Quickly delivering high-quality products at competitive prices with maximum efficiency is every manufacturer’s dream. This can be achieved by leveraging a robust, data-driven control strategy, such as Process Analytical Technology (PAT) combined with Edge capabilities. Using an optimised setup, businesses can benefit from a holistic and dynamic process understanding that can be used to improve and intensify operations.
Martin Gadsby, Director at Optimal Industrial Technologies, looks at how PAT and Edge computing go hand-in-hand in well-designed digitalisation strategies
The vision of PAT as a tool to design, analyse and control manufacturing through timely measurements to deliver quality products originated decades ago. While its concepts are not new, more and more enabling technologies to support this framework are being released and refined. In particular, the objectives of PAT align with current Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0 strategies and share the common goal of gathering data and deriving the most value from it to generate knowledge.
As a result, PAT is largely benefitting from the latest advances in industrial automation, especially Edge and Cloud computing. A successful PAT-led production system should be able to support both time-critical decision making and deferrable in-depth data analytics. The first is key to adjusting processing conditions in real time to meet quality targets. Conversely, the second supports quality auditing as well as complex tools, such as chemometric or multivariate analysis (MVA) models. These are essential to supporting long-term improvements by storing datasets, identifying patterns and trends, predicting future outcomes and producing other information used to drive efficiencies within the business.
Edge computing can help accommodate high-speed communication by processing time-sensitive information close to its source, for example using smart and cogent sensors or strategically located virtual machines. Simultaneously, it offers a filter to transmit only what is necessary to the Cloud or on-premises for advanced, Big Data mining and repository functions.
While PAT frameworks can benefit from the Edge, the inverse is also true. More precisely PAT can help businesses set up forward-looking Edge computing applications by providing the backbone to create a suitable network infrastructure. In addition, a centralised PAT knowledge management platform, such as synTQ, can help businesses gain a comprehensive process overview. This can combine, integrate and visualise pieces of information from across distributed workloads that are taking place dynamically across devices, edge systems, Clouds and other data centres.
As future applications of industrial automation and PAT become more advanced, it will be possible to further enhance both real-time and advanced analytics capabilities across the network infrastructure. In particular, manufacturers will be able to bring their operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) domains closer and closer together, benefitting from ever more accurate representations of manufacturing line and key operations.
By partnering with a leading PAT and process control specialist, such as Optimal, businesses can equip their facilities with state-of-the-art smart solutions. These can help maximise productivity, efficiency and product quality while offering minimised lead time and quick return on investment.