AstraZeneca, Macclesfield, required Industrial Technology Systems Ltd's (ITS) engineers to write the Siemens PLC code for their Libra Labelling Machine. Through ITS’ success in previous Siemens’ projects undertaken for AstraZeneca, and its position as one of Siemens’ Preferred Solution Providers the team was approached to improve the performance of the Libra Labelling Machine.

AstraZeneca’s labeller attaches pre-printed labels onto the product cartons as they pass a certain part of the line. AstraZeneca is renowned for its continuous improvement culture and the need for faster, more accurate detection processes was identified as a priority.

ITS was responsible for installing the software to speed up the process, and to ensure that the labels were present and correctly positioned. If a label was not present or not in the correct position then the machine had to reject the box. If the box was not detected entering the reject bin then the machine had to stop immediately and indicate an alarm.

The ‘mark detector’ was replaced with a more comprehensive bar code reading device. The purpose of the new software was to provide structural improvements and the required new interface for the bar code reader was to be used in place of the ‘mark detector’.

AstraZeneca has achieved several benefits following its investment. Firstly, greater efficiency has been achieved, as the speed of detection has increased to 300 cartons per minute. With the new software AstraZeneca has maintained its compliance with the strict regulatory standards.

The rise in standards from regulatory bodies including the FDA in the pharmaceutical industry, has led to the need for more rigorous testing regimes and greater accuracy in system installations. ITS serves the needs of many pharmaceutical manufacturers in the UK and Europe. As testing is critical for such clients, PICS simulation software plays a significant role in ITS’ project execution process.

By using PICS, ITS’ engineers tested the process for AstraZeneca. As the detection was to take place in an area two inches long at a rate of 300 per minute, a second PLC was connected to assist PICS with the high-speed signals e.g. checking the label and rejection. By using PICS as a testing tool, ITS found that AstraZeneca’s original software was not capable of meeting its new improved high-speed requirements, and as a result the software had to be re-written by ITS’ team of experts.

ITS’ Project Engineer explained, "ITS recognises the importance of testing to ensure that our customers are completely satisfied with the systems installed and that they meet the strict industry guidelines. PICS Simulation Software benefits both solution providers and customers as it reduces the costs of installation and allows the engineering team to test thoroughly before a system is installed."

The project was completed successfully without any problems and downtime. The satisfaction of AstraZeneca is highlighted by the Packing Manager, "The performance of our labelling machine was causing a bottleneck for one of our packing lines.

ITS identified the root cause of the problem, provided a solution and most importantly tested it thoroughly before handing the job back. The result was the removal of the bottleneck and the machine running at a higher speed."