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Increasing Capacity: API Cycle Time Reduction

29% increase in line capacity demonstrated, following a 5 month project across 5 key assets


Pharmaceuticals – API Manufacturing (GMP certified)

Project Length

5 months - 1 consultant working with a client team


  • Increase Line 1 output by 25% to consolidate production of API X on this line, freeing up capacity from other lines
  • Cycle time reductions required at 5 assets to achieve line capacity target


  • High-capacity trials demonstrated 29% uplift in capacity for Line 1
  • Cycle times reduced at all five assets, including 25% and 33% reductions at two key assets
  • A suite of production monitoring and data visualisation tools was created and refined alongside the production team to highlight further opportunities and prevent results slipping. These structures were handed over to client team before project end 

Why was Chartwell brought on board?

The site team recognised a large, immediate opportunity to increase sales if all production of API X could be consolidated onto a single line.

Upgrading the existing line with CapEx would be prohibitively expensive and long lead-time, so a Chartwell Opportunity Scan was performed to see how much could be achieved with the existing assets.

The Scan showed enough opportunity to consolidate all production without the need for CapEx, and the team set out and delivered an improvement program which confirmed this was the case


Core Project Workstreams

Improvements to Reactor 1 - Reduce Vacuum Distillation by 33%

  • Using a Variable Tree Modelling approach and historical data, the team built a detailed understanding of the key levers governing the vacuum distillation process and the optimal conditions
  • Structured trials were run to find a new procedure that was simple for the operators, repeatable, safe and also had a reduced cycle time.
  • Working with the team, this improved procedure was implemented -  reducing the distillation cycle time by 33%

Improvements to Reactor 2 - Reduce Reaction Cycle Time by 25%

  • Working together with process experts and operators, the team analysed the reaction process in detail, including the reaction kinetics, chemical processes involved and ideal operating parameters
  • By rigorously challenging each step of the process, the team found several significant opportunities for cycle time reduction, and ran controlled trials to demonstrate their effectiveness
  • The process was refined over time to continue to make the process as repeatable and easy for the operators as possible - together, this work led to a 25% reduction in cycle time for the reactor step.

Production Visualisation

  • A custom built tool designed to visually account for 100% of time on each asset, this was used to improve planning and production reviews.
  • The tool provided detailed breakdown of the losses to help prioritise further improvement opportunities.
  • Real time visibility of production allowed production to be tracked, issues to be dealt with sooner and good work to be praised.



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