The Life Sciences industry represents an ideal environment for deploying Hybrid Control Systems. After all, the industry itself is a hybrid. Life Sciences (pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical, in particular) is one of those few industries that has process, batch and discrete manufacturing all as critical phases in the production process.Automotive manufacturing is all discrete manufacturing; refining is nearly all continuous manufacturing. Life Sciences manufacturing, however, contains three distinct and critical manufacturing phases. Primary or bulk pharmaceutical manufacturing involves the production of bulk powder or liquids and represents true chemical process manufacturing. Control systems for primary manufacturing are typically Distributed Control System (DCS) based, and often used in conjunction with a Plant Historian. Secondary pharma manufacturing facilities contain batch-oriented unit operations like drying, blending and granulation suites. Secondary facilities contain some DCS control and also use Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and Batch Execution systems control. Finally, the packaging operation is completely discrete-oriented and is typically controlled solely by PLCs and SCADA software. Hybrid Control Systems offer the best of all control worlds and are rapidly gaining momentum as an alternative to traditional DCS, PLC and Batch control systems for pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing. Distributed Control Systems (DCSs) have a storied history in the process world and still enjoy a very large installed base today. DCSs are dedicated, distributed systems with proprietary communication protocols that are used for control of a variety of manufacturing operations. DCSs were invented to replace analog hardware controllers via function blocks to control process-oriented manufacturing operations like refining, chemical, petrochemical and bulk pharmaceutical manufacturing. DCS solutions proved to be extremely reliable, but were primarily hardware-based solutions based on proprietary technology. This made them effective tools but extremely expensive to maintain, and very inflexible, especially after the Windows revolution. PLCs, on the other hand, evolved from a completely different industry: automotive, and were invented to replace costly relays and timers. PLC control was, and still is, centered largely on event-based control (versus time or scan-based for DCS), such as responding to an input from a limit switch or position sensor. PLCs excel at performing a specific set of functions, like assembly or packaging, at a very high speed and very predictably. When used in conjunction with SCADA software, this PLC/SCADA combination provides the operator a highly graphical interface to the controller and the solution is very well suited for primarily discrete and some process oriented applications. Finally, Batch Control Systems offer a third alternative for control. Batch control solutions can be part of a larger DCS solution or made up a software and PLC based approach. Batch Control applications are designed to control the sequence of batch execution, provide operator work instructions, and manage recipes and equipment.
What is Hybrid Control?
A Hybrid Control System is comprised of hardware and software that provides integrated process control for continuous and hybrid process applications. Hybrid Control provides batch and continuous process control strategies and utilities typically associated with DCS systems at a traditional HMI/PLC solution openness, flexibility, and price structure.
Why Hybrid Control?
Hybrid Control offers integrated architectures, advanced PC-based programming software, and industrial hardware. For Life Sciences customers, Hybrid Control allows for leveraging the existing installed base of products including SCADA, Plant Historian and Batch Execution software. Process Analytical Technology initiatives also open the door for an integrated Hybrid Control and PAT solution. The key value offering of a Hybrid Control System is a viable alternative to traditional DCS solutions and with that, a lower TCO. In addition, Hybrid Control Systems provide a much better process control system than could be accomplished with the traditional PLC and HMI approach.
With all of this advanced flexibility and capability, Hybrid Control Systems stand well positioned for a bright future in the rapidly changing Life Sciences manufacturing environment.