Judges awarded BioMarin the 2018 ISPE Facility of the Year Award for Project Execution for transforming their basic infrastructure into one of the first gene manufacturing facilities of its kind in the world. Powers of Automation was a key participant in this project as the Automation and Control Supplier.
By Steve Powers, in the Cascade Business News
Automated manufacturing and production equipment requires calibration of its instrumentation to ensure products are manufactured to specification. A company benefits from calibration by delivering a consistent product, increased product quality, and reduced waste or rework. A company may be required to have instrumentation calibrated to comply with regulatory requirements like the Code of Federal Regulations for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, biologics, or medical devices, or required by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards for quality and environmental stewardship.
Automated processes utilize instrumentation, known as transmitters, to measure temperature, pressure, flow, level, conductivity, weight, volume, etc. Brewing beer is a typical automated process. When a new batch is started, the automated system fills a tank with the required amount of grains. The instrumentation measures the weight of the tank, and the grain conveyor is stopped it when the desired weight of grain is correct. The tank is filled with water using instrumentation to measures the level or flow into the tank. The temperature is increased and monitored by a temperature transmitter. The new beer (wort) is transferred to the fermentation tank where the temperature is controlled, again by utilizing a temperature transmitter. The brewery benefits from having the temperature transmitters, weigh scales, level transmitters, and flow meters calibrated because the system repeatedly produces a consistent quality of beer and the company can control their raw material costs.
Calibration is defined as “is the comparison of measurement values delivered by a device under test with those of a calibration standard of known accuracy”. (from Wikipedia) In other words, the calibration of a temperature transmitter requires that its readings are compared to another temperature standard that is proven to be accurate (reference standard). The reference standards are sent to a calibration laboratory annually to verify their accuracy. Reference standards may also be an intrinsic standard, like ice water. A properly prepared ice water bath will be 32.0 °F , +/- 0.1 °F. Salts are used as relative humidity intrinsic standards. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has intrinsic standards for many measurements, including the standard for time that is based on a cesium atomic oscillator.
Powers of Automation worked on a project to update an instrument used to measure biological oxygen demand (BOD). The BOD is measured to prevent excessive airplane deicer entering the surrounding waterways at airports. The natural bacteria will use all the oxygen in the water as they consume the deicer, resulting in the fish and aquatic animals dying. The instrument was old, and parts were impossible to find. This instrument required calibration every day because it measured BOD by feeding the measurement sample to a colony of bacteria. POA provided a creative solution to allow daily calibration that measured the health of the colonies and adjusted the BOD reading accordingly. This was a fun project and a challenging opportunity for our team.
Powers of Automation provides calibration services across the country with the majority of our clients located in Oregon and California. Our capabilities include pressure, temperature, relative humidity, flow, level, weight, conductivity, pH, amperage, voltage, resistance, and RPM. POA provides complete calibration programs and will notify you in advance when your instrument calibrations are coming due. The accuracy of our reference standards are traceable to NIST. Our quality system is certified to ISO9001:2008 (currently transitioning to the 2015 standard). POA has been providing calibration services for 15 years with continual and steady business growth averaging 10 to 30% year over year.
After helping other companies build and run automated manufacturing and testing systems for more than 15 years, Steve Powers decided he could build quality products in his own business….
So in October 1997, Powers started Powers of Automation, a manufacturer of UL Listed industrial control panels. The panels are designed to work with software written by POA to support the instrumentation required in pharmaceutical and other industries regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Bend based company also manufactures control panels for a wide variety of automated processes. Powers of Automation targets pharmaceuticals with its measuring products. Bend Research, a local company that tests and manufactures Pharmaceuticals, for example, is a big customer. Powers of Automation maintains a database of 1000 control instruments for Bend Research.
Powers of Automation, located on American Loop in southeast Bend, recently got the clearance to provide software for pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment. Powers of Automation now has a mature quality system based on the Internationally recognized GaMP Guide for Validation of Automated Systems.
Revenues at Powers of Automation, a private company, finished 2003 up 18%.
“Having approval from a major pharmaceutical company will give other pharmaceutical companies the confidence to work with us,” Powers said.
Powers spent years in a mix of academics and industry that made a good fit for what he does today. He graduated from the Perry Technical Institute in Yakima Wash. He had worked as an instrument technician and a computer programmer on control automated processes at Genentech, a biotech company based in San Francisco. Powers and his wife were seeking a better quality of life than they had in the Bay Area, he said. After a brief stint at a biotech firm in Boulder, CO., which failed its drug trial period, he found a job doing automated processes at Mid-Oregon Industries, the former wood products machinery manufacturer in Bend.
“I was looking for a position everywhere, but when I found a position open in Bend, I actively pursued it,” Powers said. “I came for quality of life and to be closer to family ties in the Northwest.”
Powers said he helped Mid-Oregon Industries design a program for sorting systems different lengths and widths of boards and provided advanced maintenance and troubleshooting capabilities for their flagship automated rip-saw that could change the position of the blade while the machine was running. After helping other companies solve their automation problems, Powers decided he could start his own shop and put high-quality products on the market with better documentation than he had seen. Today, he said, he is the only local shop manufacturing Underwriters Laboratory listed panels for Central Oregon’s local industries. UL provides quarterly, unannounced inspections of our control panels to ensure we are using products that have been tested for the purpose, and the panels are assembled following strict guidelines.
Powers of Automation has 10 employees and handles jobs across town, at Deschutes Brewery, and across the continent in Memphis, and around the globe in India, Korea, Germany, and Puerto Rico. The bulk of its contracts are primarily in the Western region, Powers said.
Powers said the benefits of doing business in Central Oregon include high-speed internet services, the abundance of clean water, the lack of traffic, and the Central Oregon Community Colleges Center for Business and Industry.
“The college has been instrumental in turning me from a technician into a business owner. It’s a very positive resource for area businesses,” Powers said.
The negative aspects are finding qualified high-tech employees and getting parts into Central Oregon.
“When the weather is bad, it’s tough getting trucks over the passes,” he said.
Even though his business is growing and dependent upon highly skilled technicians that are short in supply, Powers said his business can grow and thrive here.
But like other manufacturers in the area, he is looking for affordable land for expansion.
Kevin Max – The Bulletin (revised 2008 SLP)