Location Map of Roche's Shanghai pharmaceuticals plant.

Roche’s latest vitamin plant is located in Taishan, Shanghai, which is in the northeastern part of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Roche Holding opened this plant for the manufacture of vitamin A as part of its joint venture (JV) with the Shanghai Number Six Pharmaceutical Factory. The JV was formed in 1995 and Roche took a 70% stake.

Roche has so far spent an estimated $200m on various projects in China. Of this, $21m was originally devoted to Roche Sunve (Shanghai) Vitamin in 1995.

“The Shanghai plant is part of Roche’s vitamins and minerals expansion programme.”

The Shanghai plant is part of Roche’s vitamins and minerals expansion programme. With around 30% of the world’s population estimated to be suffering from some form of vitamin or mineral deficiency, Roche is expecting the market to grow rapidly as more money becomes available from developing countries’ health services.

The Chinese market is particularly important in the longer term, and the plant is expected to supply most of its production locally.

Vitamin plant project

The vitamin plant commenced production in October 1999, slightly after the expected deadline. The plant is the largest vitamin A plant in China and was built at a cost of $25m.

The plant’s construction contract was placed with US-based Hough Worldwide Construction, which specialises in projects that involve feed milling technology.

Hough claims to have been involved in the construction of more than 100 projects in China since 1979, including plants that vary in capacity from five million to 150 tonnes per hour.

For its automation needs, the plant uses a Siemens SIMATIC PCS 7 process control system, which controls the process with more than 1,700 inputs and outputs.

The contract for the system included SIPART DR controllers, as well as the performance specification and implementation of the user software, and the testing, commissioning and training of plant personnel. The different parts are linked on a Profibus fieldbus.

Roche also owns a vitamin premix plant through a JV, which was first opened in 1996.  This plant can get material from the commonly owned vitamin plant, giving it a secure and convenient source of supply. The plant complex serves as a good example of economies of scale.