Roche’s latest vitamin plant is located in Taishan (Shanghai) which is in the north eastern part of the Peoples’ Republic of China.
Roche Holding AG opened its new plant for the manufacture of vitamin A as part of its joint venture with the Shanghai Number Six Pharmaceutical Factory. The venture was formed in 1995, and Roche took a 70% stake. Such an arrangement with a local partner is common in emerging markets, where local connections are necessary to secure business, but the domestic companies often lack the technological expertise of multi-nationals. Roche has so far spent an estimated $200 million on various projects in China. Of this, $21 million was originally devoted to Roche Sunve (Shanghai) Vitamin Co Ltd in 1995.
The Shanghai plant is part of Roche’s vitamins and minerals expansion programme. With around 30% of the world’s population estimated to be suffering from some form of vitamin or mineral deficiency, Roche is expecting the market to grow rapidly as more money becomes available from developing countries’ health services. The Chinese market is particularly important in the longer term, and the plant is expected to supply most of its production locally.
VITAMIN PLANT PROJECT
The new vitamin plant commenced production in October 1999, slightly after the expected deadline. The new plant is the largest vitamin A plant in China and was built at a cost of $25 million.
The contract to construct the plant was placed with Hough Worldwide Construction of the US. Hough specialises in projects which involve feed milling technology, such as at the vitamin plant. Hough claims to have been involved in the construction of more than 100 projects in China since 1979 including plants that vary in capacity from five million to 150 tonnes per hour.
For its automation needs, the plant uses a Siemens process control system (brand name SIMATIC PCS 7). This controls the process with over 1,700 inputs and outputs. The contract for the system included SIPART DR controllers, as well as the performance specification, implementation of the user software, testing and commissioning, and training of the plant personnel. The different parts are linked on a Profibus fieldbus.
Roche also owns a vitamin premix plant through a joint venture which was first opened in 1996, and now forms a part of the company’s operations. The premix plant can therefore get material from the commonly owned vitamin plant, giving it a secure and convenient source of supply. The plant complex therefore serves as a good example of economies of scale.