Combining servicing expertise with a flair for organization

Creating the best foundations for productive processes includes the building and commissioning of machining centers by the CHIRON Group Service. For example, this was the case with medical technology company Smith & Nephew's new production site in Penang, Malaysia, where precision manufacturing of knee and hip prostheses is to begin at a facility measuring 250,000 square meters in early 2023. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that implementing this has taken more effort than usual.

read time: 13 min

All production at Smith & Nephew Operations Sdn Bhd is to start in early 2023. While this might sound manageable, in the midst of a pandemic, this represents a logistical and organizational challenge for everyone involved in the CHIRON Group's turnkey project. First, 15 machines had to be constructed at the CHIRON Group Precision Factory in Neuhausen, Germany. Then, project integration had to be carried out by the Application department in Tuttlingen, Germany or, after five weeks of transport by sea, by CHIRON America in Charlotte, USA. The machining centers then needed to be shipped from Germany and America to Penang (also known by the Malay name »Pulau Pinang«), Malaysia. After that, they had to be installed and commissioned on-site, the machines needed to be accepted by the customer, validated and training also provided. All standard procedure so far. However, further complications were caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as delays in transporting people and material. In addition, extensive and time-consuming customs and visa formalities had to be dealt with and the alternating service teams from Germany and the USA had to quarantine for 14 days for each new assignment.

First-rate support from Amy and John
Whether visiting the Consulate General of Malaysia in Frankfurt or requesting, completing and promptly sending the various forms for work visas, service technicians Marco Wagner and Thomas Schöpf – the first team to travel to Penang – were expertly supported in organizational matters by Amy Kozina, Human Resources Manager at CHIRON America. She coordinated all of the paperwork and kept people in the know about upcoming deadlines. Moreover, the Human Resources Manager will continue to work in the background, putting all of the vital elements in place for the teams from Germany and the USA, until the end of the project.

CHIRON Group Service gained a new local team member in the form of Hock Leong Ch`ng, or – to call him by his »international« name – »John«. He has been the primary contact person for Smith & Nephew since October 1 and will assist with all of the next steps until the start of production, before then offering support to the production lines. Frank Geiselhart, Head of Global Service at the CHIRON Group, calls the new service technician »the first service expert at the Malaysia site«. He continues, »the Asia Pacific market for medical technology is growing rapidly, with more and more international companies like Smith & Nephew building their own manufacturing sites here and needing quick and expert on-site support.«

Remote support from the hotel
Every new installation performed by CHIRON Group Service involves unpacking and installing the machinery. But this was not possible for Smith & Nephew Operations. In early September, the specialists from Tuttlingen had to quarantine in a hotel around 300 kilometers away in Kuala Lumpur. However, by using 3D HoloLens at Smith & Nephew, the service experts were almost up close and personal and could provide remote tips and assistance.

This went very well and, as Project Manager Gjvat Kosumi showed the team on their first day at the new, state-of-the-art site in Penang, the two CHIRON FZ 12 S five axis machining centers were in exactly the right position in the big, but still largely empty hall. Gjevat Kosumi works for Smith & Nephew Manufacturing AG based in the northern Swiss town of Aarau, where over 300,000 hip and knee implants are manufactured every year. He is responsible for establishing the production of femur components for artificial knee joints in Malaysia and will achieve this using the two machining centers from the Turnkey Center in Tuttlingen, as well as additional systems for grinding and polishing made by other manufacturers.

In addition, the project management team and machine setters Sam and Kumar from Smith & Nephew worked in close collaboration to ensure that commissioning went smoothly. Thomas Schöpf said it was »a routine procedure«.

»From my point of view, it was one of the most challenging projects in the history of Smith & Nephew under conditions that were very difficult for everyone involved. Thanks to the excellent cooperation with our project partners – and against all odds – there aren't currently any significant delays to the project plan.«
Stefan Greuter
Director Advanced Manufacturing Engineering – Europe, Smith & Nephew
 1.) A lot of space for high-precision manufacturing in the best possible conditions: One of Smith & Nephew's production halls in Penang, Malaysia
1.) A lot of space for high-precision manufacturing in the best possible conditions: One of Smith & Nephew's production halls in Penang, Malaysia
 2.) Two out of a total of 15 machining centers from the CHIRON Group are ready for operation.
2.) Two out of a total of 15 machining centers from the CHIRON Group are ready for operation.
 3.) A great team: Marco Wagner, Jason Stombaugh, John and Thomas Schöpf putting the finishing touches to the FZ 12 S five axis.
3.) A great team: Marco Wagner, Jason Stombaugh, John and Thomas Schöpf putting the finishing touches to the FZ 12 S five axis.
 4.) The colleagues from Tuttlingen are ready for the delivery of the next machines.
4.) The colleagues from Tuttlingen are ready for the delivery of the next machines.

Alternating teams until the start of production
The service technicians from Germany finished their assignment on November 26 and it is now the turn of Jason Stombaugh and other colleagues from Charlotte, USA, to work in partnership with John from Smith & Nephew. Their task is to install and to commission eight FZ 12 S machining centers with a VariocellUno automation unit for manufacturing tibial plateau prostheses. The German team will then be called upon again and a service technician from Tuttlingen will assist John with installing five additional machines for manufacturing the inlay that acts as a sliding bearing between the two components. Two FZ 08 W machining centers will be used to machine blanks on three axes, while the DZ 08 W with VariocellUno will subsequently machine the inlays on four axes.

