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Conet realises virtual test environment for Bilthoven biologicals

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A Leading Global Vaccine Producer

Bilthoven Biologicals operates as a prominent global vaccine producer, actively engaged in the development and manufacturing of vaccines to safeguard children worldwide against infectious diseases. They hold a significant position in the vaccine industry, with over 30% of the world’s vaccines being either produced in Bilthoven or employing their cutting-edge technology. Originally affiliated with the National Institute for Public Health, Bilthoven Biologicals transitioned into a private enterprise in 2012, falling under the umbrella of the Cyrus Poonawalla Group, the largest vaccine manufacturer on a global scale. To cater to the escalating demand for vaccines, the company has substantially expanded its workforce from 140 to 400 employees and has ambitious plans for further growth. They not only aim to enlarge their existing facilities but also intend to construct new ones to accommodate the surging production requirements. Ensuring a safe testing environment for vaccine automation remains pivotal in their expansion strategies.

Scaling Up to Meet Surging Demand

Ronald de Heij, a senior process automation engineer at Bilthoven Biologicals, plays a crucial role in the automation of the new factories and processes. Ronald places immense emphasis on adhering to Good Manufacturing Practice and international legislation to ensure impeccable quality assurance in the pharmaceutical industry. Undoubtedly, safety takes precedence, and the development and testing of medicines and vaccines require a significant investment of time, sometimes spanning several years. Previously, they focused on developing and testing automation within the production environment. However, due to the company’s rapid growth, this approach no longer proved ideal. To tackle this challenge head-on, they embarked on the creation of a dedicated replica of one of their plants, Plant A7, exclusively for testing purposes.

The Perfect Partner for Bilthoven Biologicals

With the goal of finding an ideal partner, they approached four suppliers and eventually selected CoNet as the perfect fit for their requirements. CoNet, renowned for their reliability and expertise in Siemens’ PCS7, emerged as the optimal choice. The primary challenge at hand was the stringent delivery schedule. Although the project was technically feasible, completing it within a span of six weeks posed a significant undertaking. Mathieu Smit, representing CoNet, effectively managed the project with support from Robert Nugteren and Emile Seca. The project involved the establishment of a distinct virtual test environment employing Siemens’ PCS7, virtual controllers (SIMIT), and Simatic Batch.

Overcoming Delivery Time Challenges

Mathieu meticulously planned and coordinated the project to ensure maximum efficiency, taking into account the involvement of multiple stakeholders and the uncertainty surrounding material delivery times. Despite the time constraints, the project was successfully accomplished within the specified timeframe. The physical replica of the plant, referred to as “the cupboard,” was delivered and installed at Bilthoven Biologicals. This achievement was widely celebrated as a significant milestone.

Successful Completion of the Project

The collaboration between Ronald and Mathieu proved to be exceptional. Ronald’s ability to clearly communicate his expectations played a crucial role in ensuring smooth cooperation. Given the nature of the project, there was no room for trial and error, necessitating a flawless execution from the outset. Both parties expressed their satisfaction with CoNet’s swift response, expertise, and effective communication throughout the process. CoNet comprehensively understood the company’s needs and desires from the very beginning, resulting in a successful collaboration. Ronald views this project as a positive step towards fostering future cooperation.

Seamless Collaboration

The outcome of the project is the creation of an independent virtual environment that replicates Plant A7, enabling Bilthoven Biologicals to enhance the efficiency and safety of their production systems’ development and testing. With their dedicated team and additional staff, they can now focus on developing and testing new batch recipes while implementing novel policies. Previously, testing within the existing production network carried inherent risks and was strictly prohibited during production. The new virtual environment provides a breath of fresh air and yields significant benefits to their day-to-day operations.

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