Apotex: Pharma Controls Retrofit Improves Process

July 6, 2015


There are many reasons to upgrade from obsolete control systems; they can include lack of support, scarcity of parts, lack of functionality, lack of flexibility to make changes in the software and unscheduled downtime due to system crashes.

Apotex, a large pharmaceutical manufacturer, was experiencing some of these business risks of operating an obsolete control system, this lead to unscheduled machine downtime on their fluid bed dryer and granulator, resulting in lost productivity that was causing customer service problems. Apotex decided it was prudent to replace the aging Opto 22 controllers, obsolete solenoids, and the Windows 2000 HMI.

With Grantek’s help, Apotex looked at the requirements for a Fluid Bed Dryer and Granulator in their manufacturing process and quickly realized that any replacement system would need to simplify the process for adding recipes and provide Apotex with the ability to run different batches faster.

By taking a holistic approach to the problem, Grantek and Apotex came up with the following solution that kept the mechanical components of the Fuild Bed Dryer and Granulator while upgrading the controls, thereby allowing Apotex to continue to use their current fluid bed dryer and granulator rather than having to purchase new equipment.

First the existing PC hardware was upgraded and connected to the corporate network with Rockwell’s FactoryTalk ViewSE. Then virtual server databases were setup for the recipes, and finally the Opto 22s were replaced by ControlLogix PLCs. By leveraging the existing FactoryTalk ViewSE systems already at Apotex and by upgrading to ControlLogix, Grantek was able to develop a flexible platform that would meet Apotex’s current and future needs. The system was designed to meet both Apotex’s and the FDA’s 21 CFR Part 11 requirements with respect to auditing and logging. The upgraded system also allowed Apotex remotely modify the recipes with a new, more powerful recipe editor. Finally, the upgraded Standardized HMI built in conjunction with Apotex operators allows for fast troubleshooting and analysis.

Apotex’s replacement of outdated control systems to current technology integrated by Grantek has offered many major improvements and results:

  • Reduced business risks,
  • Greater flexibility and control over batches,
  • Ability to add, edit and store recipes,
  • Full revision control, change control and time based tracking of recipes,
  • Full audit trail on all system actions and operator actions and 21 CFR Part 11 Audit trail compliant,
  • Domain level authentication for the systems,
  • Standardized HMI, and
  • Less frequent/easier maintenance and troubleshooting.

Upon Grantek updating Apotex’s Fuild Bed Dryer and Granulator control system with up-to-date technology, there has been a 68% decrease in fluid bed service calls and a 50% decrease in granulator service calls.

With Rockwell hardware readily available from local distributors and consistency with other Apotex machinery, the new Fuild Bed Dryer and Granulator control system is no longer obsolete.

This blog is a summary of a presentation, given by Apotex and Grantek at Rockwell Automation TechED. Designed for end users, system integrators, distributors, partners, machine builders, Rockwell Automation TechED gives you the chance to work with the latest Rockwell Automation products and technology solutions in a classroom environment and to learn about upcoming innovative products from Rockwell.

Apotex is the largest Canadian-owned Pharmaceutical Company. Founded in 1974, Apotex grew from 2 employees to 10,000 employees worldwide. With over $2 Billion in revenue, Apotex exports to over 115 countries globally.

Grantek is a system integrator and solution provider with a specialization in Manufacturing IT solutions, Manufacturing Automation solutions, Plant Safety solutions and Manufacturing Consulting services. Since 1980, Grantek has been enabling higher return on investment to our clients by creating better processes and solutions for them, including packaging solutions, control systems design, MES implementation, electrical design, and more. Grantek has offices located in British Columbia, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Ontario and Quebec.

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