Remote Working: 10 Things We Value at SL Controls
Like other companies, we have migrated to a position where most of our staff are working from home. While remote working is not a new concept for SL Controls, the scale has increased considerably as we follow Government guidance to help deal with the COVID-19 emergency.
We have now developed a Remote Working Charter highlighting the 10 things we value in this new era of home working.
The points in the charter are based on our values as a company, an understanding of the realities of working from home, and the fact that we are all in this together.
SL Controls Remote Working Charter
SL Controls Supports Very Different 2020 Darkness into Light Event
For the last few years, SL Controls has been proud to support the Darkness Into Light walk in aid of Pieta House. The goal is to raise awareness and support those affected by suicide and self-harm.
Gathering to walk is not possible this year, however, because of the COVID-19 emergency. Like many other organisations, Pieta House has adapted to these unusual circumstances, launching the Darkness Into Light Sunrise Appeal instead.
At SL Controls, we are encouraging all our employees to take part. This includes getting up at 5.30am tomorrow to watch the sunrise while wearing yellow or a Darkness Into Light t-shirt. Employees will also show their generosity again by donating to the appeal.
Norma Mulligan, HR Generalist at SL Controls, said: “We are keen to continue our involvement in the Darkness Into Light appeal this year as it’s essential that Pieta House continues to keep all its services available to those who need them, especially during these times.”
Case Study: Reducing Software Validation Time and Code Change Risks
When new code is added to an existing system, the software must be re-validated. This takes time so can be a costly exercise. In addition, code changes in themselves introduce risk, something which can be compounded with human error and accuracy issues.
As a result, it is a complex process to validate software when code has been changed. Plus, tracking the history of code changes is challenging as code can be difficult to manually compare, making regulatory compliance and supporting audits by regulatory bodies a time-consuming process.
One of our customers at SL Controls wanted to address these issues to make software development processes more efficient. Specifically, they wanted to simplify the complex and time-consuming processes of validating software.
- Reduce software validation time by highlighting changes in different versions of code
- Reduce risks from code changes
- Assist in future software development, implementation, and testing activities
- Reduce the need for testing of future code when rolling out code to new lines that had been previously validated
What We Did
At SL Controls, we had previously developed software to compare versions of code. We used this as the basis for the new tool, leveraging the previous development work while implementing improvements identified by the customer. This enabled faster completion of the project so the customer could quickly begin utilising the new software tool.
Detailed scoping meetings began in early 2019 between the customer and the SL Controls’ technical team of System Architects and Software Developers. We took a strong team-wide project management approach from the start. This involved creating a detailed breakdown of the schedule and work completed to give the customer maximum visibility and oversight of the project’s progress.
The above was developed to fit with our agile software development approach at SL Controls to ensure consistent progress.
The software solution we developed was compliant with the customer’s coding standards.
In addition, extensive functional testing and stress testing was mapped out and completed, a process that was reviewed regularly with the customer.
The above testing was also peer-reviewed by System Architects at SL Controls.
SL Controls created an effective custom software tool to efficiently compare versions of PLC code. The software includes reporting features and review and history functionality. The customer is now using this to simplify future code validation, track the history of changes in code, and support audits by regulatory bodies.
The time it takes to produce reports is greatly reduced while accuracy has been increased by eliminating human error.
In addition, the software generates history reports and code review reports automatically. All reports are standardised to make code version comparisons more efficient.
The project was completed on-time and delivered on the expectations and requirements of the customer.
SL Controls’ Engineers Part of Crowdsourcing Initiative to Provide PPE to Healthcare Workers
SL Controls engineers are using their knowledge, experience, and personal spare time to help produce PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for Irish healthcare workers.
They are doing this as part of Engineers Ireland’s Covid-19 virtual factory crowdsourcing initiative. Using their own 3D printers, the engineers are printing reusable frames for protection visors.
They are manufactured so that disposable visors can be attached and removed after use.
Production is in batches of 10 and the frames are manufactured from PETG, a material that is approved for medical use. The printed frames are then collected by a biker at the engineer’s front door for final assembly and dispatch to healthcare facilities.
Others with 3D printers in their homes can get involved too by visiting the link to the Engineers Ireland website below.
