Automation Vendor or Partner? - Pharmaceutical Technology

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PharmTech Europe

Automation Vendor or Partner?
The role of automation suppliers is transforming to meet the pharma industry's demand for change.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 33, Issue 4, pp. 98-97

Expanding service capability

As pharmaceutical manufacturers shift more responsibility to automation suppliers, suppliers are increasingly taking on the role of MACs and offering:

  • Process automation systems
  • Programmable logic controller
  • Skid-mounted controls
  • Cabinets and enclosures
  • Instrumentation
  • Wiring and wireless networks
  • RFID, barcoding, and printing
  • Portable and handheld devices
  • ISA95 Level 3 manufacturing applications
  • Integration of enterprise resource planning systems.

Relying on a single provider addresses historic challenges in implementing plantwide manufacturing solutions. Operational functions need to be evaluated based on organizational structure to determine the best fit into either the enterprise domain or the real-time plant floor arena. Technology can then be applied to achieve this functional structure. Using solutions from various suppliers can result in product overlaps and gaps in functionality. Partnering with a provider who has experience in applying the breadth of these applications, as well as investing in the supporting technology, minimizes potential gaps and overlaps.

When implementing plantwide integration solutions, the project team must work closely with multiple plant functions. Each operational organization has specific requirements that need to be addressed. Cross-functional work activity must be properly defined before selecting products and applying technology. In an ideal world, this cross-functional alignment is independent of the platform. In practice, however, some alignment decisions depend on the applications selected. Critical functions need to be implemented in a manner that enables easy adoption of the technology, thus ensuring its success.


As the pharmaceutical industry works with fewer resources, new approaches and roles are necessary. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, especially those that deal with multiple sites, must adopt standards to ensure easy integration and ongoing support of manufacturing-process solutions. An automation supplier can provide one focal point of responsibility for manufacturing automation to reduce solution risks, deliver improved project implementation time, and provide operational savings.

One life-sciences manufacturer, for example, built a green field facility with two filling lines. The company used an automation supplier, taking the approach described in this article, resulting in $1.1 million in savings. Automation was completed ahead of schedule and 9% under budget.

Manufacturers overall can lower implementation and ongoing support risks by selecting a long-term automation partner that is investing in products and services to improve operational excellence.

Bob Lenich is director of Syncade Suite Product Marketing and Joanne Salazar is manager of Syncade Suite Marketing Programs, both at Emerson Process Management, 12301 Research Blvd., Research Park Plaza, Bldg. 3, Austin, TX, 78759, tel. 512.834.7033 and 512.832.3448,


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