Last year, the German government described the economy as being on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution, with modern processes and technologies such as automation, big data, the internet of things fast-being implemented in manufacturing across a number of industries.
It called the concept Industry 4.0, which attracted the attention of the biopharma industry.
Flexible technologies – whether through modular manufacturing facilities or single-use equipment – and automation tools have been areas of high investment among bioprocessing vendors attempting to capture future production trends.
Sartorius and GE Healthcare both recently invested in automation technologies, while in February Thermo Fisher bought its bioreactor measurement and control partner Finesse Solutions.
And speaking at last month’s BPI European Summit in Amsterdam, Finesse’s VP of Global Sales Dirk Tillich said Industry 4.0’s design principles are being implemented across biomanufacturing plants as a way to increase competitiveness.
Specifically by incorporating modular automation and continuous processing, the manufacturer can be more flexible and improve efficiencies, something he said Thermo Fisher was increasingly seeing when working with its customers for designing future facilities.
At Polish biosimilar manufacturer Polpharma in Gdansk, Thermo Fisher had installed a 1,000L single-use train with full automation upstream along with integrating of OLE for Process Control (OPC – a series of standards and specifications for use in process control and manufacturing automation applications) in the downstream, Tillich said.
And Thermo Fisher also worked with LG Korea in 2012 for its perfusion processes, integrating two 2,000L single-use alternating tangential flow (ATF) bioreactors and implementing a seed train from 100L to 1,000L.
At Alvotech’s recently opened biosimilar plant in Iceland, six 2,000L and four 1,000L Thermo Fisher single-use bioreactors were installed in two suites, while Finesse delivered full automation, a manufacturing execution system and full validation, Tillich said.
And following the acquisition of Finesse, Thermo Fisher announced late last month it was rolling out its SmartFactory automated control platform for single-use systems in a collaboration with Chinese antibody maker Mab-Venture Biopharma.