Contract manufacturing backs Profibus

Paul Boughton

Avecia Biologics at BillinghamUKis a contract manufacturing organisation for active pharmaceutical ingredients produced by a process of fermentationseparation and purification.

Since 1996activity at Billingham has focused exclusively on developing bioprocesses for human therapeutic proteins. The site has two principal manufacturing facilities: ABC1000a dual-stream facility with 100 and 1000litre fermentation capability; and ABC5000a new dual-stream facility with 5000litre fermentation capability (Fig.1).

The ABC5000 facility deploys SIMATICPCS7which is the process control system in the Siemens automation network Totally Integrated Automation. One PCS7 controller pair carries out control and monitoring for the separation and purification suites (two of each)as well as the buffer preparation and refold suites in the facility. When batches are completethere is controlsequencing and valve routing for six CIP (clean-in-place) skids that service these suites. This PCS7 also controls distribution of three water systems – two purified water and one water for injection (WFI) – and carries out the sanitisation sequences. Additionallyit oversees other utility services such as process drainagebiowastechilled water and air generation (Fig.2).

A second PCS7 controller pair regulates and monitors the HVAC system within the buildingwhich comprises 15 air-handling units plus ancillary heating/cooling services andfollowing a recent projectnow includes duty control and services control for the site steam boilers.

Profibus DP is also used as the networking standard in the two fermentation suiteslinking ten S7-300 controllers together and to the WinCC operator interface system.

So what does the adoption of Profibus bring to the Avecia site at Billingham? “The ABC5000 facility was a new build and very different to anything that we had on site previously” answers Avecia process control systems engineerGareth Maloney. “We therefore didn’t have any baseline expectations of improvements that Profibus might bringbut we wanted to make the best use of available technology. From an engineering perspectivethe use of a single network infrastructure for our PCS system – DP for main control hardware and PA for instrumentation – has reduced our overall cabling/networking requirements. Instrument cabinet sizes are much smaller and control circuits are simplified. We were also able to order certain skid-mounted operations that only required a single PA cable to be connected which made all the instrumentation live to the PCS.”

He went on: “Although we aren’t using an asset management tool at presenton-line instrument diagnostics has meant that more faults or maintenance requirements can be identified via operator graphicswhich can be followed up using software tools at a central location without the need to enter clean rooms or remove instruments from their locations. Engineers from instrument suppliers can also utilise the same network with their PC-based toolsso fault rectification and instrument replacement/optimisation is simpler and quicker because the saved configuration of previous device can be downloaded from a computer rather than having to configure the instrument by hand. This ultimately means greater availability.”

Distributed automation solutions on the basis of open fieldbuses are currently the standard in many sectors of the production and process engineering industries. Only fieldbuses permit full use of the functional advantages of digital communication such as improved resolution of measured valuesdiagnostics facilities and remote parameterisation.

Profibus is currently the most successful open fieldbus with a large installed base across a range of applications. Profibus is suitable for fast communication with distributed I/Os (Profibus DP) in production automationand for communications tasks in process automation (Profibus PA).

Modern process applications cover not only continuous or batch controlbut also discrete applications such as fillingbottlinglabelling and packagingwhere drivesfast digital IO and pneumatic Profibus is the first fieldbus system that covers both types of application with identical communications services. Other process fieldbuses have to use a second fieldbus in these situations and often that will be PROFIBUS too. It is believed that 1.6million PROFIBUS devices are installed in process plants: around five times more than any other fieldbus.

“At Billingham digital technology has reduced the burden in loop error calculations for calibration” adds Maloney“as there are no D/A and A/D converters for 4–20mA loops.

The use of configuration tools with built-in security and audit trails will improve standards for configuration management and change control: we are currently exploring the use of these.”

The advantages of distributed field automation with Profibus PA include: totally integrated modular system from sensor up to management level; problem free interchanging of field devices from different vendors; connection of transmittersvalves and actuators to the network; ease of installation; and low commissioning and servicing costs. The benefits result in: lower hardware costs; shorter start-up times; problem free maintenance; low cost software engineering; and higher operational reliability.

One of the biggest advantages to Avecia relates to the improved flexibility offered by Profibus enabling the company to respond rapidly to changing market conditions.

“We are a contract manufacturing organisation and need to be able to modify our plant to customer requirements in relatively short timescales” says Maloney. “Profibus allows us to deploy new instruments rapidly with minimum cabling/infrastructure changes.”

For more information visit


Recent Issues