History of West in Germany
Honoring Our Past, Shaping Our Future
West’s European story is one of innovation, development and growth, which has helped to build today’s vital, dynamic organization.
West traces its roots in Europe to 1960 when Hans Wimmer formed Pharma-Gummi Hans Wimmer in Vicht, Germany, with a vision to serve Europe’s pharmaceutical manufacturers with safe and reliable elastomer components. The geographic scope expanded from Germany to Spain (1965); England (1968); France (1974); Stolberg, Germany (1982); Singapore (1983); and Denmark (1994). The company joined forces with The West Company in 1968 and adopted the West name in 1999. Today, the company is proud to hold a leadership position earned by providing products and services that enhance and improve the delivery of health care in North America, South America, Europe, Japan, Asia and Australia.
West in Germany
In 1960, Hans Wimmer founded Pharma-Gummi Hans Wimmer in Stolberg-Vicht with 14 employees.
The growing pharmaceutical market in Europe, in combination with the immediate acceptance of Pharma-Gummi’s products in the industry, made it necessary to expand the operation after only four years. Construction began on a new factory, and in June 1966, Pharma-Gummi moved to the plant in Eschweiler, which remains West’s European headquarters. Once in the new facility, Pharma-Gummi added analytical laboratories, technical customer service, quality assurance, technical maintenance, research and development and mixing of uncured stock.
At the time Pharma-Gummi was getting started, The West Company had been making rubber closures for almost 40 years in the United States, Mexico and South America. When Pharma-Gummi moved to its new location, James A. West, son of Herman O. West, the company’s founder, was exploring Europe to identify a possible joint venture partner. Through a mutual business acquaintance, James West and Hans Wimmer met and the beginning of a partnership was formed. In 1968, The West Company became a 45 percent shareholder in Pharma-Gummi, which resulted in a name change to Pharma-Gummi Wimmer West GmbH. Internally, it was a period of new developments and breakthroughs in technology. The synergies were immediate, and for the first time, the heartbeat of a global company was heard. West’s newly formed international division could now begin to reach into Western Europe.
After the move from Vicht to Eschweiler in 1966, a new era began. There were new developments and new concepts to be implemented in Europe. Establishing analytical laboratories, adopting Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) standards, setting up tool shops and creating technical support functions laid the foundation for improved production techniques and new products. With capital and leadership support from The West Company, possibilities swelled, as did the customer base.
The operation currently in Stolberg was founded as Pharma-Metall in 1982, operating from Pharma Gummi’s facility in Vicht. By 1990, Pharma-Metall had enough business to move into a new facility in Stolberg, Germany. The move placed Pharma-Metall in a building that continues to meet pharmaceutical packaging production standards.
Pharma-Metall’s first products focused on three primary areas for European markets: Flip-Off® seals, seals for dental cartridges and Pharma-fix closures (seals with an inserted rubber disc).
In 1997 and 2003, additional clean room expansions were undertaken to support the production of TrimTec® closures for I.V. bottles manufactured by blow/fill/seal technology. In 2005, the Stolberg plant continued to meet the industry standard with the introduction of Flip-Off CCS (Clean, Certified, Sterilised) seals.
Introducing New Technologies: The spirit of innovation initiated in those years continues today. Among the advances were new technologies such as an automatic mould handling device, a pelletizer, an extruder, a calender and an internal mixer, as well as injection moulding according to the wasteless/flashless principle and the addition of a pharmaceutical washer and a Class 100 clean room for packing products. These and other innovations remain an integral part of the organisation today.
In addition to providing market-leading products, West’s commitment to European customers is clearly demonstrated by the resources applied to provide technical support to our customers. The Technical Support group, based in Germany, is mostly staffed with experienced chemists and engineers whose knowledge help customers to make component selections and who support customers’ technical needs throughout their products’ life cycle.
Shaping the Future
In the first years of the 21st century, West invested significantly in all European facilities to upgrade cGMP, capacity and technology. These investments have added manufacturing and processing capacity, and new equipment and technologies that improve quality and meet customer demand for increased levels of precision.
The additional investments in plants in Le Nouvion, France, and Eschweiler, Germany, enabled the introduction of new manufacturing technologies. Installations included new pharmaceutical washers, clean rooms and systems for producing Water for Injection, which added capacity to the three existing washing lines. The new finishing lines are especially important because they will enable West to satisfy customer demand for clean products.
In 2004, West completed a 4,000-square-meter expansion of the plant in Stolberg, Germany. The added space accommodates manufacturing capacity to satisfy current and anticipated sales growth in pharmaceutical seals and TrimTec closures. The addition also includes a new raw materials warehouse and a tooling maintenance shop. The Stolberg plant is a potential site for manufacturing West Spectra ID products and Flip-Off CCS seals. West Spectra ID seals display vital information such as a vial’s contents, brand name, point-of-use instructions, and dosage or strength of the medicine. West Spectra ID can help identify products as genuine and establish and protect brand identity.
West strengthened its position as a leader in the global markets for pharmaceutical and health care delivery systems with two acquisitions in 2005. In May, West acquired The Tech Group, a U.S.-based plastic injection moulding company with a facility in Dublin, Ireland.
In August 2005, West acquired Medimop Medical Projects, Ltd., a company based in Israel that designs and manufactures systems and devices for mixing, transferring, reconstituting and administering injectable drugs.
In 2009, West purchased the drug delivery device business assets of Plastef Investissements SA, and obtained the right to manufacture the Eris safety syringe, a passive safety system for use with fixed or staked needle prefillable syringes. The Eris system complements West's NovaGuard passive safety needle, which was recently introduced to the market for use with luer-lock syringes.
Also in 2009, West dedicated its first manufacturing plant in China, located in the Shanghai Qingpu Industrial Zone (SQIZ). The plant, which manufacturers TrimTec® and InsoCap® closures for intravenous bottles, was established in direct response to client demand and helps solidify West’s status as a global, cutting-edge company committed to supporting the growth of the Company’s pharmaceutical customers in China.