MANUFACTURING PROCESS ENVIRONMENTAL CONTROL
Julie hands him a pile of charts, and Geoff frowns as he scans the wandering lines on one chart and then on the next. "What's going on here?" he says. "I tweaked the system after the recordings you gave me yesterday, and now I have even more rooms out of tolerance."Trying to be helpful, Julie offers, "I think Bob also tried to make some adjustments."
With growing concern, Geoff looks up. "What did Bob do? This isn't getting better — it's getting worse! Beth in QA is going to have my head for this!"
Geoff's concern about room conditions is well-founded, as production environments in many cases directly affect manufacturing processes and product quality, and as such, require calibration and validation. The relevant question is not whether space conditions are within specification at a given moment, but whether the process is under continuous control and the conditions constantly documented.
Building automation systems (BAS) can deliver that measure of control and documentation. A well-designed and well-implemented BAS essentially functions as a sub-process of a current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) process. It uses inline acquisition of critical quality data parameters to provide closed-loop feedback control and analysis of the process of manufacturing a quality environment with optimum temperature, humidity, pressure, and particle count.
THE PAT APPROACH
This contrasts with the previous scenario, which is perhaps an extreme example but illustrates a common concern. Geoff's trial-and-error approach shows lack of understanding of the manufacturing process. To make matters worse, others are making ad hoc, uncontrolled, and undocumented changes to the process based on end-of-process measurements provided by chart recorders.
PAT charts a course to better process control and more consistent product quality. Outside the heavily regulated pharmaceutical industry, one can find many settings where PAT is well-accepted. Many industries have evolved from batch processing to continuous processes that use process analytical technology. Industries such as petrochemical, nuclear power, and steel manufacturing apply PAT concepts to improve product quality, operate more safely, reduce waste, increase facility utilization, and increase speed to market.
Building automation systems are another case in which a PAT framework has been used successfully. BAS have been applied with substantial benefit in numerous industries and are already making strong contributions in pharmaceutical production.