Process controls save time and space in pharma plant

Tuesday, 08 October, 2019 | Supplied by: Burkert Fluid Control Systems


Creating a pharmaceutical manufacturing suite is a complex task that is governed by a host of standards and specifications. For the AstraZeneca manufacturing plant in Sydney, the decision to change its primary supplier of process control valves to Bürkert reduced installation and commissioning costs while also improving process data availability.

The aim of the expansion was to fully automate and modernise the production process as well as increase efficiency and safety — while also meeting strict pharmaceutical standards. The project involved three solution preparation suites where the active ingredient is combined with WFI and other ingredients to create a batch of medication. Once the batch has been discharged from the storage containers, either CIP or SIP processes are used to clean the production pipework and vessels, ready for the next batch.

Ryan Orbell, National Segment Manager – Hygienic for Bürkert in Australia, explained: “The project was already specified and quoted when we became aware of it; however, I knew Bürkert could offer improved functionality and save on installation time compared to the products that had been specified. I contacted the project team at AstraZeneca to explain how Bürkert could deliver a more effective solution.”

Orbell explained about the benefits of a decentralised control solution using Bürkert’s intelligent automated valve control heads with a fieldbus communication network. The aim was to introduce a decentralised control structure, which would not require the use of pneumatic valve islands. This system format would minimise wiring, installation and commissioning costs while providing more information about the manufacturing process itself.

One of the attractive points for AstraZeneca was the ultrabright LED optical lighting on the valve control heads, which offers operators a clear visual status indication at a glance. The engineering team asked if the colour sequence could be changed to match theirs, and so Bürkert put a request to the Systemhaus design team in Germany. Within a week, a new bespoke printed circuit board had been created and released as an AstraZeneca-specific option for the control heads, meaning that any valves ordered in the future with this option would provide status signals that matched the rest of the production facility. Furthermore, while some valves with long lead times had already been ordered from another manufacturer, Bürkert control heads are designed so that they can be retrofitted to other valve bodies.

One of the project criteria was to reduce the number of welded joints and minimise the dead space in the system. Bürkert was able to design and manufacture a number of specialty distribution valve blocks that achieved this while matching all other hygiene standards applied to the rest of the installation. There was also a requirement to minimise the space occupied by the production suite, and Bürkert’s Robolux Valve proved a suitable solution; it enables two independent valve seats switching functions to be achieved within the one membrane. This reduces the installation space requirement, eliminates T-adapters and halves the total number of membranes, actuators and control heads required per seat.

An additional benefit of the Bürkert equipment was compatibility with the existing Profinet communications protocols in the AstraZeneca plant. Available with several communications alternatives, selecting the ASi interface option for the control heads ensured integration with the Siemens PLCs used throughout the site. In the final analysis, AstraZeneca decided to opt for all Bürkert equipment, the one exception being a valve body that had already been welded to the base of process tanks. These were fitted with Bürkert control heads, diaphragms and actuators so that all the valves in the new process area would have the same control components.

“Bürkert has since gone on to supply other projects on the site, including a WFI suite, purified steam processes, nitrogen supply and a sterile compressed air project,” Orbell said. “Our products are now the standard across the solution preparation suites and to all services and utilities applications across the site. In each case, our experienced engineers have offered a combination of standard and bespoke products that work together to deliver the most efficient and reliable hygienic process systems.”

In partnering with Bürkert, AstraZeneca now has six suites either in full operation or in construction. The company also has completely automated processes for the WFI water purification production plant, with clean steam, clean compressed air and nitrogen. The partnership has ensured that every step of the upgrade met hygiene requirements and achieved pharmaceutical manufacturing facility standards, while helping AstraZeneca meet growing demand for its products.

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