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What is PlantPAx®?

PlantPAx® is a modern distributed control system (DCS) platform for seamless, plant-wide control of critical manufacturing processes.  The core of the solution is based upon the Rockwell Automation Logix platform of programmable controllers and the FactoryTalkView Enterprise Series.  Banks Integration Group, a Superior Controls company, has delivered complete solutions by combining the PlantPAx® core with other FactoryTalk products, such as FT Batch, FT Transaction Manager, FT Historian SE, and FT Asset Centre.  The popularity of PlantPAx® is due in part to its ability to incorporate kits which have been preprogrammed by the OEM or vendor when the equipment is made by Rockwell Automation.  The customer may have existing freestanding Allen-Bradley PLCs or other equipment that can be incorporated into the PlantPAx system and controlled with relative ease compared with other brands of DCSs. Another important attribute is the scalability of PlantPAx®; it works with both small systems as well as plant-wide large-scale systems and everything in between.  Since PlantPAx® is an open platform (not proprietary), customers have the option to either work on the system themselves, or hire local integrators like Banks Integration/Superior Controls to come in and do support and upgrade projects.

One of the largest benefits of using PlantPAx® for customers in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries is that it contains a unique life science industry-specific library of process objects in which the control modules have already been documented and validated.  Having a program library of documented and validated processes to draw from while designing the control system saves both time and expense for customers.  The Life Science library contains both preprogrammed PLC and HMI components to be used in the PlantPAx® system, all of which have been tested and validated by Rockwell Automation.

The PlantPAx® for Life Sciences software library of integrated modules, previously known as Global Engineering Modularity Standards for Life Sciences (GEMS-LS) are designed for medium to large distributed control system applications built on the S88 standard.  GEMS have been in existence for over ten years and are backed by a full set of documentation including functional specification, software design specification and test specification specifically for the Life Sciences industry.

Banks Integration has been a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner since 2010, when the program was in its infancy.  With Rockwell Automation’s most trusted status of Solution Partner, Banks Integration had training and access to PlantPAx® for Life Science when it was first released, and over the years has built a strong relationship with the Rockwell Automation development team.  As an early adopter, Banks Integration was one of the first system integrators to design and install a control system using the specialized industry-specific libraries in the tool.  After the first installation in 2010, Banks has installed more than 20 PlantPAx® for Life Science projects for six major pharma and biotech customers; more PlantPAx® installations in the life sciences industry than any other system integrator.  This high level of experience and familiarity with the life sciences modules makes Banks Integration the PlantPAx® system integrator of choice.

Past projects have ranged from fewer than 100 I/O module points to thousands of I/O points, including systems such as:

  • Central utilities plants
  • Spray dryers
  • Tangential flow filtration (TFF) skids
  • Water-for-injection (WFI)/pharmaceutical water (PW) systems
  • Clean-in-place (CIP) systems
  • Process control systems (PCS)
  • Environmental monitoring systems (EMS)
  • Hazard monitoring systems (HMS)
  • Reactor controls

Banks Integration is currently implementing a $9M large-scale project for a local biotechnology firm.  The multi-year project includes implementing a hazard monitoring system (HMS) for flammable vapor.  There are two controllers and multiple remote I/O points which are highly distributed through a number of control panels.  Another phase of the same project is an environmental monitoring system (EMS) with 180 I/O points.  The largest portion of the project has been underway for 2 ½ years, and is a process control system (PCS), the largest PlantPAx® system to date for Banks Integration.  The PCS monitors reactor suites, and integrates a total of 25 PLCs, third-party controllers, a historian system, multiple virtual servers and several physical servers.

Software integrated into this installation includes:

  • FactoryTalkView
  • Historian
  • Asset Center
  • Win911 for remote alarm notification
  • Dream Report

The customer is ecstatic with the PlantPAx® system, and finds the data recording and monitoring especially helpful in complying with the FDA CFR-21 Part 11 electronic data capturing and archiving regulation.  The customer also runs an artificial intelligence (AI) application to process the data and look for predictive and preventive maintenance trends.  Scientists in the customer’s pilot lab facility do deep dives into the data to analyze how the system performed and how the reaction progressed.  The collected data is also relayed to certified manufacturing organization (CMO) partners which helps them scale up for producing the pharmaceutical batches for market.

With the breadth and depth of experience at Banks Integration/Superior Controls, the company has become a trusted automation partner to some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.  Recently, Superior Controls was awarded 23 separate biotech projects in a 90-day period.  The company employs engineers who have co-authored the S88 batch automation regulations, and has a strong employee-training program. Banks Integration has also been featured in the Control Engineering magazine cover story Biopharmaceutical Company Optimizes Manufacturing Processes with Rockwell DCS.