New industrial IoT solution to localize and control mobile stainless steel storage tanks

Aktualisiert: Jan 15

How many empty tanks/containers are there currently? Where are they? Who put them there? What is the CIP / SIP status of the tank? Where can it be stored?

German text here.

The basic prerequisite for the production of sterile pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic products is that the control circuits, machinery and equipment remain sterile. It is essential to ensure that all equipment and containers that come into contact with the product are subjected to a documented, temperature-controlled cleaning and sterilisation process with a hot medium. CIP (Clean-in-Place) and SIP (Sterilisation-in-Place) are cleaning and sterilisation methods applied to mobile tanks and containers of bulk goods in order to remove any residue from the tanks to avoid inter-batch contamination (batch-on-batch; USA: batch-on-heel). Sterilization takes place at the end of the actual CIP cleaning process. This ensures that microorganisms still active in the empty containers are killed off using hot water or saturated pure steam at high temperatures (83°C to 140°C) over a defined period of time (usually 30-40 minutes) . The coldest point of the mobile tank is taken as the starting point, typically the base or an inlet or outlet pipe, and the system is heated until this point has reached the prescribed temperature. From that point, the stopwatch counts 36 minutes.

If the sterilized tank or container is not used within a given time, e.g. within 4 hours, the costly, time-consuming and environmentally harmful SIP procedure must be repeated because new bacteria may have formed inside. The tank is clean, but no longer sterile.

In addition, before and during production it must be ensured that materials and equipment are available in sufficient quantities. This can be a major challenge for production management. Are sufficient sterile tanks available at the right time? Where are the tanks located? When were they sterilized? How many tanks are currently in use? What is the status of the contents? When were they filled?

The aim is to make the mobile tanks and containers available in sterile condition whenever they are needed in production. Tanks may be sterile and ready, but production is not yet able to fill them. On the other hand, production can be ready, but no sterile tanks are available. Both lead to congestion and delays, which results in additional costs.

How can waiting times be avoided?

Every mobile tank and container could be equipped with a transponder that reports the exact position of the tank to a tracking system via radio technology, displaying the location on a screen. That's not bad, but it doesn't generate much added value. It becomes more interesting when the time window following the SIP process is displayed to the operator. The operator can then organise production so that the sterile tanks can be filled at the right time. If the production is not ready, the SIP process will be rescheduled accordingly.

A further advantage can be realized by providing the shelf life information of the bulk packaged goods in the tank, the so-called "bulk obsolescence". Certain products have a limited shelf life and must be disposed of afterwards. Products with limited shelf life information are often stacked by the ton in warehouses. Before expiry, it must then be decided whether the product is to be bottled to extend its shelf life or whether it is to be disposed of, which can be very costly.

Our integrated solution of transponders, gateways and industrial IoT software shows, in real time on the dashboard, how many tanks are available, broken down by tank size, tank content, location, status of approval by quality control, quantity of bulk goods produced, etc. The colour recognition system allows the operator to immediately see the available product quantities according to their expiry date. For example, green means freshly produced, yellow means one month old, and so on. The user can start search queries such as "Find an empty tank; display a tank with contents; display an empty tank; where can I store the tank?"

Real-time answers to urgent questions

  • How many empty tanks/containers are there currently?

  • Where are the empty tanks? Who put them there?

  • What is the CIP / SIP status of the tank?

  • Which tanks are filled? What is the content?

  • How do we know that there is enough space to store the tanks?

  • What is the manufacturing or expiration date of the tank contents?

  • Which tanks have not moved for a long time?

  • Tracking the incoming and outgoing tanks.

  • Scan for empty/dirty/sterilized stored tanks.

Immediate Benefits

  • Faster, better selection of the right tank at the right time

  • Reduced waiting time

  • Predictive and avoidable tank congestion

  • Real-time information for the operator (e.g. batch ID, expiration date, content volume, storage location, CIP/SP status)

  • Efficient tank storage management

  • Notification when the tank changes zone

  • Reduced costs due to cycle-accurate availability of tanks at the right place

  • Greater flexibility in case of capacity fluctuations

The bottom line

The integrated solution for the localization and control of mobile tanks in real-time, provided by SolutionSync, not only increases efficiency in production, but also reduces costs. The solution combines the benefits of the SIMATIC RTLS, an industry-standard localization system and the innovative, scalable smart factory tank tracking software.

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Tel. +41 41 511 53 58

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