A vision in precision - Interview with a CEO of our member company Sensum
03. 03. 2021
In the Technology Park Ljubljana, we have a company Sensum d.o.o. that transforms what used to be a manual, mundane job with efficient, precise in- novation. Headquartered in Slovenia’s capital, Sensum, now entering its 20th year, is one of the premiere developers and manufacturers of automatic visual inspection systems for phar- maceutical and nutraceutical companies.
Serving pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer, Novartis and Roche, the Sensum brand was catapulted into the spotlight at the same speed with which its machines inspect thousands of pills. Since then, Sensum has continued to experi- ence steady growth, thanks to its technology-driven leadership.
EB: Dr. Bernard, Sensum’s prod- ucts are quite specialized. Can you give our readers an introduction to Sensum?
Dr. Rok Bernard: Sensum d.o.o. is a high-tech company specializing in automatic visual inspection machines for the pharmaceutical
industry. We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. Sensum is a private company founded by scientists, and I am one of the owners. We develop advanced technologies to create high-speed, precise inspection systems of tab- lets, capsules, softgels, lozenges, pellets, and granules.
EB: That sounds intriguing. How does this inspection technology work?
Dr. Rok Bernard: All of our products are computer vision systems. Such a system is implemented in each of our products and consists of three major components: a cam- era, a computer for processing, and a manipulator. We take physi- cal objects, convert their visual ap- pearance into digital form, quantify their quality, and sort objects as compliant or not in real time. An additional benefit for our custom- ers is information about the quality of each individual product, which is essential information in Industry 4.0 production. In short, in one machine, we bring together four pillars of technology: physics, soft- ware engineering, mechatronics, and information technology.
EB: What are some of the high- lights of Sensum’s product range?
Dr. Rok Bernard: In our Spine machine family, we gain the high- est possible speed and quality of inspection. It’s the best of the best.
The Spine Hypo is designed for highly potent products, Spine FIBO is an inspection and bottle filling
machine, and is the latest innova- tion of the Spine family. Addition- ally, PATVIS is an inline control system for coating processes. With this system, unlike Spine products, we check the product during the manufacturing process. This is a new technology and an area where we have penetrated the market through added value. PATVIS is used in the R&D process by phar- macists who try to find the optimal parameters for their processes.
Regulatory agencies push Process analytical technology (PAT) into pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, and PATVIS is a PAT tool, which greatly reduces the development time of a product.
EB: What accounts for Sensum’s success?
Dr. Rok Bernard: We act in a niche market. We are a trendsetter in inspection. Our machines are the best in speed, capacity, inspection performance, and flexibility.
EB: What is Sensum’s target mar- ket and how do you bring in new business?
Dr. Rok Bernard: Our target market consists of the pharmaceutical market, and pharmaceutical pro- ducers including originators, ge- nerics, and contract manufactur- ers. This has worked well for us in Europe in countries like our native Slovenia, as well as Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Hungary, and Poland, to name a few. We have important markets further afield too. North America is an extremely important market. We are also very successful in Japan, which has a strong demand for inspection. In- dia, with its many generic compa- nies, is also good business for us.
We’re always working on bringing in new business. We really have a proactive marketing strategy. We attend major pharmaceutical trade shows, such as ACHEMA, Inter- phex, interpack, and CPhI. We also have a presence at tradeshows fo- cused on the nutraceutical indus- try. We participate in these trade shows to be close to our clients.
EB: What makes a company like Sensum so valuable to pharma- ceutical companies?
Dr. Rok Bernard: We pride our- selves on our innovative strength, which combines a market- and technology-driven approach. Qual- ity is paramount. We design all of our machines with quality in mind. We also have a lot of confidence in our outstanding team, which is highly motivated and competent.
EB: It seems like being a force of innovative strength, as you men- tioned, is crucial in your line of business. How does Sensum stay ahead of the competition?
Dr. Rok Bernard: Maintaining an in- novative edge is absolutely impor- tant. Our technological excellence is characterized firstly by our in- novation. Innovation is in our DNA. We founders were all scientists when we started this company. This is our origin. We propel our innovation processes with market- driven research, which includes close cooperation with clients and universities.
EB: What does Sensum have in its pipeline that we can look forward to?
Dr. Rok Bernard: We have just launched two machines, one of which is Spine Fibo, which we will promote this year. Additionally, our Stream machine family, includ- ing Stream Core for high-speed inspection and sorting of capsules, offers affordable technology. Our vision is to make our technology af- fordable, so that every production site can use it. One of the drivers for this is artificial intelligence, and there are always boundaries to push in this area.