Manufacturing Safety and Automation
Chemically intensive “process” manufacturing facilities, such as those used to produce semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, beverages, cement, and fertilizers often utilize and produce various hazardous gases in the production of their products. For example, pharmaceutical facilities work with various toxic and oxygen displacing gases, such as Ethylene Oxide (ETO) to sterilize various pieces of equipment; whereas semiconductor production uses gases such as silane and hydrogen. The release of these gases in large quantities in enclosed areas can be dangerous. Depletion of oxygen is hazardous to individuals entering an unoccupied area, and even small amounts of toxic gases can cause serious injury or death. Continuous monitoring and early warning are the best means of preventing these accidents from occurring.
A well-designed fire and gas detection program needs to identify the hazards at the facility and assess the risk of a hazardous event to the plant, personnel, community, and environment. Hazardous gases to be monitored include but are not limited to:
- Combustible Gases
- Methane (CH4)
- Hydrogen (H2)
- Oxygen (O2) Deficiency
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Ethylene Oxide (ETO)
- Hydrogen Chloride (HCl)
Fire is always a danger in semiconductor cleaning rooms that house a variety of flammable materials and liquids such as isopropyl alcohol. Fire detection is required for specific wet bench applications to constantly monitor for flames that could lead to a catastrophic event in a cleaning room.
Automation and Integration Strategies
Bringing the data from the various sensors, devices, and systems of a manufacturing facility to the centralized control or management systems is important for the safety, efficiency, and operation of a facility. Centralized control systems that manage all aspects of a manufacturing process are generally based on Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC). Additionally, Building Management Systems (BMS) centrally collect and manage facility data related to energy and the maintenance of the plant facility. The manufacturing plant manager must ensure that:
- The fire and gas system installed to protect the facility and its personnel seamlessly connects to the PLC and BMS for enterprise-level response and analytics.
- The various other systems within the manufacturing facility also seamlessly link to the BMS for integrated facility management and analytics.
The facilities manager must also ensure that the facility is in compliance of regulatory standards. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires documented assessments of all systems servicing the pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device facility spaces.