Batch process manufacturers are continuously looking for new ways to improve processes and production techniques and to be more efficient to remain competitive. Although manufacturers see new technologies as a key to improving their operations, there is a mindset shift occurring about the role those technologies should play. Rather than trying to make a batch process fit the available technology, manufacturers want batch systems to have flexibility and options to better fit and adapt to the needs of the process.

Bottles

Modern batch systems, which incorporate technology advances and new capabilities, can help industrial producers do just that. As batch users in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries seek to implement or modernize their existing batch systems, the three core capabilities they should look for in their new control and information technology are mobility, enhanced controller integration, and information-enabled decision making.

Mobility

A batch system with mobile capabilities frees workers from time-draining activities. A mobile platform allows operators, supervisors, and maintenance technicians to perform a range of actions—such as running schedules, viewing logs, and troubleshooting diagnostics—from a mobile device regardless of their location. This reduces steps and improves workflows in batch operations to keep production running and minimize downtime.

Also, mobile solutions must be easy to implement and offer the same control and security as traditional control methods. A mobile solution should not be a simple display of a traditional human-machine interface on a mobile device. The wide array of devices, operating systems, and sizes calls for an adaptable interface with consistent usability in all applications.

Enhanced controller integration

A modern batch system should provide flexibility regardless of the infrastructure. Depending on a facility’s specific architecture and process needs, the correct solution could be controller-based, server-based, or a combination of the two.

Bringing batch operations to the controller—and closer to a process—can be especially useful in critical applications, where close control of equipment or batch processes must be maintained. A bio reactor or tire rubber mix, for example, may have transition speeds between phases that are too fast for a server. And a simple server disconnect could cause a lost batch and cost the company hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

Maintaining a server-based solution is also a key component of modern batch solutions. Managing large, complex batch operations is best performed in a supervisory system independent of the controllers. A server-based batch solution provides a layer of security and incorporates visualization capabilities that are required to fully contribute to a connected batch enterprise. As process control solutions continue to become more integrated with manufacturing execution systems, warehousing, and enterprise resource planning systems, it is important to incorporate a batch-management server as a major component within the infrastructure, so there are more options for future integration, connectivity, and scalability across large facilities.

A modern batch system truly differentiates itself by easily allowing server-based and controller-based architectures to work together and create a unified user experience.

Information-enabled decision making

Modern batch software allows end users to configure, view, and obtain batch-sequence data stored in the controller. This increases visibility and accessibility to all stages of production. In a connected enterprise, batch and process data can be seamlessly shared via industrial-process and enterprise systems to support better decision making at all levels of an organization.

Of course, with greater connectivity and information sharing across an enterprise come new security risks. Batch end users must keep this in mind when specifying and selecting a batch control system. New control technologies, for example, are developed using a design-for-security philosophy, in which quality, resiliency, and operational integrity are built into the product.

>>Read more by Dan Updyke, InTech Magazine, Sept-Oct 2016

Modern batch control