Cleaning Up Integration (sidebar)

April 1, 2005
Among the many critical pieces of equipment in a pharmaceutical factory are the washers, sterilizers and other machines that sanitize racks, bottles and other materials.

Though they’re not the main focus of most automation efforts, tying this gear into the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) software is critical for maximizing efficiency and reducing downtime of a production line.

MES can make it simpler to integrate this sanitization equipment into a line. “In the past, integration involved a lot of hassles we needed to address that were out of our scope of expertise. Now we’re using Rockwell’s standards to become part of our customers’ networks and MES programs,” says Jan Pingel, the U.S. director of Getinge’s Software Automation Systems Group, in Rochester, N.Y.

In operation on the plant floor, benefits extend beyond the managers who handle inventories and manage workflow. Even machine operators will find a reduction in paperwork.

“When you have standalone equipment, you have to maintain everything separately. New hires have to be added to each piece of equipment they use. Now, the personal log goes into the MES and their authentication is held in a central data storage,” Pingel says.

In the future, the technology will become more seamless as more standards are employed, making it simpler to communicate with many types of equipment. “We want to use more standards so our machines can be integrated easily,” Pingel says.

Looking forward, Getinge and Rockwell are working on a system that is more closely intertwined with MES software. It will require less manual effort from operators.

“Our machine will be controlled by MES, which will actually sequence the machine. It will provide instructions for raising the temperature, going from one state to another, doing a number of things that are really cutting edge,” Pingel says.

See the story that goes with this sidebar: MES: The Right Medicine for Drugmakers