Allpax, a ProMach brand, has identified the seven warning signs of control system obsolescence in batch retorts. Modernizing outdated and failing control systems improves retort uptime, product quality, ease of use and maintenance, and access to data, while lowering the risk of product recall. 

“As long as the shell and door(s) of the batch retort are sound, a control system update can prolong the life of the unit for years, while improving output and product quality,” said David Cohen, Director of Software Engineering. 

Cohen said Allpax sees an increase in requests for modernization of older vertical and horizontal retorts/autoclaves and also receives requests from process authorities who want newer retorts, regardless of brand, to have the ease of use and functionality of the latest Allpax software.

The seven warning signs of control system obsolescence are:

  1. Replacement parts only available on the used market
  2. Erratic temperature and pressure control conditions during processing
  3. Waste becoming unsustainable
  4. Data access and display challenging for process authority personnel
  5. Controls difficult to learn and use
  6. Decreasing number of maintenance personnel who can troubleshoot and maintain the retort
  7. Downtime increasing and output falling

A first step in control system modernization can be a retort shell integrity and control system audit conducted by Allpax software and mechanical engineers.  They can ascertain the operational effectiveness of key mechanical components, including valves, actuators, instrumentation, and motors/drives.  

Then Allpax will prepare an action plan and a proposal for the recommended upgrades or replacement components. At a minimum, the PLC, HMI (human machine interface) and server will be replaced with off-the-shelf, easily obtained components. Whether components such as instrumentation, valves, and actuators will be replaced depends on their age and performance. 

New control panel(s) are built and pre-wired at the Allpax facility in Covington, Louisiana, and/or Allpax will make updates on-site to the existing control panel. Allpax also provides on-site start-up, commissioning, training, temperature distribution testing, and production support as needed.

Freshly installed components deliver the performance and ease-of-use characteristics of the latest industrial technology. Allpax control software complies with FDA processing guidelines, including 21 CFR Part 11. Allpax software can be configured to print reports following each batch and thus eliminates the need for handwritten batch records. Process authorities will find the type of data and ease of access and display will meet or exceed all modern standards and regulatory requirements.  

Allpax recommends that every modernization project integrate the company’s basket tracking system. Basket tracking ensures that every product basket enters the correct retort and that no basket bypasses sterilization. This system lowers the risk of product recall. New control systems also facilitate remote technical access to the batch retort. Real-time technical assistance from the people who built the system can reduce downtime from days to hours. 

“Allpax brings retorts from the past into the present,” Cohen said. “We can’t remember any modernization during Allpax’s 38-year history where a customer wasn’t thrilled to prolong the life of their existing retort assets and have the benefits of current technology.”

For more information, contact David Cohen, Chris Barbier, Jeff Arthur or Scott Williams at Allpax and visit the company’s website for its lineup of products and services.