dhruv joined the company in 2016 after completing a degree in Electrical Engineering from Cranfield University, UK. He is currently its Commercial Director.
The group will expand into a new facility located across the road from its Mumbai manufacturing hub at the end of this year.
The move to Unit 3 will increase the company’s manufacturing capacity to 2 million pieces a day. The hub will focus on the production of cartridges for the insulin and dental sectors in particular and create up to 75 new jobs.
An important aspect of the glass manufacturing facility will be its focus on Industry 4.0-related production equipment and automation. The facility will have to room for expansion into the Ready to Use (RTU) vial sector and the company already has plans for a pilot line in this regard.
Dhru said: “The new faciity is where we are really trying to build something unique, where everything is online and focused on Industry 4.0.”
The company plans to expand its footprint back into India. While 90% of its production is currently exported, it plans to sell more to the domestic market. It is exploring new manufacturing facilities in north and south India in order to cut lead times to customers.
The Indian healthcare market had started to transition towards higher standards even before the pandemic, but has accelerated since lockdowns.
“About 15 years ago the company changed lanes and focused on the west. There has been a shift in the domestic market and we want to be involved again. Indian customers want better quality products in healthcare and lifestyle. Now, without distrubing our export business we aim to grow our footprint in India,” said Dhruv.
“We are very humbled by where our product goes, it is pharmaceutical, it is the lifesaving business that we are in so our main aim is not to let our customers down no matter what.”
Kapoor Glass India, Navi Mumbai, India