21 May 2024

How PAT-driven automation can turn operational data into business intelligence

PAT-Driven Automation

Martin Gadsby, Vice President at Optimal Industrial Automation, looks at how PAT-driven automation can turn operational data into business intelligence.

Future-oriented manufacturers know that data-driven smart manufacturing practices are crucial to enhancing competitiveness in a fast-paced marketplace. Well-executed integration and interconnectivity are at the core of successful digital transformation strategies. The combination of Process Analytical Technology (PAT) and automation solutions offers a quantum leap forward in closing the gap between the industrial edge and the enterprise edge to create connected factories.

Just like a living organism, the ideal smart factory is a self-regulating, self-organising entity. Its activities and processes generate data that can be analysed to support better-informed decisions and provide suitable real-time responses to maintain peak performance, productivity, quality and efficiency. Ultimately, businesses can rely on fully optimised facilities to maintain a competitive edge.

These Smart Factories are built on Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications that bring together critical assets to create actionable insights. Thus, people, processes, equipment, products as well as data analytics and visualisation tools need to be connected to drive real-time optimisation strategies.

Blurring the boundaries between organisational silos

Perhaps the biggest barrier to creating this interconnected infrastructure is the traditional separation between the shop floor and the enterprise level. This is represented by the divide between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT). For digital transformation strategies to succeed, this wall needs to be broken down, allowing these two worlds to be merged.

In effect, knowledge can only be developed by combining the large volumes of raw data that is generated in the OT domain and using the IT tools to turn this input into meaningful and accessible information. Consequently, IT/OT convergence enables companies to set up more holistic control systems, facilitate process management as well as improve visibility and accessibility.

A PAT framework can bring these two worlds together when it comes to real-time quality assurance and process control. More precisely, it encompasses the shop floor analysers that monitor the critical quality attributes (CQAs) of a product and report this information to data analytics and predictive software tools. This enables real-time quality predictions and quality-centric, closed-loop control – thus true quality data that can be relied upon is available immediately. These predictions are used in control models to provide the processing equipment and/or operators with instructions on how to adjust critical process parameters (CPPs) and meet and maintain the necessary quality targets.

Connecting the dots

An extra, highly beneficial step that manufacturers can take to support IT/OT convergence strategies is to use a PAT knowledge management platform, such as synTQ. This is a market-leading software that is a true digital transformation toolkit. It connects to all available analysers, modelling and data analytics programs as well as various enterprise-level solutions. These include laboratory information management system (LIMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES).

As a result, synTQ can form a unique gateway to capture different network flows and maximise visibility. Moreover, it offers an intuitive visualisation platform with key control functions. Consequently, different departments from the industrial and enterprise edge can access their respective information with different levels of granularity and interact with machines as well as processes.

synTQ-assisted manufacturing delivers optimum results and effectively reacts to processing changes on-the-fly to ensure maximum quality. To achieve this, it is necessary to design, implement and test a suitable framework, which involves defining accurate predictive models and automated solutions.

Integrating for convergence

To set up a highly effective, converged infrastructure based on a combination of industrial automation and PAT, businesses should partner with an expert system integrator, such as Optimal. By working together with a specialist who has a proven track record of building, integrating and optimising PAT-driven automation systems, companies can benefit from turnkey implementations.

For over 30 years Optimal has been delivering PAT-based automation solutions to numerous sectors, including the most challenging and highly regulated, such as the pharmaceutical industry. The company’s customised setups meet the requirements and structure of the intended application, enabling manufacturers to achieve maximum convergence and seamless interconnectivity. The connected factories of the future and the opportunities that they make possible have never been closer.