Case Study


Process Line Design and Build Support – Patented Vial Automation

The Challenge – Process Line Design

Client: Automation machine manufacturer
Objective: Accelerated mass production

In response to the government’s “warped speed” initiative to find a coronavirus vaccine, a custom automation company needed to develop a process line to mass produce vials that would be used to store the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines and therapeutics.

The process line used a patented Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Depositing Technology to apply a barrier media to plastics. Because of the urgency of the COVID-19 response, the prototype/design/fabrication cycle needed to be accelerated to meet the demand of “Operation Warp Speed.”

  • A custom automation and advanced materials company needed to co-develop a process line of multiple machine modules integrated with patented technology.
  • Due to the accelerated schedule to produce vials, the custom automation company needed to engage a partner who could quickly collaborate with the co-development team to design and build a proof of concept prototype.
  • After the prototype validation, a value engineering phase was required to reduce the system cost so that 13 automated process lines (~10 machine modules/process line) could be produced cost-effectively within the compressed schedule.
  • The compressed design schedule also required daily design reviews and progress reporting to the customer.
  • To deliver the 13 automated process lines, the client needed additional help with project management, purchasing, machine building, and assembly support.
medical woman looking at vival
Project Size


process line manufacturing

7 Weeks

Project Team

2 Project Managers
6 Design Engineers

vial automation process design

Automation Machine

The Process Line Solution

The client engaged Sterling Engineering to provide the expertise to develop next-generation designs and provide the workforce for scalability to bring these systems to market.

We immediately mobilized and assigned design engineers to the project. As a result, Sterling Engineering utilized two shifts to accomplish the project’s design and detailing in less than four weeks.

To fast-track the design during the kick-off meeting, Sterling Engineering worked with the client to analyze the source data for similar stations and apply the knowledge to create new stations for this particular application.

Sterling Engineering’s team included two Project Managers who liaised between the client’s lead engineers and SEI design engineers. In addition, Project Managers coordinated the design/detailing effort over around-the-clock shifts to compress the delivery schedule.

The system was designed with Solidworks 3D-CAD to produce assembly models, detailed part drawings, and assembly drawings with a bill of materials. These tools allowed Sterling Engineering to verify station operation and fitment of the overall system resulting in a safe and efficient process layout.

Sterling Engineering focused on the design, allowing the client to concentrate their expertise on the production line’s fabrication, assembly, and installation to satisfy speed-to-market demand.

After completing the initial project scope, the client invited Sterling Engineering to construct a team (of project managers, controls engineers, electricians, machine builders, purchasing buyers, and project coordinators) to help them coordinate the fabrication, assembly, and validation of the process lines.

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