Using Design Principles and Flexible Solutions to Save Lives
Pharmaceutical research facilities house some of the brightest minds on the planet. Cutting-edge cures and treatments emerge from these facilities.
Over the past 24 years, at The Austin Company, I’ve overseen the completion of dozens of pharmaceutical research and production facilities. My job has put me on the front line of the design and building process. The Austin Company designs, engineers, and constructs cutting-edge facilities for a variety of high tech industries. We’ve helped our clients understand the full potential of their existing and new sites in the pharmaceutical and other sectors.
Designing a Flexible Pharmaceutical Packaging Facility
One of Austin’s global pharmaceutical clients had a requirement for a large, flexible packing hall with the capability for sub-division to allow multiple campaigns. A critical requirement to meet operational and regulatory compliance is the full segregation of each packing activity. We looked at a number of solutions to subdivide the space but none provided the optimal level of flexibility we were looking for. We needed an easy to operate, adaptable, and cost effective solution to allow variable size configurations of the open plan space.
This was around the time of the 100% Design show. This is one of the U.K.'s largest annual trade shows for designers and architects, bringing thousands of industry professionals to London every September. It's also one of my favourite events for finding new and exciting products and solutions.
I discovered KwickScreen at 100%. The product grabbed my attention as a potential solution for our client's requirements. I liked the concept of a portable wall you could wheel to any location. Unlike traditional partitions and privacy walls, you can bend KwickScreen after unfurling it. And the angles aren't fixed—you can bend it at 45 or 60 degrees, not just 90.
On top of the flexibility, KwickScreen is also printable. The company brought demo units that were inscribed with nature scenes. I saw that these flexible photo-walls could also support our biophilic design principles.
Modifying KwickScreen for the Pharmaceutical Industry
When I saw KwickScreen’s capabilities, I knew there was a potential to create individual spaces matched to packing runs. There was just one problem: the standard KwickScreen has a twelve-inch gap between the bottom of the screen and the floor. To comply with regulations and production requirements, I needed something that went all the way to the floor.
The trade show rep suggested I talk to KwickScreen inventor and founder, Michael Korn. They set up a meeting, and some days later, we started discussing potential solutions. Michael and his engineers went through a range of options including using Velcro and zippers.
The final product was a KwickScreen with a set of detachable skirts of various widths that go all the way the floor. They also made skirts that cover the wheeled feet of every unit. Also vertical flaps that close the gap between the screen’s pillars and walls.
The client was very satisfied with the final product. The flexibility of KwickScreen means that they also see the potential for other uses, such as quarantining different products.
KwickScreen started in the healthcare sector, where their privacy screens were designed to improve patient dignity. I was impressed by Michael's attention to this particular challenge. He developed his product to meet the client’s needs and proved his understanding of how to collaborate with a firm like ours.