A Look at 30 Years of Change in Pharmaceutical Automation - Pharmaceutical Technology

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A Look at 30 Years of Change in Pharmaceutical Automation
Automation took hold gradually in the life-science industry. Its adoption brought the industry innovations and improved efficiency. Recent years witnessed the emergence of batch-automation systems and the development of standards for automation. The authors discuss the major changes automation brought to the industry and examine the rapid pace of technological development.

Pharmaceutical Technology

Also significant is the increased use of operational excellence programs such as "OpX." When life-science companies examined automation in the 1970s or early 1980s, their risk-adversion and lack of incentives to optimize manufacturing meant they only relied on techniques that had already been proven. This has clearly changed. The business is more competitive, customers are increasingly price-conscious, and manufacturing and supply-chain efficiency is more important. The plant floor and production are now tied to the way laboratories work, to the timely release of new products, and to overall profitability. Putting the right kind of automation platform in place can help reach these goals.

Operational excellence also has accelerated companies' top-to-bottom integration. Because FDA now allows more flexibility in approaches to automation, companies are increasing the integration of their control system and their various enterprise systems. The OpX program also encourages the change from paper-based compliance systems to electronic records and will continue to change how life-science companies optimize unit operations, manufacturing, product approval, and product release.

Another big trend is flexibility. The industry is moving from what had been organic-based synthesis and organic-based products to biologic products. Biologics are more complex, but they're also targeted at smaller groups and even individuals. They require significantly more flexibility on the part of a manufacturer. Manufacturing-execution systems integrated with process-control systems will become the platform for flexibility, optimization, and compliance.

Bob Lenich* is life science strategic business director at Emerson Process Management, 12301 Research Blvd., Austin, TX 78759, tel. 512.834.7033, fax 512.832.3199,
Christie Deitz is a senior principal engineer in the Emerson Life Sciences Industry Center.

*To whom all correspondence should be addressed.

Where were you 30 years ago?

Bob: "I had just graduated from high school and was working as a CO-OP at Cabot before going to college at Rose Hulman Institute of Technology." Christie: "I was a kid enjoying a carefree summer."


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