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LEWA Increases Productivity in Bioprocess Manufacturing Equipment Design

Chromatography skids integrate control and information systems for streamlined design

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  • Variety control and information systems resulted in excessive design time from custom engineering solutions for pharma manufacturing skid and limited the ability to expand


  • Integrated Architecture System - Seamlessly communicates data from control to information and record keeping systems; Provides a straightforward design environment; Component synergy assured compatibility
  • Information Solutions - Collect data from 150 tags; Scale across the plant and to the enterprise level; Provide easy-to-use reporting environment


  • Reduced Design Time - Improved productivity without adding resources or personnel; Standardized system improved speed to market
  • Streamlined Communications - Engineers collaborate better with shared expertise
  • Reduced Overall Costs - Technical support and simplified supply chain helped control costs

Uncorking a Biopharmaceutical Bottleneck

Advances in the creation of biopharmaceuticals during the last 40 years have primarily focused on increasing the productivity of growing genetically modified cells. This complex, biological manufacturing process largely takes place in two stages: growing cells and purifying the proteins created by these cells.

LEWA, a leading supplier for metering pumps and systems, saw a mismatch in the advances happening in those two stages. The technology for growing cells was making leaps and bounds. The low-pressure liquid chromatography (LPLC) skids that purify the cells’ output could not keep up with the ever-more productive cell growth step.

The company’s first chromatography batch skid, called EcoPrime® LPLC, was designed with an insight that differentiated it from traditional skids – the metering pump was switched from an analog-based motor to a digital servo motor. This innovation let them know every degree of the pump’s rotation, which helped improve measurement accuracy enough to result in a 1 to 1.5 percent improvement in yield. Additionally, the automation system was central to how the skid performed: precise control depends on the motors coupling to a sensor and a dedicated controller.

Making Connections in Bioprocess Manufacturing

After being acquired by Nikkiso Corporation in 2009, the LEWA team had an opportunity to work with management to identify its best opportunities for long-term growth. In order to expand into a global market, LEWA needed to change its approach to how it designed and developed skids. 

Until this point, the LEWA team designed and developed each skid using the control system already in place at its customers’ facilities. This approach limited LEWA’s ability to quickly scale and required engineers to become familiar with a wide breadth of technologies. Each new customer presented a design challenge, and each engineer would have an opinion on the best solution. As customers increased, additional engineers with diverse backgrounds would be needed, cutting into overall profitability.

The challenge to reduce customization also pertained to the EcoPrime’s information system. Bioprocess manufacturers collect reams of information created by valves, sensors, pumps, flowmeters and other components for precise fluid management. All that information needed to be collected in real time and be easily accessible.

“We’re seeing scalability and the ability to share data across the enterprise as an important trend,” said Gerard Gach, chief marketing officer at LEWA. “We needed information solutions that could simplify integration into our customers’ facilities and operations.”

The conclusion was to standardize on an integrated control and information system that could easily integrate and communicate with other equipment on the machine and in the facility.

In addition to standardizing the EcoPrime LPLC batch skids, LEWA also needed the platform to precisely control its innovative EcoPrime Twin, a new continuous process skid that uses twin-column technology and creates 10 to 100 times the amount of data as the batch skid. LEWA needed an information system with a robust historian and accessible reporting.

Purifying the Engineering Process

LEWA defined three key requirements for its new automation platform. First, the system needed to deliver high-level control of components. Second, it needed to provide both control and information capabilities. Third, it needed to be available at a competitive price.

After a multiyear review process, LEWA selected Rockwell Automation for an integrated control and information system. In addition to meeting the requirements, the system was preferred by LEWA customers because it easily integrated with the technology in their facilities.

What helped make the Rockwell Automation solution ideal for LEWA was the Integrated Architecture® system. It provides tight machine-level control that is easily integrated with the information system. It also is scalable and includes common automation tools across applications.

The Integrated Architecture system uses a single Rockwell Software® Studio 5000® development environment to simplify the design process. The environment helps to configure and maintain devices, letting LEWA engineers organize the system however they prefer. Engineers also can access and reuse system content when working on other skids.

“The integration of Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® controllers and Allen-Bradley PanelView terminals running FactoryTalk® View SE HMI software from Rockwell Automation is seamless,” continued Gach. “Of course, it’s a benefit for operators to have visibility into their process, but we’ve been able to simplify how engineers at LEWA communicate. A shared expertise is growing internally on how to best define tags, and create graphic objects and displays.”

Automation hardware, such as the controllers and Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 5500 servo drives, also have built-in connectivity to the FactoryTalk suite, including historian and reporting tools. As part of the standardized skid, LEWA pulls and collects data from 150 tags to create standard performance and audit reports.

“By standardizing on FactoryTalk Historian and FactoryTalk VantagePoint® software from Rockwell Automation, our EcoPrime LPLC platform provides a plant- and enterprise-level information solution depending on where the customer is on their Connected Enterprise journey,” said Gach. “The skid is a standalone system that quickly integrates with any new skids added to a line, and can then send performance information where it’s needed.”

At each stage of developing the standardized system, engineers at LEWA were assisted by the support team at Rockwell Automation. Working with them on the questions LEWA had while developing a standard solution also helped define how future iterations of the hardware and software would fit with the LEWA LPLC platform of systems.

Pumping Up Productivity

In an industry where products are largely customized to the individual biopharmaceutical manufacturer, LEWA has standardized control on nearly 75 percent of their LPLC skids. This familiarity provides consistency to end users in operation and reporting, and helps the LEWA engineers increase their productivity.

“Since standardizing on the Rockwell Automation control and information system, LEWA has met demand for the LPLC skids without adding to our resources or personnel,” said Gach. “Had we continued to pick and choose different platforms, the additional costs would limit our ability to meet our customers’ needs.”

Familiarity with the platform and reduced development time have helped LEWA enter new markets faster than before. With a single source for control and information system support, engineers can focus on designing skids for unique customer requests and innovating new products.

The integrated systems in the LPLC skids also met LEWA’s competitive price requirement. Working with a single technology provider has helped minimize financial impacts.

LEWA is now evaluating opportunities to extend the standardized system to their full lineup of products. By applying their engineers wisely, they are anticipating a reduction of design time across the company.

The results mentioned above are specific to LEWA’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

Allen-Bradley, ControlLogix, FactoryTalk, Integrated Architecture, Kinetix, PanelView, Rockwell Software, Studio 5000 and VantagePoint are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.

EcoPrime is a trademark of LEWA.


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