European quality, made in China

The SGD Pharma Zhanjiang plant in China produces 1.2 million type II and III flint moulded glass vials every day for both pharma and beauty markets. Last year, the company invested €7 million to improve production automation, including a furnace rebuild, to make the plant a production centre of excellence, as Frédéric Barbier, General Manager for SGD Pharma Asia Pacific explained in an exclusive interview with Glass Worldwide. The full version of this article appears in the May/June issue *.

SGD Pharma

Formerly part of Saint-Gobain, SGD Pharma has more than 100 years of experience in the production of pharmaceutical glass packaging. From five plants in France, Germany, India and China, the company manufactures over eight million vials every day. All plants employ cGMP standards, ISO 8 clean rooms and are certified to ISO 15378, the standard for pharma packaging quality systems.

The company’s mission is to improve and protect patient health by supplying high quality, reliable and innovative glass primary packaging. Through continuous improvement and innovation, SGD Pharma is committed to reinforcing patient safety by improving the physical, chemical and cosmetic properties of its products.

€7 million investment

With a surface of 85,000m2, the Zhanjiang plant in south China features one melting furnace, six production lines, a 2000m² ISO 8 clean room, a resorting room and a customisation workshop. The furnace rebuild took place in February 2018. This project included the renewal and reorganisation of production line equipment, of the clean room and of the resorting area. It also included further automation of the decoration workshop to increase production capacity, improve quality and offer greater flexibility to clients.

As part of this exercise, furnace energy supply has been updated. Previously oil-based, it now consumes natural liquid gas, which reduces the plant’s environmental impact. This transformation has brought the furnace into compliance with China’s increasingly stringent environmental regulations. In addition, the plant has achieved a reduction in SO2 emissions. Furnace components have also been upgraded to obtain more precise refinement that improves glass quality and production efficiency.

At the hot end, one of the production lines has been completely renewed. In addition, two lines have been upgraded with the most advanced equipment from the market. The clean room has been completely redesigned and enlarged in accordance with ISO standards. The latest inspection machines have also been installed. These improvements have been implemented by leveraging SGD Pharma Group technologies and skills.

The plant is certified in accordance with ISO 15378, 22000, SA 8000 and benefits from the group’s technologies, processes and expertise.

Best in China accolade

Frédéric Barbier, General Manager of SGD Pharma Asia Pacific has been working for the global SGD Pharma organisation for the past two decades. Coming from Sales in Europe, Asia and India, he was CEO of SGD Pharma India before becoming General Manager of SGD Pharma Asia Pacific. He emphasises that last year’s investment at Zhanjiang makes the factory state-of-the-art with respect to product quality and environmental compliance. “Our compliance with the rules related to the protection of the environment, which is extremely important for SGD Pharma Asia Pacific.”

SGD Pharma has been active in China for over 20 years, initially serving the food and beverage industry, before the strategic decision was taken to refocus on the needs of pharmaceuticals and beauty sectors. “The plant is recognised by our customers as the best in Asia for the production of moulded glass vials” says Frédéric Barbier. “It is important to emphasise that our Chinese plant follows our European procedures, quality rules, safety and security policies. We produce European quality made in China.”

According to Mr Barbier, the potential for moulded glass vials in China has increased significantly since the tightening of local regulations. Moreover, China is willing to improve and develop its pharmaceuticals business, a prospect that SGD Pharma’s Chinese shareholder JIC Investment welcomes. “JIC knows the Chinese market very well and is keen to become a major player to accelerate and benefit from the development of this market.”

The Zhanjiang plant strives to offer premium products using rigorous processes. In addition to type II infusion bottles for the pharmaceutical industry, vials are also provided for the beauty and cosmetics sector. This approach reflects the success of the group’s other plants in France, Germany and India, collectively providing glass packaging with a consistently high quality to customers throughout the world.

Some 1000 people are employed by SGD Pharma Asia Pacific, all of whom are trained and developed in line with established European procedures. “Training our employees is caring for our customers and for their patients” says Frédéric Barbier. “We have a strong educational programme and an internal SGD Pharma Asia Pacific Academy to train our talent. Our talented staff are also sent abroad to other SGD Pharma plants, where they receive additional expert training.”

Further growth expected

To support the group’s investment strategy, SGD Pharma works with suppliers selected by a strict audit and international qualification processes with respect to quality, environment and labour laws. “Our globalised supplier audit system ensures compliance across our different production sites” Mr Barbier explains, while also confirming that further investments can be anticipated in China to enhance the group’s position in the growing Chinese market.

Among the key challenges SGD Pharma faces in China are stronger environmental policies, which have indirect consequences on the inflated cost of raw materials. “We are working hard to minimise this double digit impact of the costs of our final products” Frédéric Barbier confirms. “China is the world’s second largest pharmaceutical market but health expenses per habitant are still very low compared to Europe and the Americas. The local pharmaceutical market is set to grow significantly in the coming years, because of the increasing middle class and because of the rising age of the population, impacted by the One Child Policy of the past three decades.”

With its global production footprint, backed by a strong sales force and more than 90 agents and distributors, SGD Pharma is well positioned worldwide as a key player that customers can rely on to support product development initiatives, day-to-day delivery, quality and regulatory support. The Zhanjiang facility is supporting these goals for the Asia Pacific region.


Further Information: 

SGD Pharma Zhanjiang (China), Zhanjiang City, Guangdong, China

tel: +86 20 8516 8123



* The full version of this article appears in the bumper 148 page May/June issue, alongside a series of exclusive interviews with industry figureheads, topical market reports and technology updates. Subscribe now to receive the full paper and digital versions (subscribers receive a free copy of the Who’s Who / Annual Review yearbook!).

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