Agile planning results in successful shutdown of API facility

Novo Nordisk needed to increase its API capacity at a facility in Denmark. And changes needed to be implemented fast to minimize the production downtime. NNE meticulously planned eight weeks of summer shutdown, which resulted in successful execution and completion ahead of schedule.

Novo Nordisk’s capacity was insufficient at its API facility in Denmark to meet the market demand. This meant that Novo Nordisk needed to scale up its production, but could not afford a summer shutdown of the facility that would take longer than absolutely necessary.

The project scope was to increase the API capacity by installing one additional freeze dryer and duplicating “like-to-like” of three in-process production steps. Installing these modules made it possible for Novo Nordisk to achieve the necessary cycle times and, as a result almost double the capacity.

Agile planning and cooperation is crucial to succeed

The timespan for an actual site upgrade is extremely short and the deadlines are non-negotiable. This requires a lot from NNE in both the planning and the execution phases. NNE Project Manager Torben Kløvborg-Laustsen explains: “I minutely detailed every step of the plan. Each day during the eight weeks of execution, we conducted several meetings in the "cockpit" and test office together with Novo Nordisk to ensure that everything worked out according to plan. Of course, some issues turned up, but we didn’t leave the site before the tasks for the day were completed.

The project actually began 18 months ago, as summer shutdowns require significant planning. In order to succeed during the eight weeks of shutdown, NNE developed as much as possible off site before the eight-week period began. “For instance, a completely new freeze dryer was built off site and installed in advance, and we did the installation qualification off site, tested a lot of IT upgrades and finalized as many tests as possible,” Kløvborg-Laustsen explains.

NNE did not know from the start when Novo Nordisk would be ready to shut down the facility. This meant that NNE needed to demonstrate agile behaviour in every step of the planning and execution of the project. 

Site presence creates value

Shutdown projects require particularly close cooperation with the customer – going into every detail of the activities before, during and after the installation work. When the final adjustments and testing of this shutdown project was finalized, the NNE site support team returned to providing on-site services to Novo Nordisk.

The site-support team on site has also been part of the summer shutdown, as they have extensive knowledge about the customers’ systems and expectations, but also they are there to make sure that the changes we made during the summer shutdown are anchored going forward,” Kløvborg-Laustsen says.

Senior Vice President Jan Hoff from Novo Nordisk also acknowledged the agile planning and close cooperation: “I chose NNE as the overall engineering partner during all project phases to ensure stability, lower risk and because they know us so well. The most crucial issue for me was to get a smooth and safe execution with no delays – and I got that. Overall, I am very satisfied with the performance from NNE.

Quick facts


Novo Nordisk



Project duration

The summer shutdown was planned over 1.5 years but executed in 8 weeks (week: 27-34 in 2015)

Total investment cost

USD 125 million

Services provided

Conceptual design, basic design, EPCMV (engineering, procurement, construction management and validation), automation and IT