By B.C. Manion
If you’ve ever held a sealed packet of medications, chances are the machine that did the packaging was manufactured at Pharmaworks in Odessa.
The company — which recently expanded — manufactures and rebuilds machines that are used for pharmaceutical packaging.
The company’s primary markets are large pharmaceutical companies and contract packagers, said Trevor Charlton, Pharmaworks’ plant manager.
The company, which is owned by Peter Buczynsky, Ingo Federle and Ben Brower, began operations in 2002 on Gunn Highway. It outgrew that location and relocated to a 20,000-square-foot space at 2346 Success Drive in Odessa.
Recently, it added a 16,000-square-foot building at 2301 Success Drive.
“We’ve seen some fairly rapid growth,” said Charlton, who heads up the company’s manufacturing efforts.
“We are the only domestic manufacturer of this sort of equipment in the United States,” he added. There are other manufacturers of this equipment, but they are European owned.”
Besides building and selling machines, Pharmaworks also sells parts to customers who already have machines.
“Every blister (package) design has its own set of tool work,” Charlton said. “We’ll sell machines with tooling, but we also sell a lot of tooling to customers who already have machines. Plus, we sell some tooling for other manufacturers as well.
“The whole business has grown, but our tooling business, in particular, has really grown significantly in the last years,” he added. “Plus, we’ve introduced our own line of feeder systems.”
The feeder systems are what load the pills into packets.
The company’s new building houses its machine shop. Its assembly operation is in the other facility.
The expansion has allowed the company to hire new workers, and it still has some open positions for employees with particular skills, Charlton said. Most of its 81 employees come from Pasco and Pinellas counties, with a few from Hillsborough.
The new building was designed to be as energy and cost efficient as possible, Charlton said. It also has transparent panels in the roof to allow natural lighting to stream in.
Buczynsky said the company has done so well it sometimes has to turn business way in large part because it has had a difficult time finding employees with the necessary skills.
“We get so many graduates who come in,” Charlton said. “They’re very good on the computer. They’re very good with the design software. They don’t know the fundamentals. Really, you’ve got to have that hands-on experience.”
Buczynsky has played a leading role in trying to bring together industry, political, educational and economic development leaders to work together to create apprenticeships similar to successful models in Europe.
His work in this area earned Buczynsky the Industry Distinguished Service Award from The Manufacturers Association of Florida. The award recognizes outstanding educators and industry professionals who have made significant strides in training the next generation of high-skilled workers.
Charlton said the people often have a false impression about opportunities in manufacturing. Many associate manufacturing with dirty factories and $10-an-hour assembly jobs, he said.
To help counter that image, Pharmaworks has occasional open houses to let parents tour its facilities and learn about skills that are required and opportunities that are available, Charlton said.
“These are highly skilled employees,” Charlton said. “Automation is our business. There are a lot of high-tech skills required.”
Pharmaworks wants to formalize its training programs in such a way that apprentices would be able to earn industry certification and college credits, Buczynsky said, who was a member of a delegation that traveled to Germany to learn about the apprenticeship programs there.
It’s not enough to have a theoretical understanding of a concept of how something works; it’s also important to have practical skills, he said.
Buczynsky wants to help develop workers that have both, to help create a talent pool that will draw manufacturers to the area.
“Talent development is the biggest issue all across manufacturing,” he said. “It’s not just nationally. It’s a global issue.”
To learn more about Pharmaworks, visit www.pharmaworks.com.
Awards that Pharmaworks has won include:
—2011 Florida Manufacturer of the Year for businesses up to 60 employees (It has since grown to 81 employees)
—2011 Florida Companies to Watch Award