Food Engineering

If you don't measure it, you can't control it

November 1, 2010
Process Analytical Technology (PAT) is a system for getting a right batch every time by using on-line/in-line sensors (rather than taking measurements or samples to the lab) and knowledge of the process often implemented in advanced process control (APC) algorithms. 



This approach to enhance product quality through deeper process knowledge and process instrumentation is the result of an FDA directive issued some time ago for the benefit of the pharma industry.

The goal of the directive was for pharma to consistently get batches right, with less FDA oversight, less reliance on post-production quality inspection and less testing. While the right dose with the right efficacy is important, pharma has derived another major benefit from the directive-control.

PAT can also be successfully applied to a number of food and beverage processes, even packaging, says Fred Discenzo, manager, diagnostics & sensors at Rockwell Automation Advanced Technology Laboratory. These include any fermentation process-cheese, beer, wine, yogurt-and others like tomato production, pizza sauce and ketchup. Major food and beverage processors are already using PAT to produce more on-spec product with less waste, scrap and energy consumption-at relatively low costs.

While sophisticated electrochemical sensors are becoming available to evaluate the chemistry of a food product, less-sophisticated devices with the right software algorithms can go a long way into implementing PAT in a process, says Discenzo. Some food processors are using common sensors that measure temperature, level and moisture to obtain much of the data for software algorithms to get processes under control, running at peak efficiency.

Fred Discenzo can be reached at fmdiscenzo@ra.rockwell.com or 440-646-7325.