Laboratories in the manufacturing sector e.g. food, chemicals. steel, paint, oil are responsible for monitoring the quality of the raw materials, intermediates and final products that its manufacturing sites are making. Sampling may be carried out on the factory floor or directly from a plant stream. Testing is ideally carried out close by in a plant laboratory or if not in a centrally located laboratory. As off specification product cannot always be reworked quickly picking problems up early in quality testing is very important.
The range of testing performed will depend upon the stage that the product has reached in the process but varies depending upon the industry and may range from simple measurements that can be done close to the process to sophisticated instrumental analysis like GC-MS that can only be done in the central laboratory. Laboratories in manufacturing industries usually have to comply with a series of accreditations e.g. UKAS, ISO9002 and ISO17025 and other National and International regulations.
CSols Links for LIMS™ and AqcTools™ software, as well as a variety of customer specified customized programs have been used to help solve problems in different types of manufacturing laboratories. To help you assess how we might be able to help you with your own challenges, we have detailed below a variety of information and links to create a useful general resource. We also describe in more detail some of the solutions that we have delivered to customers.
Instrument Interfacing – Solutions for Manufacturing and Process Control Labs
As a drive towards improved product quality and reduced wastage, companies are moving testing closer to the manufacturing process itself. The net effect is that quite sophisticated instruments are now found in small plant or process laboratories. Rather than use a full time lab technician, these instruments are often run by plant or process operatives. Whilst this approach ensures a fast response to changes in the manufacturing process itself, the challenges in making this approach robust are:
Simplicity of use
The plant operative has a limited time to use the instrument and so operation must be straightforward. If different instrument methods are used for different sample types then they must be easy to switch over.
Sample labelling strategy
Where sample material varies across different plant collection points or batches there must be an ‘easy to use’ and unambiguous sample labelling or numbering scheme to help distinguish sample types and their origin.
As results are produced on different instrument displays and/or print outs it must be easy to associate these results to the original samples to avoid transcription errors. Ideally there should be no transcription so that results can be electronically transmitted to the IT systems supporting the manufacturing process.
A popular area in which CSols software has helped manufacturing companies is the analysis of chemical intermediates by Gas Chromatography (GC). Often samples are brought straight to the plant laboratory to check the progress of a specific chemical process or reaction. CSols software offers:
Easy to select sample points and types
Users interact with a purpose built, ‘easy to follow’ software interface which guides them through valid plant and sample point/type choices for their unique operation. This both ensures the unique labeling of samples and the correct instrument settings are used.
Hide instrument complexity
Behind the scenes CSols software drivers make sure that the GC instrument is ready and set up correctly for the selected sample type. The user only needs to load the sample in order to start the run.
Ancillary or additional instruments
In the case where measurements on other instruments (e.g. balance weighings) are combined to complete the analysis of the sample, the user will be further guided through the process. Background interaction will be as before and CSols drivers will communicate with all the instruments in turn.
CSols drivers will also supervise result collection and any processing of the instrument(s) output. Using appropriate connections (serial cable, network, Bluetooth etc.) results or result files will be collected together, parsed and if required presented to the user for final release. Checks against predetermined or sanity limits can also be done to pick up errors.
Armed with all of the sample details, sample type and result(s), the software can pass the ‘reportable’ result(s) to any external IT systems. Drivers suited to Process Control Systems (SCADA) or LIMS can transmit the results in background while the instruments are reset for the next sample.
CSols have a combination of expertise, experience as well as a range of existing software to create solutions that are easy to use, yet have the power to drive and communicate with a wide range of instruments. This combination provides the following benefits:
• unambiguous sample assignment
• guided interaction to make usage consistent across different users
• as all results are being picked up electronically there are no transcription errors
• immediate production of batch record sheets
• ‘transmission ready’ sample and results data for immediate electronic transfer to SCADA or LIMS
CSols Ltd. The Heath, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 4QX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1928 513535 Fax: +44 (0) 7006 061106