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Comments on the Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable (Part 1)

Part 2: Investment value and pharmaceutical automation demand

Part 3: Focus on Improvements


The recent Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable (PAR) was held in North Chicago, Illinois. With a history of over 15 years focused to benchmark and share best practices from pharmaceutical companies around the world, it is a commercially neutral discussion with the aim of providing a good marriage between product demands and automation possibilities. Gaining a wealth of practical application knowledge and know-how from a forum which is willing to share from each other – to learn and progress.

Impressions of Automation Performance

In February a detailed review of the PAR meeting was released, which gave an impression of automation in the pharmaceutical industry. This review contains the most important topics discussed and, thus, gives an outline about significant shortfalls in the current usage and application – where automation is used in a production facility in the pharmaceutical industry. To us at COPA-DATA this report was rather pleasing. On the one hand, because many automation requirements in the pharmaceutical industry can already be perfectly satisfied by zenon. On the other hand, also our corporate vision and the goals we are pursuing, run remarkably parallel with the specific demands of the pharmaceutical sector.

Management’s review of Automation

In advance of the meeting, participants were requested to ask colleagues holding senior management positions outside of automation, to complete a questionnaire titled ‘Management`s View of Automation’. The answers formed the entire scope of this annual discussion. In this document we try to explain how COPA-DATA and the zenon Product Family can help overcome the shortfalls, which were collected with this survey.

Four major topics were discussed:

  • Level of automation
  • Automation value
  • Investment value and pharmaceutical automation demands (Part 2)
  • Focus on improvements (Part 3)

Level of automation

Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable:
“One big barrier to adding automation is the need for plant shutdown.”*

zenon: Having an environment which aids commissioning would reduce the plant inactivity during shutdown. As a progressive, scalable and modular concept zenon can realize projects stage by stage to massage evolution around retro-fit evolution. zenon hot-reload is efficient when commissioning to keep the project updated with the needs of the process, not waiting until the end of the day to make changes, other software may be inflexible to online commissioning – but not zenon. Repeatable modules promote the concept of ‘design once and reuse’, in the pharmaceutical industry this has the distinct advantage that risk is reduced, and with that validation is reduced. Either use the same project and apply it to different areas, or use the individual modules in unique arrangements. Design once and reuse.

Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable:
“Management believe that automation can help them but they need to be educated on how automation can help them achieve their goals.”*

zenon: zenon is a one stop product providing all functionality within one integrated product family. The education on how to overcome current problems or risk in pharmaceutical automation is well documented on our Pharmaceutical section on this website. This is just the first stage, because zenon is more than just survive and succeed. It allows transformation, and opens the way to put your vision of the future into reality. This reality can be Optimization, Quality, Performance OEE, Operational Excellence, Energy Management & Optimization, including for example the ISO 50001 certification.

Automation value

Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable:
“Management responded with a positive indication that automation provides value to their plants, with values ranging from 37% very high value, 33% high value, 30% moderate value. Management believed that automation contributes to achieving the goals of improving safety, product quality, production capacity, and regulatory compliance.”*

zenon: Ergonomic automation engineering believes in achieving goals in all areas. Ergonomics - particularly with zenon - is making information transparent. Production affects more than just production personnel. Its figures and progress touch directly on business and management needs, quality has a clear need for actual and historic data, and it goes without saying that Operations management and Engineering departments require direct knowledge of production status. All of this requires the same information, but focused and aligned with the specific needs of the user. Putting the user centric to the processes operating around him or her, bring clear and instant understanding.

Pharmaceutical Automation Roundtable:
“Higher management such as Site managers and Vice presidents had a low opinion on automation contributing to lower manufacturing costs.”*

zenon: Lowering manufacturing costs has many flavors. It requires a combination of exercises to be carried out to realize the full potential. For example, operational excellence looks to i) People, ii) Process, iii) Equipment, iv) Management. In most people’s eyes automation only attacks the third element ‘Equipment’, but this alone is not enough. Ergonomics focuses the automation and brings the four together, with holistic improvement that brings management initiatives into production processes, and forces the marriage between equipment and people. Then results are passed back up the line to management efficiently, where change can be acted upon. Process improvements can be incremental, or as clean as turning a page. zenon has many philosophies that fit here, scalable and modular technology applies solutions to the needs and possibilities of now. We never lose the focus that well managed technology gives positive results in reducing production cost, regulation compliance, product quality and safety.


Part 2: Investment value and pharmaceutical automation demand

Part 3: Focus on Improvements




*quotes from – Management’s view of automation – Impressions of automation performance: [21.05.2013]