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Biogen goes virtual with DCS and MES systems

Oct. 23, 2015
Biogen virtualized the infrastructure of an existing pharmaceutical manufacturing facility when converting legacy DCS to Emerson DeltaV and Syncade MES solution
About the author
Dave Perkon is technical editor for Control Design. He has worked with a wide variety of fortune 500 companies in the medical, semiconductor, automotive, defense and solar industries.Virtualization is not that new—it has been a standard in the IT world for the past 10 years or more. "However, it is new to the process world, and we are seeing its many benefits," noted Michael Kalvaitis, a senior engineer at Biogen in Cambridge, Mass. He presented "The Virtual Manufacturing Facility: The Future Is Now" at the Emerson Global Users Exchange in Denver.

Virtualization of servers and storage devices in this application has reduced hardware, server footprint, energy consumption and development time. It has also improved system and deployment efficiency during the conversion process. Kalvaitis and Matthew Daniels, senior solution architect, manufacturing IT, at Emerson local business partner New England Controls, discussed considerations when designing Biogen's virtual architecture and why it is a good option.

"There was also a need for increased redundancy to reduce unplanned downtime. We cannot afford hardware failures." Biogen's Michael Kalvaitis on one of the many benefits its 30-year-old manufacturing site has realized through virtualization of its process control and MES applications.

The presentation also demonstrated how Biogen virtualized the infrastructure of an existing pharmaceutical manufacturing facility when converting legacy DCS to Emerson DeltaV and Syncade MES solution. Some design considerations were also discussed.

Running out of Room

Biogen has been around for more than 30 years and has several facilities across the globe providing therapies for multiple sclerosis, hemophilia, non-Hodgkins lymphoma and leukemia. The Cambridge facility is the company's oldest, and is located in an urban area across the street from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It produces both clinical and commercial products and utilizes both fixed and portable equipment.

The current automation systems include four DeltaV systems, Syncade MES, a variety of PLCs, PI historian and legacy automated systems. "It is a challenge to support and maintain the sheer number of systems," commented Kalvaitis. "There are over 40 physical servers and 55 DeltaV workstations."

Many of the units morphed from lab-scale systems into production manufacturing and are confined to a small city block. "The production facility, which runs 24/7, 365 days a year actually started in a lab, so they are space-limited, highlighting physical constraints of data center space and cooling/power requirements," explained Kalvaitis. "There was also a need for increased redundancy to reduce unplanned downtime to manufacturing. We cannot afford hardware failures."

A Scaled and Conservative Approach

Biogen, together with New England Controls, started with a test case in a non-validated area of the plant. They then scaled it into production. A conservative approach was used to design, install and evaluate each DeltaV system. After having eased into virtualization over the past four years, Biogen plans to be 100% virtual next year, with six physical hosts for about 50 virtual servers and 60 thin client workstations.

The centralized-storage, high-availability, fault-tolerant and soon to be 100% virtualized systems have proven a success. "Biogen has reduced the footprint of DCS and MES 75% by reducing the 40 physical servers to six hypervisors," said Daniels.  "This also saves an estimated $15,000/year in energy and enables a centralized management console simplifying troubleshooting and administration."

The system provides rapid concept implantation with the ability to spin up virtual machines at the click of a mouse. This is very helpful when creating test machines for project use. There is no need to build a server, install windows, configure and develop a new server.

"In the end the return on investment is estimated to be more than $1.13 million over a 10-year period," said Daniels. "There are far fewer physical servers and less hardware to replace, and it's replaced less often. Virtualization has allowed for increased reliability, faster and easier disaster recovery and greater operational flexibility for a 30-year old facility."

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