Monitoring disparate equipment that was not designed for fieldbus use

07 June 2011

When creating a new polyclonal antibody production site, biotechnology company Genzyme wanted the facility to be automated as far as possible, to reduce human error in the many stages of the process – separation, purification, filtration, ultrafiltration, haemadsorption etc.

This meant that it needed to be able to interface with a variety of mixed laboratory equipment, which was not initially designed to communicate with fieldbuses. Genzyme has used about 30 HMS Anybus Communicator gateways, to enable consistent SCADA management across all the devices in use. Benefits are as much in terms of quality as in production costs.

Currently, the company is using labour-intensive production methods at it existing site. Explaining the reasons behind the need to automate the process and the problems that this has highlighted Alexis Ducancel, Genzyme’s automated Systems officer said: “With the new site, we are hoping to optimise the process so as to reduce human error to a minimum. This highly sequential batch process involves more than 780 production stages. There are many sources of error. Automating a process such as this has required a lot of close work with the equipment involved when deciding how the system should behave. This has avoided the need to re-think the entire ergonomics of the building and production equipment. We specified more than 4,000 parameters and 13,000 alarms, enabling us to master every stage of production.

“We chose HMS, because we felt that no other company has standard solutions available to return data from a very mixed set of equipment which has not necessarily been designed for connection to fieldbuses. We have 28 centrifuges, pH-meters, balances and so on. The interface protocols vary: serial or ASCII for example. The 30 Anybus Communicators on site send the data back over the Ethernet or Profibus to the central SCADA.”

The Anybus Communicator series of gateways for connection to industrial Ethernet/Fieldbus makes it possible to network devices that were developed for use in a serial network. The Anybus Communicator can connect most products with an RS-232/422/485 serial interface to an industrial Ethernet or fieldbus. It performs an intelligent conversion between the serial protocol and destination network. This conversion is configured using the ‘ABC Config Tool’ software. The network configuration, once completed, can be re-used for all networks supported by the Communicator.

Around 50 employees are now in place at the Genzyme production site, where initial production batches are being run to validate the production process. Full production should start in late 2011, once the AFSSAPS certifications have been obtained. The total number of staff should then rise to 270.

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