Upgrades and Commissioning in a validated world – Looking at a problem through a Different Lens

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A global pharmaceutical leader in medical devices, sustainable plastics and protective materials needed controls expertise to complete an Interlocks and Alarms IOQ on a distillation reactor system that creates a liquid used in contact lens manufacturing. The reactor system is a new business development opportunity for the pharmaceutical company, boasting to be the only location for the company that produces the contact lens liquid worldwide.

Prior to Avanceon joining the project, the OEM working with the company struggled to complete the IOQ execution of the reactor system. After an expensive equipment failure during one of the tests, the project was placed to an immediate stop. There was an unsettling unknown of what actually caused the failure.
The pharmaceutical company had three choices for their new business opportunity: attempt to revive the reactor system with the OEM, attempt to revive the reactor system with a new integrator, or abandon it completely. The company chose to revive the system with a new integrator. Now scattering to steer the project back on track, the company turned to Avanceon with no prior project engagements to complete the IOQ.


The Challenge

With the company’s budget for the reactor system reaching its peak, this was their last chance at reviving the system before pulling the plug. Avanceon agreed to assist in the revival of the reactors and sent two experienced controls engineers on site. Upon Avanceon’s initial kick-off of attempting to execute the Interlocks and Alarms IOQ alongside the company’s team, there was an immediate realization that the control system was incomplete and would not function as intended.
The problems from system to system were varied and difficult to organize and address. Inputs wired to outputs, outputs wired to inputs, incomplete PLC logic, devices still in the system that were unnecessary, devices that were not functioning, and no trace of previous loop checks anywhere to be found. Avanceon had a specific deadline to complete the IOQ, but it became clear that the current approach and timeline needed to be re-assessed, and this was not going to be as simple as just executing the remaining portion of an IOQ. Avanceon recommended a different, more challenging in the short term but with a better result in the long-term solution.


The Avanceon Solution

With the company’s corporate eyes and the end user’s eyes all on the successful or unsuccessful revival of this system, they now requested Avanceon’s further assistance with not only our PLC and HMI programming expertise to complete an IOQ, but also our electrical, mechanical, project management, and validation expertise to drive the project to a full completion.
Realizing that more than just an Interlocks and Alarms IOQ needed to occur and more contractors than just Avanceon needed to be involved, Avanceon suggested a new phased approach. As the system had a now negative history in the organization, we suggested to slow down to speed up – to focus on leveraging success forward from phase to phase and build confidence in the system. We suggested for Avanceon to work as a team with the company’s process engineers to determine which reactors are most critical to revive first based on current end-user order requests and fulfill those near-future orders. We focus on getting the most critical reactor running first, and then move on to the next. We learn as we go and apply the challenges we faced to the next reactor, thus making us more efficient with each reactor.
The company’s management was relieved to hear that not only can Avanceon turn the reactor system into a functioning and reliable system, but we can implement it in a phased approach that makes the company revenue in the immediate future after the first reactor is ready.



The project was redefined and reset. Avanceon provided additional resources on site to assist in a swift and efficient repair of all the reactors – completing incomplete PLC code, working with electricians to fix the electrical issues, and making improvement suggestions along the way. As more and more issues with the original reactors design were found during the IOQ, the process of each reactor began to change, causing physical design changes. Other contractors began to be involved in the revival taking on tasks such as de-installation of devices, re-piping, re-wiring, and running conduit.
The revival of the first critical reactor proved to be successful and created the first revenue stream for the company. Traction started to build and confidence in the system was re-established. After two years of sporadically reviving one reactor at a time, all five reactors are currently reliably operational and providing revenue streams for the company. Avanceon made possible what many in the pharmaceutical company thought was unachievable. The reactor skid now provides one of the largest sources of revenue at the location.
During the project, Avanceon blossomed into a trusted advisor for the company and is now actively working on numerous other projects both large and small at the location of the reactors. Avanceon provides 24×7 support for the reactor system and assists with all upgrades to the controls. The goals of the control system at this specific location are at the “crawl” phase of “crawl-walk-run”, focusing on manual functionality and visualization rather than heavier automation and data retrieval. Avanceon is currently spearheading upgrades to the reactor system to provide more automation rather that manual operator intervention. Adjacently, Avanceon is conducting the incorporation of a working Historian for multiple systems across the company’s location, including the reactor system, to provide real-time data and analyses for the company’s employees.



Within a short amount of time, Avanceon proved the dedication we have to ensuring our customers are successful even if it means taking a step back, pulling the brakes, and approaching the project from a different lens. We know that automation needs to be done right to get value and often the progression is a journey. Slowing down to speed up while celebrating and capitalizing on the wins proved to be a successful approach. The success of the reactor system sparked a strong ongoing relationship with the company that continues to develop to this day.