 Structure of a knee endoprosthesis: The femur component at the top, the knee inlay at the center and the tibial plateau at the bottom (source: Smith & Nephew)
Structure of a knee endoprosthesis: The femur component at the top, the knee inlay at the center and the tibial plateau at the bottom (source: Smith & Nephew)

Once all of the machines are ready for operation, the German and American service teams will start alternating again. They will prepare and carry out the process of acceptance by the customer, integrate additional components, carry out validation and also – to ensure productive operation from the very start of 2023 – provide the operating personnel with training. You can read more about this and the production-related challenges of the turnkey project in an upcoming edition of speedfactor.


Smith & Nephew
The success story of Smith & Nephew began in Hull, a city in northern England, in 1856. This is where pharmacist Thomas James Smith, and later his nephew Horatio Nelson Smith, sold bandages and pharmaceutical products. In the process, they laid the foundation of a medical technology business that is now a public limited company that employs around 16,000 workers in 100 countries. With the slogan »Life unlimited«, Smith & Nephew develops technologies for the business areas of sports medicine, orthopedic reconstruction, trauma products and advanced wound management. The company's main headquarters are in the town of Watford, to the north of London. Meanwhile, in Malaysia, there is a sales subsidiary in Kuala Lumpur and Smith & Nephew Operations Sdn Bhd is situated in Penang. The new high-tech site – covering an area of 250,000 square meters for manufacturing, technology and logistics and which will create 800 new jobs – will supply the Asia Pacific market with orthopedic products and support the global supply chains from 2023.

https://www.smith-nephew.com/

Travel diary from service technician Marco Wagner:
After 23 hours of traveling, we landed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on September 2. We then passed through more than ten stations until all of the health checks and immigration formalities had been completed. After two hours, we were finally able to sit in a taxi on the way to the hotel where we would be quarantining. We were received by two of the hotel's members of staff wearing protection suits. They gave us an envelope with the menu and room key and escorted us to the lift. Having arrived in our room, we then unpacked, relaxed and sat tight. There were to be no dinners in restaurants, no walks through Chinatown or drinks with a view of the skyline at the Heli Lounge Bar – a helicopter pad by day, and probably the city's coolest bar by night.

Instead, we spent 14 days self-isolating, only opening the door three times a day to take in meal trays before shutting it again. A strange experience indeed. Fortunately, there were no issues with the Wi-Fi and we were able to work and enjoy the spectacular view of the Petronas Twin Towers, which stand at 452 meters. After the end of the quarantine period, we even found that we unexpectedly had five days to check out the towers and the city before we were granted our work visas. We were finally able to set off for Penang on September 20.

Penang (also known by the Malay name »Pulau Pinang«) is both a Malaysian state and the name of an island. While the Smith & Nephew site is situated on the mainland, our hotel was on the island and we had to cross the strait every day via the 24 kilometer-long Second Penang Bridge (yes, we had a lot of time to study our guidebook in great detail :)).

We also had the company of three employees from Haas Schleifmaschinen based in Trossingen, Germany. We shared minibuses with them and did a few joint activities together, such as exploring the island on scooters. This was not without its risks, given that cars were driving on the left-hand side and there were occasionally groups of monkeys running over the road.

Smith & Nephew gave us an excellent welcome and looked after us very well. For example, when we had to evacuate our hotel due to a detected coronavirus case within eight hours, they had immediately booked another one for us on a Sunday. Sam and Kumar, a setter and a programmer at Smith & Nephew respectively, took me on a tour through the tropical rainforest and we also played badminton with other members of staff. Playing for two hours at a temperature of 30 degrees, in a humidity similar to that of a steam bath and, what's more, against excellent opponents was pretty exhausting. But a cool beer certainly helped to replenish any lost electrolytes!

Our section of the project, installing and commissioning the two FZ 12 S five axis, went very smoothly and we were able to familiarize John with all of the key tasks. In addition, we gave him our tools and measuring instruments to ensure that he has the right basic equipment for future tasks.

How would I sum up the trip? From the perspective of the project, it was a success and, personally, I found it very enriching. Sure, having to quarantine was not ideal but necessary in the circumstances. In the Service department, there are new challenges with each project. That's just part of the job and you have to deal with it. It's therefore a matter of solving one problem and moving on to the next one!

 Group photo with the Malaysian national flag in front of the rainforest with Sam, Marco, Venu, Kannan and Danajaya from Smith & Nephew
Group photo with the Malaysian national flag in front of the rainforest with Sam, Marco, Venu, Kannan and Danajaya from Smith & Nephew
 The night skyline of George Town
The night skyline of George Town
 The Petronas Twin Towers, with Kuala Lumpur City Center Park (KLCC) in the foreground
The Petronas Twin Towers, with Kuala Lumpur City Center Park (KLCC) in the foreground
 A considerable challenge: A match against opponents for whom badminton is a national sport – definitely not a casual game
A considerable challenge: A match against opponents for whom badminton is a national sport – definitely not a casual game