Ward Automation wins manufacturing category

Irish Times Innovation Awards: Firm develops complex inspection and packing system for pre-filled syringes

John Ward of Ward Automation. The company won the manufacturing and design category in the The Irish Times Innovation Awards 2020. Photograph: Conor McCabe

Ward Automation won the manufacturing and design award for developing a complex, large-scale automation system that speeds up the process of inspecting and packing pre-filled syringes.

Pre-filled syringes are a standard feature of the pharmaceutical industry worldwide and Ward’s compact, robot-controlled system represents a sea change in how syringes are checked for quality anomalies.

The current checking system is manual, time consuming and visual, and this can lead to human error. By contrast, robots do the job at a rate of 600 inspections per minute with no subjective errors. If there’s any question around integrity, the product is rejected and sent for additional checking.

Ward made its initial cell for an existing client that wanted to increase throughput. Adding to the engineering challenge was the fact that meeting the client’s requirements for production safety and traceability meant Ward’s robot cell had to be capable of being integrated into the company’s existing supervisory control and data acquisition system.


A key aspect of Ward’s technology is that it is modular in design which means it can be configured to suit the needs of future customers.


The Innovation Awards 2020 are supported by The Irish Times in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, SkillnetIreland and the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.

The prize for the overall winner is a high-profile communications package worth in excess of €150,000 comprising advertising and promotion across the Business, Technology + Innovation pages and the Business online section.

In addition, the UCD Smurfit School will provide the winner with an executive education scholarship.

Category winners are awarded a €10,000 communications package in Thursday’s Business, Technology + Innovation pages and a one-year digital subscription to The Irish Times.

Olive Keogh

Olive Keogh

Olive Keogh is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business