Continuous Processing: Will your Business Benefit?

Industries from biopharm to oil and gas are abuzz with praise for continuous processing technology and the advantages the model brings to their businesses. Traditionally, these advancements take less time, consume less energy and usually have a smaller operational footprint to batch production, depending on the industry and assets utilized. From there, many businesses have seen significant Opex cost reductions, productivity gains, and alternative value-add opportunities.

Hype surrounding continuous processing can be particularly difficult to examine objectively, especially for decision-makers lacking the technical expertise while trying to determine if certain batch processes under their purview are worthy or in need of an upgrade to continuous status.

Do your operations fit the criteria below? Then it may be time to switch. Or, perhaps given what you learn, you must develop other areas first before taking the dive into continuous processing to gain and sustain its benefits.

Continuous processes ‘heating up’ in biopharm and chemical processing
If the science matches up, your company could be a prime candidate for continuous processing. Researchers from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore published a study demonstrating how exothermic and endothermic liquid-phase reactions occurring in pharmaceutical or chemical processes could prosper greatly from continuous production methods over batch.

A*STAR scientists noted biopharm companies and chemical producers utilizing the Reformatsky reaction, a “organozinc-catalyzed reaction that frequently overheats with batch processing,” could find value in continuous processing. Using continuous methods in this way, companies could save on labor and resource costs, retain high uptime rates, uphold product quality, and perhaps even leverage efficiency as a means of lowering prices for consumers.

Will continuous processing give you IT nightmares?
A recent Automation World survey conducted for its advertisers inadvertently revealed several crucial differences between business leaders operating continuous processes versus batch processes. In sharing the results, the publication has provided on-the-fence decision-makers with powerful insights into what process changes could mean for their business at large.

The survey found more readers working with continuous processing worried about “technology upgrades” and “cybersecurity” than those working with batch processes. While correlation does not imply causation, Automation World Director of Content and Editor-in-Chief David Greenfield who wrote the accompanying article for the survey raised important points on-the-fencers should not take lightly. With an increase in technological innovation, connectivity, and interoperability gained through the incorporation of cutting-edge continuous processing equipment, the companies capitalizing on it are more than likely to possess a naturally increased awareness for the possibility of system breaches. That said, if your organization already struggles with cybersecurity issues under a batch regime, perhaps it may be best to devote attention to those gaps first before pursuing continuous processing and the tech that makes it possible.

Continuous processing removes many inefficiencies batch producers have struggled with since the dawn of modern industry. However, implementing continuous processes without proper foresight could backfire. Be sure to research how continuous processing has made an impact in your specific industry before integration, if you wish to glean a competitive advantage.