WIFI networks for control and monitoring of process controls.
Which process control and automation solutions offer the
flexibility to cover numerous applications within the phar-
maceutical manufacturing environment, thereby eliminat-
ing “islands of automation”?
Butler: Today mobility and the use of wireless technology
and sensors provide more flexibility than ever before. The
use of a layered approach to process control via Fieldbus,
Modbus and Ethernet backbones are eliminating the islands
Ullah: There are two platforms that come to mind, firstly
Delta V which is offered by Emerson and secondly, plc platforms which are offered by Allen Bradley and Siemens. We
work predominantly with Finesse Solutions and Applikon
Biotechnology to offer local turnkey control systems for our
Single Use Bioreactor and Single Use Mixing products. These
systems can communicate directly to the facility network to
avoid “islands of automation”.
How can automation help pharmaceutical manufacturers
Edwards: A well-constructed automation platform can
help monitor and control a process. The more intelligent
data that you have about a process can help you refine the
process, better define what the critical process parameters
are, more tightly control quality and also increase yield.
Ullah: Facility wide automation platforms can help cut labor
and overhead costs by allowing the customer to manage their
automation platforms locally. This enables faster response time
and local configurability to address changes on demand. This
also means that companies need to equip themselves with people to handle this locally and reduce their reliance on external
service and support for some critical issues that may arise.
Butler: One of the biggest costs for pharmaceutical companies is labor. Anytime you can eliminate labor in the process you are cutting costs. One example of how automation
is helping companies cut cost is through the use of mobility
and remote applications w/tablet PC’s. One company we recently worked with installed remote capability with wireless
technology and provided their technicians with tablet PC’s.
Have you observed any standout process control and auto-
mation trends within the pharmaceutical manufacturing
industry in the last year?
Millie Ullah Ph.D, Senior Product Manager, Thermo
Fisher Scientific: The trend that we see in the pharmaceutical industry is a greater focus on increased manufacturing
efficiencies and flexibilities. With the advent of new flexible
facilities for single use technologies, automation trends have
moved toward more powerful facility network controls, such
as dcs in the form of Delta V and plc platforms in the form
of Allen Bradley and Siemens. These automation platforms
allow many products both upstream and downstream to be
controlled by one overarching facility control. The key benefits to this are user configurability and reducing user training
for a wide variety of products.
Les Edwards, Director, Eastern Region, SKAN: We’ve seen
the industry acknowledge that there is a tremendous amount
of data available, but a loss of emphasis on data gathering and
more focus upon the intelligent use of that data. Now clients
want to gather only what is critical to their process so that they
can eliminate the cost of gathering and monitoring data that is
non-critical. The true cost of that data is not the hardware or
software used for gathering or storing it. The cost is in the management, trending, and regulatory impacts of deviations related
to explaining out of specification (OOS) data.
The other major trend is the evolution of the “controls
engineer” becoming more of a “process engineer” and vice
versa. As software and programming tools become more
powerful and easier to use, the focus naturally goes away
from the tool itself and more toward the process knowledge
necessary to control and improve the process itself.
Mark Butler, Senior VP Engineering, IPS: We have been
seen a number of trends worth noting in the pharmaceutical
sector in the past year. The first is E-Pedigree, the need for
track and trace solutions to develop electronic documents that
provide data on the history of a particular batch of a drug.
Another is the ability to maintain continuous processing by
aligning IT and process control operations with more fieldbus
applications. We’ve also observed a push for mobility with remote monitoring and access to on demand plant data via use of
■ By Nikita Ernst, Associate Editor
Experts share insights on current process control and automation
trends as well as what they see for the industry's future
Pharma Forges Ahead