Our Controls Platform is at End of Life – Now What?

An American Biotechnology Company (ABC) knew their legacy control systems were approaching end-of-life, making an upgrade essential for their site in California. E Tech Group provided several control system upgrades to their systems.


An American Biotechnology Company (ABC) knew the truth – their vintage control systems were approaching end-of-life, making an upgrade essential for their site in California. ABC grappled with key questions such as:

  • Should we continue to do piecemeal upgrades here and there?
  • Is there a more strategic approach for our control systems to meet current and future business needs?
  • How can we do this across the entire facility in a cost-effective way and limit disruption of our manufacturing?
  • How do we ensure stakeholders throughout the organization understand the current risks and see the value in taking action?
  • Should we switch to a different controls platform? If so, which one is right for us?

ABC recognized the issues they had with their aging systems, their own limited resources to dedicate to this evaluation, and the one thing they themselves could not do: have an outsider’s perspective with an industry-wide viewpoint.

ABC made the decision to bring in that outsider perspective and partnered with E Tech Group. Our engineers brought 25+ years of biopharma experience, as well as knowledge of automation platforms and ABC systems, to the table. For a project of this importance, creating a strong partnership between client and consultant was crucial.

Our team includes seasoned engineers who have experienced large-scale control system platform selection. We’ve also experienced conversion projects as owners and supported similar decisions for other biopharma clients as consultants.


E Tech’s and ABC’s team went through a process of requirements definition and user group meetings, with ABC’s current and future site and global needs in mind. E Tech supported workshops with all of ABC’s stakeholders: Automation, Environmental Health & Safety, Facilities/Maintenance, Instrumentation, IT, Production/Manufacturing, Process Engineering/Development, Procurement/Finance, Quality, and brought several leading control system supply partners into the discussion.

The E Tech team challenged ABC to think beyond basic requirements from a technical and business perspective. Engaging the team together in workshops enabled ABC’s cross-functional groups to learn about how others within ABC would be using the system.  Our team was uniquely positioned to objectively facilitate an effective conversation and align the various perspectives through industry knowledge and expertise.


This successful project reduced head and tail off gage, reduced strip breaks, WR and BU roll wraps by 50%, improved strip

At the conclusion of the process, multiple control system platform solutions were evaluated against the newly defined requirements – the team considered PLC/HMI and DCS-based systems and single-vendor/multi-vendor PLC/HMI platform options. Banks worked with the internal stakeholders at the company to objectively evaluate the options and assess how the different platforms could best support the business needs.

In collaboration with ABC, E Tech supported the development of a decision matrix to quantify the analysis of the different platforms. Additionally, we worked closely with the decision analysis team at ABC to develop financial and statistical models to help ABC determine the best option from a technical, financial and risk perspective.

Through this process, ABC’s stakeholders reached a unanimous decision on the future platform for the site.  ABC, E Tech, and the control platform vendor are continuing to collaborate to develop the long-term roadmap to support the upgrade/conversion of the site, to the new platform.