Processanalytical technology “PAT Is One Aspect of the Big Data Paradigm”
Why is PAT a focal topic? Achema Daily asked Dr. Thomas Steckenreiter, Bayer Technology Services.
? Dr. Steckenreiter, PAT has been chosen as focal topics — does it justify its billing?
Steckenreiter: Indeed, in today’s process technology, it is already essential to maintaining high plant availability and consistently high product quality. And its importance will increase even more in light of the vision expressed in Industry 4.0. This places communications between human and machine to the fore, and so I see PAT as the automated interface between product and QM and between production and safety — in other words, the focus on PAT will become increasingly important. In the human/machine/product value triangle, PAT will be key to ensuring that “collaborative productivity” — as recently described by a scientist at the University of Applied Sciences (RWTH) in Aachen — works.
? What are the key new approaches that have brought all the three focus topics to the fore?
Steckenreiter: Fundamentally, PAT is one aspect of the “Big Data” paradigm, since modern applications show how you can create process intelligence out of process data. Furthermore, new sensors — and sensor concepts in particular — are coming to the fore. The sensor field is now seeing several developments that are driving us forward on this front: on the one hand the miniaturization of equipment, which still has further to go, and on the other hand new light sources for optical systems, such as LED systems, which will result in innovative applications; and, finally, multi-sensor systems, which are becoming more and more powerful and attractive. An increasingly intelligent form of sensor technology will provide even better support, allowing users to close control loops and optimize processes. The precision-fit application of such sensor systems will, I believe, be decisive for the competitiveness of a company’s system of production in future.
? And what do you see as the biggest challenges?
Steckenreiter: If I am honest, I think the biggest challenge is not in the technology but in communicating the benefits, which I believe are beyond question but are not always obvious. The reason why the value PAT contributes is often unclear, particularly for complex analysis methods and sensor systems, is because it is conveyed in a too academic manner. It is — so to speak — the price of complexity, and as a result customers occasionally find it difficult to understand PAT’s added value or to identify it at the outset. That is why I am keen to clarify what PAT can contribute and the kind of value that can be harnessed with PAT.