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Successfully modernizing a hydrogenation unit within a narrow time frame: The Swiss company Siegfried relied on the Solution Partner CTE ControlTech Engineering to do just that. The result? Greater productivity and improved reproducibility – and full compliance with GMP requirements.
Modernization means improvement
What do you do when only a quarter of a plant’s potential is being utilized? Particularly, when every change entails an expensive control system validation? Strictly speaking, there are really only two options: either to accept the circumstances as they are, or to change them. Siegfried opted for a change.
The company has been operating a Biazzi high-pressure hydrogenation unit since 1996, which it uses to produce intermediate products with the aid of precious metal catalysts. "We wanted to operate the plant with a pressure of 40 bar and convert it to a multipurpose setup to be able to manufacture various products," as Roland Schürmann, production manager at Siegfried, explains. Although the unit was designed by the manufacturer for an operating pressure of 40 bar, it was operated at only 10 bar because the process control system had to be adapted to a predefined product. The process was developed further, but the parameterization and adaptation of additional components with the old process control system proved difficult and not very user-friendly. "Operation needed to be as clear and simple as possible," according to Schürmann. Siegfried therefore commissioned CTE ControlTech Engineering, based in Liestal, to handle the project.
As a solutions and services provider CTE is specialized in the automation of chemical and biotechnical processes as well as industrial IT and informatics. The services range of the Siemens Solution Partner covers the entire spectrum from planning and detail engineering to implementation, installation, optimization, plant support and maintenance. Given its expertise in pharmaceutical production automation, the company proved an ideal partner for the project.
In the first step, a new process control system needed to be found. The decision in favor of the SIMATIC PCS 7 process control system with a CTE recipe system was quickly made. And for many reasons: "Technical solutions precisely tailored to our plant are available on the market, but we wanted a conventional solution," Schürmann points out. Paul Schwarz, project manager at Siegfried, adds: "Many of our plants are already equipped with Siemens products. Our staff therefore already has the necessary technical knowledge." The specifications documentation was jointly compiled by the production management, foremen, project managers and integrators. New knowledge and demands were brought to light during the discussions, and continuously flowed into the project. As a result, the production process, consisting of the hydrogenation preparation, hydrogenation and filtration, was reorganized into three independently networked plant sections. The entire plant is now controlled by one process control system, which stores the data on the servers via the distributed Simatic ET 200 I/O systems. All of the pneumatic valves were fitted with PROFIBUS connections, and also the heating/cooling system were modified.
The intelligent control of the heating phase enables fast regulation of the nominal values and significant energy savings.
A successful investment for the future – with Siemens
The result was better than anyone had expected. "Productivity was increased by 60 percent while also improving the quality," Roland Schürmann enthusiastically points out.
"We no longer have to live with unwanted delays as a result of minimal quality fluctuations.", Roland Schürmann is adding. "Today we can track every process detail and detect problems at an early stage. Thanks to the exact reproducibility on the technical side, error sources can be pinpointed precisely – a tremendous advantage." Different parameters of the CTE recipe system enable various products to be manufactured. Parameters are easily adapted by the operating staff. Recipe access is clearly regulated by several hierarchical security levels. Sven Brändlin explains: "All of the possibilities the system has to offer are combined in modules and tested in such a way so that adaptation by the operating staff has no influence on the regulatory requirements." The system offers another big advantage, as Paul Schwarz acknowledges:
The controller records every intervention and documents it according to Part 11 of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. Our plant meets these requirements and also ensures a high level of production flexibility. While we frequently didn’t dare change a process in the past, it can now be done in no time without any problems.