By providing a true, aggregated view of information across a pharmaceutical production facility, Invensys’ InFusion solution can avail pharma players with real-time business optimisation and operational excellence. Don Clark, vice-president of global process industry solutions, gives World Pharmaceutical Frontiers the low-down.

Can you give us a bit of background about what Invensys is doing in the life sciences sector?

Don Clark: Invensys is a forward-thinking technology company that develops controls and software, and builds cohesive solutions from its exceptional portfolio of recognised, proven brands – Avantis, Eurotherm, Foxboro, SimSci, Triconex and Wonderware. We are working with our customers to define the ‘facility of the future’. This concept is driven by the needs of our customers in the life sciences arena, who require real-time information. This information, however, does no good if it isn’t delivered to the right people: the decision-makers. Having access to the right information – not just data but information – can lead to improved product quality and can also be used to enhance the processes based on the needs of the business.

In this world of ever-declining profits and increased competition, this is critical for our customers, who must maintain their viability. And all of this needs to be done with the industry’s regulatory requirements in mind. This means we have to be mindful of today’s technology, but also create a system that can keep up with the technology of tomorrow.

Thanks to our InFusion technology, at Invensys we are in a unique position to provide our life sciences customers with the critical real-time information needed to run their businesses.

Tell us about Invensys’ InFusion solution. Is it still a flagship product?

Yes, very much so and, although I can’t go into too much detail, we will be invigorating and relaunching it over the next few months. InFusion revolves around the idea that when you look at a process plant, such as a pharmaceutical plant, there are two basic elements involved. One is the manufacturing process itself – taking a certain amount of raw materials and making them into a finished product that has value – which invariably involves a conversion process, even if it’s just mixing ingredients. You must manage and control this process just as you do with your home thermostat, oven or dishwasher.

Invensys, along with our contemporaries, does a very good job at managing this manufacturing process; second to none. But you have to bear in mind that there is a product coursing through the process. This is particularly important in pharmaceutical settings because they are so driven by the quality of the product and by regulations; the process itself is almost secondary.

We have recognised that, while we have the management of the process side covered, the control of the operations of that process – the business part – is largely unmapped. You have suppliers that meet the requirements at the enterprise level, but there really isn’t a dedicated suite of manufacturing solutions at the business management level.

What InFusion has essentially done is extend this notion of control into the operational suite to provide a complete solution, just like we provide real-time information around the process, such as temperatures, pressures, flows, shutdowns, alarms and other things that we have been doing for well over a hundred years. We are now applying that approach to InFusion.

We are stepping into that breach with a solution that does not abandon process connectivity because we are convinced that in order to have a full solution set for operational managers, they must have the ability to identify not only what their business variances are – the cost and inventory quality and schedules surrounding the business of the product – but also to quickly drill down into the process and explain why these business variances occur. Nine times out of ten, the reason is because there is something going on at the process level – you’ve got a valve open, a door open, a reflux gate that’s not quite shut; you name it. There are a billion things that could go wrong and they frequently do.

The InFusion suite of software, hardware and services endows operational managers with the ability to manage and see the cost quality and schedules, while also providing the business variances of the variables that are meaningful to the organisation, right now in real time.

How does InFusion work?

InFusion compares the actual with the forecast, and provides a variance between these key performance indicators. Using this variance of significance, you can quickly explore the process in order to determine why you have the variance.

Thanks to Invensys’ background in control, along with our software modelling expertise, we can take past performance – the history – and create control algorithms. This means pharma plants can start to control business parameters, rather than just the temperatures, pressures or flow.

I would say that there are four principal elements that InFusion brings to the party: firstly, the provision of real-time variances – the business variables; secondly, the ability to drill down into the process and undertake a root cause analysis to explain why those variances have occurred; thirdly, the control of those variables; and finally, the ability to look forward and anticipate opportunities to improve profitability.

So, cost-efficiency is also a huge driver?

Yes, because you turn traditional control variables into monetary control variables. Then we have the ability to look forward and do forecasting or even provide predictive pathways as to how we think a plant can improve profitability.

While these models are sitting there, churning away, looking at past performance and making judgements, we can provide suggestions to the operators such as, "Look, if you decrease the temperature by one degree then you’ll be able to improve your productivity by 5%" – that kind of advice.

How easy is it to integrate the InFusion software with an enterprise’s pre-existing systems?

Over the past 15 years or so, we’ve invested a lot of effort and money in developing and innovating the infrastructure to be able to embrace a wide range of foreign systems.

We essentially systemise other people’s systems. Picture an isolated laboratory information or maintenance management system: they’re important elements, especially in a life science setting, and they are doing their job just fine, but that’s all they do. What we do is provide an integration backbone through technology known as AchestrA, which allows us to knit together and integrate these foreign, disparate systems to create a more comprehensive common system.

The industry has recognised that, having conquered the process side of pharmaceutical manufacturing, we must take that existing production process, wake it up and open its eyes to the business world around it. After all, it is because of the business that the plant is there at all. The plant wasn’t built just to provide an income and careers for process engineers – it was built to make a product or service that people value.

Too many of us – and our peers – have become preoccupied with the process without realising the importance of the product going through the process. In order to provide a full picture of what’s going at the operational level, we must have a complete understanding of what’s going on at the process level.

So, it’s a fairly holistic approach?