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Improving pharmaceutical packaging machinery automation

Eli Lilly's Aubrey Hawkins delivered insights into using pre-validated software modules on equipment during the Packaging Automation Forum.

Hawkins provided that perspective during the May 24 Packaging Automation Forum (PAF) in Chicago. The Forum was produced and managed by Packaging World and sister publication Automation World.

The modules Hawkins referred to need to be built on widely accepted standards, he said, such as the kind currently being developed by S-88 Part 5 and the OMAC Packaging Workgroup. Essentially these modules are captured and stored in a library. So each time a specific machine function needs to be deployed, rather than writing code from scratch, the machine builder simply pulls the software from the library and plugs it in.

"We're asking packaging machinery builders to modularize a commonly accepted standard that we can all abide by," Hawkins told his audience. "This will bring us vertical integration as well as horizontal. If we're not modularized on the basis of a standard, vertical integration becomes very costly for us."

To illustrate the value of pre-validated software modules, Hawkins described how, by relying on such modules in a recent drug processing installation, Lilly saved $3.5 million. Why, he asked his audience, can't some of the same concepts be implemented on the packaging machinery side?

As the prospectors used to say in the movies, "There's gold in them thar hills," Hawkins said. "The gold is in getting information from the packaging machines on the plant floor and vertically integrating it with the production management systems or line performance monitoring systems we have in place." Pre-validated software modules will help this information exchange take place, said Hawkins.

"We've demonstrated how dramatic the savings can be when a modular approach is taken to batch processing," said Hawkins in the conclusion to his PAF presentation. "We're hungry to see this in the packaging side of our automation initiatives."

-- by Pat Reynolds, Editor, Packaging World
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