Control System Upgrade Delivers Peace of Mind

And a new way to approach maintenance

By Don Geers, Senior Maintenance Engineer, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals

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Today the company has two identical physical server racks housed in two separate buildings — something that’s significantly increased system uptime. Having the servers in separate buildings provides redundant protection in case the other server fails catastrophically. With virtualization, islands of information are consolidated. In the event of a data center system failure, Mallinckrodt engineers use the backup to run the system without any lost production or downtime. This also allows the company to run the backup during scheduled maintenance outages, enabling them to keep the production line running.

Staff engineers estimate virtualization will save at least 8 and as many as 24 hours to rebuild the system and get the line back into service if a failure occurs. With three buildings involved and one acting as the main power supplier for all other buildings, virtualization provides a quick disaster recovery option and saves them from catastrophic downtime.

It took only a few days for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals maintenance and controls engineers to understand the benefits emanating from the control system upgrade. Having a common platform for control and information has decreased downtime and allowed the company to turn away from expensive, reactive maintenance and turn to more proactive cost effective maintenance regimes —something not possible with the company’s old technology.

From Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals maintenance team’s perspective the project was a complete success. As an organization, the benefits being realized go beyond the maintenance department. The company’s environmental health and safety (EH&S), production, plant-floor and leadership teams now have access to continual process data via the system’s historian and that allows Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals to meet regulatory reporting requirements and run a better operation.

Data from the historian application is accessible to anyone in the facility who has Excel, and it can be analyzed from any building on campus. This allows the company’s EH&S staff to analyze data essential to demonstrate that the company is not sending hazardous chemicals into the environment. Daily production reports provide engineers and building managers with process data correlated from batches completed over several days, which helps streamline overall production. Operators enter production data on the HMI and generate an electronic batch record required for compliance reporting. Having this capability reduces the risk of human error commonly caused by handwritten reporting.

Finally, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals operators can call up trend screens on the shop floor at any time to aid troubleshooting. Batch records allow engineers to track process trends, including tank levels, temperatures and other data needed to streamline and pinpoint potential bottlenecks. When engineers can identify the times production is experiencing higher impurities, staff can head off problems quickly, thus minimizing waste and quality concerns. Previously, the company’s daily production reports would pinpoint problems, but only after they had occurred. Now operators can identify potential problems and respond faster, keeping quality at an elevated state.

Sometimes, it takes a village to bring improvements to manufacturing facilities, especially those that have evolved like Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals over its 140-year history. Having a dedicated team that understood the plant’s pharmaceutical syntax and vocabulary reassured the decision-making team and allowed the company to meet an aggressive timeline with minimal disruption and problems.

Within days of the upgrade, the control system helped curtail downtime and made proactive maintenance a feasible, practical reality. While it may have been a maintenance issue that prompted the control system and reporting upgrade, the entire operation has reaped the benefits associated with better data and a better operating system. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals now has the ability to build tools for all engineering departments and have a control system infrastructure that empowers all the company’s operations.

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