How Automation Can Speed Up the Race to a COVID-19 Vaccine

The fast spread of coronavirus has made the urgent need for a vaccine undeniable.

While vaccine development depends on many different factors, manufacturers can take anywhere from days to weeks to produce a single batch. As COVID-19 continues to spread, it's vital to find solutions to scaling up vaccine production. Automation technologies can assist in this process by making the production of vaccines quicker, safer and more efficient via reduction of manual errors.

Digitizing Data

Huge amounts of data are necessary to create new vaccines and pharmaceuticals. Honeywell's director of offering management, Joe Bastone, notes that “Not only is it the typical areas like controlling temperatures and pressures over time or adding the right amount of material at the right time, it’s also ensuring the vaccine or pharmaceutical therapy develops correctly." 

In earlier years, the data bundled into vaccine batch reports would be stored on paper, and a single batch might utilize hundreds of pages of data. Today, that data is captured automatically and stored digitally.  According to Bastone, “Electronic batch records can help shorten the time that these vaccines and any pharmaceutical drugs are held before they can be released.”

Using the Cloud

By configuring the control system in the cloud, engineers can tap into a common global system to find the best talent from many different locales. This allows vaccine manufactuers to "...hand off the design configuration and basically follow the sun," according to Bastone. "One team can develop and implement the batch logic while another team can develop the operating displays in parallel," he said. This means that US engineers can hand off data to engineers in India, allowing another team to continue work on the same system. Multiple teams are also able to work simultaneously in different areas, further speeding up the process and driving vaccine production forward.


This approach "...decreases the time that’s required because you can work in parallel, essentially continuously. You don’t have to send engineers all over the world to work together," says Bastone.


Bastone further noted that Honeywell created an updated visualization of instructions that will allow processes to be more intuitive to operators.

This new visualization illustrates how long each production step is expected to take, aiding the operator in correcting for processes that exceed the expected production time. This provides a significant advantage over traditional systems, which do not tell the operator how long an operation has been running or indicate when corrective action is necessary. This visualization can also allow operators to take on other tasks while an operation is running, such as taking samples and running them to the lab. Using automation, Bastone says that COVID-19 vaccine production can be expected to operate " peak efficiency almost right out of the gate.”



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