GE boosts biotech production

By Anna Lewcock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Automation

GE Healthcare has installed a new automation system at its global
headquarters in Uppsala, Sweden, which is due to boost production
of protein separation media at the site by 50 per cent.

The system, provided by Swiss firm ABB, is the third 800xA extended automation solution that has been installed at the Uppsala site, making it the world's most advanced facility for the production of protein separation media. According to ABB, the control system "extends the scope of traditional control systems to include all automation functions in a single operations and engineering environment". ​The system itself promises to deliver improvements in productivity and profitability, and has clearly proven a hit with GE who has seen great success with the ABB solutions and has been dealing with the company for 15 years. "ABB control systems have been our preferred choice of automation systems for a long time at the [Uppsala] site,"​ a GE spokesperson told "The new 800xA system is providing even more useful features compared with our existing systems…it will allow us to optimise the use of the installed equipment set-ups as well as improve the quality level even further." ​ The regulatory-compliant system will control and monitor 4,000 input/output signals from tanks, reactors, valves, stirrers and other process equipment, and also includes other functions such as integrated batch control and management, and record protection and retrieval. One feature of the system which is available as an extension of the 800xA solution is 'Real-Time Production Intelligence' (Real-TPI), which allows plant manager to assess the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of production equipment and processes. According to ABB, plants can waste up to 40 per cent of their process production capacity through equipment downtime, process bottlenecks, and quality issues. The firm refers to these undetected losses as a company's 'hidden plant' opportunities. By employing Real-TPI to identify the true performance of the factory and ways to improve it, ABB claims that a company can tap into these "hidden productivity treasures​". With the biopharmaceutical sector growing quickly as firms tap into this new source of potential production methods, GE's protein separation products business is feeling the benefit, increasing at around 15 per cent a year. The company is also in the process of investing around $100m (€75m) in a drive to boost production and minimise environmental costs at the life sciences headquarters in Uppsala, a sum that represents one of the largest investments in the Swedish biotech industry. The new production suites where the ABB equipment will be used form part of these improvement plans. "The new production suites, including the [ABB] automation system, are essential to support a rapidly growing business in general, and specifically our newest, extremely successful product launches,"​ the GE spokesperson said. As one of the largest production facilities for protein separation media in the world, and with a potential 50 per cent boost to its production capacity simply by installing ABB's software, GE's Uppsala plant would seem well-placed to serve the growing number of players in the burgeoning biopharmaceutical industry.

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