Automation has improved efficiency and contributed to consistent quality in pharmaceutical manufacturing operations. Developments in information technology have allowed operators to record production data and improve control over equipment. More recently, wireless technology has allowed manufacturers to transmit information quickly and easily within a production facility. This month's products combine the advantages of automation, software, and wireless technology in solutions from Rockwell Automation, ESS Technologies, and Malvern Instruments.
Zetasizer Auto Plate SamplerMalvern Instruments,www.malvern.co.uk
Extendable software suite guides automated processes
The "FactoryTalk Pharma Suite" product from Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, WI) includes a group of manufacturing-execution-system applications that can be used throughout a drug's entire life cycle. It manages recipes, guides operators and automated systems through the manufacturing process, and provides integration within the automation layers. If the FactoryTalk Pharma Suite solution detects that a process step is to be performed automatically, it transfers control to the plant's batch-execution system.
Operators can run the Factory-Talk applications on wireless scanners to verify that the correct material and equipment are being used. The system can wirelessly send notifications about exceptions to pagers or email accounts. "This is something that pushes the system to the operator, rather than the operator asking the system what he needs to do," says René Schwarz, the company's life-sciences product manager.
FactoryTalk Pharma Suite Rockwell Automation, www.rockwellautomation.com
Instrument automates sample analysis
The "Zetasizer Auto Plate Sampler" from Malvern Instruments (Malvern, Worcestershire, UK) automates dynamic light scattering measurement. Users can define and set measurement parameters for an entire well plate, any range of wells on the plate, or each well individually. The machine automatically analyzes the samples after the operator pushes the "start" button.
User-friendly software incorporates analytical expertise in the form of data-quality reports and automatically determines the optimum measurement settings. The software alerts users when data do not meet quality criteria and offers suggestions for improvement.
Robotic system brings versatility
The "TaskMate" robotic loading–unloading system from ESS Technologies (Blacksburg, VA) is designed for high-speed packaging lines. The system comprises a FANUC robot, ESS-designed end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT), and a programmable logic control.
TaskMate system ESS Technologies, www.esstechnologies.com
The TaskMate system's EOAT can be modified easily to handle products such as vials, bottles, bags, and pouches. Operators also can program the system to load or unload multiple products on the same packaging line. These features give the TaskMate system greater flexibility than traditional hard automation.
The system's control unit collects information appropriate for quality-assurance purposes. The unit can wirelessly send and receive data such as test results, movement confirmation, and task completion. In addition, users can download new programs to the system wirelessly and change the system's programming wirelessly.