Our Controls Platform is at End of Life – Now What?
An American Biotechnology Company (ABC) knew their vintage control systems were approaching end-of-life, making an upgrade essential for their site in California and reaching out to Banks Integration for help.
An American Biotechnology Company (ABC) knew the truth – their vintage control systems were approaching end-of-life, making an upgrade essential for their site in California. ABC grappled with key questions such as:
- Should we continue to do piecemeal upgrades here and there?
- Is there a more strategic approach for our control systems to meet current and future business needs?
- How can we do this across the entire facility in a cost-effective way and limit disruption of our manufacturing?
- How do we ensure stakeholders throughout the organization understand the current risks and see the value in taking action?
- Should we switch to a different controls platform? If so, which one is right for us?
ABC recognized the issues they had with their aging systems, their own limited resources to dedicate to this evaluation, and the one thing they themselves could not do – have an outsider’s perspective with an industry-wide viewpoint. ABC made the decision to bring in that outsider perspective and partnered with Banks Integration Group, an E Tech Group company, due to its 25+-year focus on biopharma and diverse knowledge of automation platforms. Banks also brought its long-term partnership and familiarity with ABC systems and needs to the table. For a project of this importance, creating a strong partnership between client and consultant was crucial. Banks’ engineering team includes seasoned engineers who have been through large-scale control system platform selection and conversion projects as owners and supported similar decisions for other biopharma clients as consultants.
Banks and ABC’s team went through a process of requirements definition and user group meetings, with ABC’s current and future site and global needs in mind. Banks supported workshops with all of ABC’s stakeholders: Automation, Environmental Health & Safety, Facilities/Maintenance, Instrumentation, IT, Production/Manufacturing, Process Engineering/Development, Procurement/Finance, Quality, and brought several leading control system supply partners into the discussion.
The Banks team challenged ABC to think beyond basic requirements from a technical and business perspective. Engaging the team together in workshops enabled ABC’s cross-functional groups to learn about how others within ABC would be using the system. The Banks team was uniquely positioned to objectively facilitate an effective conversation and align the various perspectives through industry knowledge and expertise.
At the conclusion of the process, multiple control system platform solutions were evaluated against the newly defined requirements – the team considered PLC/HMI and DCS-based systems and single-vendor/multi-vendor PLC/HMI platform options. Banks worked with the internal stakeholders at the company to objectively evaluate the options and assess how the different platforms could best support the business needs.
In collaboration with ABC, Banks supported the development of a decision matrix to quantify the analysis of the different platforms. Additionally, Banks worked closely with the decision analysis team at ABC to develop financial and statistical models to help ABC determine the best option from a technical, financial and risk perspective.
Through this process, ABC’s stakeholders reached a unanimous decision on the future platform for the site. ABC, Banks and the control platform vendor are continuing to collaborate to develop the long-term roadmap to support the upgrade/conversion of the site, to the new platform.
“John Simpson and Tom Crowl had both come from a biopharma manufacturer and had both been through this process before. That plus their knowledge of S88 helped a lot.”
“It became a whole team effort between our company and Banks.”
“Tom and Cassy brought out a lot of information that we may not have thought of when we were developing requirements. They asked a lot of pointed questions to the team and gave us a lot more to think about and establish those requirements up front. This was crucial to grading the different vendors.”
“Bring in all of the stakeholders in a little earlier than you think you need them.”
“Cassy was great in pulling everyone together and asking all of the right questions of our people and pulling in other resources from Banks as well. Each of them has different experience, and bringing that all together, we were not only able to define all of our requirements but ask the right questions of the vendors during the selection process.”
“Overall, I appreciate the breadth of experience that Banks has. A lot of people in Banks come together to fill in the knowledge on different platforms.”
“I would recommend Banks to my peers. Cassy has been great, extremely organized. Brought together the right team. It worked really well for us to have Banks as a consultant for this project.”
“Banks has a number of people who know our processes well, but there was an added benefit in bringing in Tom Crowl for a fresh perspective. It was a good balance.”
“This was definitely worth the effort. This is quite an investment, and even as we go forward, we are relying on all the work that we have done to date. We’re using the data and information that we’ve already collected to help us move forward with the next stage of the process.”
“Collecting lessons learned from Banks’ past projects can really help. An example of this is bringing in procurement early.”