Case Study: Increasing Manufacturing Capacity by 25% with Zero Additional Resources
Adding scalability to your production line so you can increase output when you need to with no additional costs – this is one of the objectives you can achieve with factory automation technologies.
We have direct experience in these types of projects. In the example in this case study, we delivered on this objective for one of our long-term customers. This customer operates a high-volume manufacturing facility in Ireland.
The customer had a straightforward requirement for the project. They wanted to increase manufacturing capacity by 25 percent on an existing production line to deal with forecasted increased demand. They also wanted to design in features to accommodate future planned SKUs as per the client’s product roadmap to minimise disruption and cost in future years.
They also wanted the solution to have cost avoidance features so that when the time came to scale up production, they could do so with no additional costs.
In addition, the customer wanted us to design, test, and implement the solution with minimal downtime and minimal impact on current production output.
What We Did
The solution our team at SL Controls developed focused on bottleneck modules. We seamlessly integrated these modules into the customer’s existing high-volume manufacturing line.
We also relocated the pack zone to allow for the integration of new equipment. This new equipment featured advanced process controls and compact tooling.
We installed a complex conveyance system too, as well as controls for the additional equipment. We then integrated the newly installed equipment at multiple points on the line whenever windows of opportunity allowed so as not to impact output.
Furthermore, the new equipment and technology we installed replaced three existing machines with one while reducing the overall physical footprint of the line. This was achieved while also meeting production as well as individual processing requirements such as output and quality.
We also implemented all quality control and system verification systems throughout, including successfully completing FATs and SATs.
Advanced process automation was also a key feature of our solution. We implemented this on the new tooling ensuring maximum automation while also giving the customer improved access to data.
Throughout the entire process, we collaborated closely with the customer as well as with vendors to ensure the best possible solution.
We delivered on the customer’s main objective as our solution increased the manufacturing capacity of the line by 25 percent. In addition, zero incremental staff are required when the line is scaled up to maximum capacity.
We also delivered improvements in uptime and quality, again without additional human intervention.
As a result of the above, the technology future-proofing goals of the customer were also met.
Finally, the additional data available to the customer improved their understanding of the line’s processes and OEE – Overall Equipment Effectiveness.
To find out more about our Smart Factory capabilities, and to discuss a project you are planning, please get in touch with a member of our team.
Staying Safe in Challenging Times
These are challenging and difficult times for everyone. Like other companies, we at SL Controls are following the advice of the authorities in order to help protect our employees, customers, and suppliers, as well as the community in general.
Our employees are currently working from home. We have extensive experience with remote working, so have systems, technologies, and procedures already in place. We will do everything we can to ensure these homeworking arrangements are effective and to provide a service that is as seamless and efficient as possible.
We are also continuing to plan for different scenarios that might arise over the coming weeks and months. Our goal will be to continue to protect our people and others. We will continue to adapt to ensure that we deliver on all of our client’s objectives and expectations.
Thank you and please stay safe.
Case Study: Design and Implement a UDI and Batch Integrity System in a Complex Medical Device Production Facility
Equipment systems integration solutions are becoming increasingly important in medical device and pharmaceutical production facilities. There are several reasons for this including changing regulatory requirements, the need to improve the service offered to patients/users, and the need to remain competitive by making efficiency savings and increasing productivity.
These were some of the motivating factors for our client, a medical device manufacturer, in its decision to implement the Equipment Systems Integration project covered in this case study.
The project involved introducing a Unique Device Identification (UDI) system on each line in its production facility. This new system needed to identify every product produced, a key requirement of FDA regulations as well as the new EU MDR (Medical Device Regulations) that is being implemented in May 2020.
Another requirement of the project was to introduce a Batch Integrity system on each line to ensure the integrity of all production line cells.
As a result, improving customer service levels and quality control in addition to making efficiency savings were also key priorities, among other things.
What We Did
Our client as approximately 50 medical device production and packaging lines in a single facility. The processes on those lines include automated assembly, sterilisation, and packaging.
The solution we developed included:
- Line clearance and purge systems
- Batch management control systems
- Quality control systems
- Verification systems
The solution also needed to be fully integrated with the customer’s ERP. All systems needed a GAMP 5 validation package and the solution needed to be 21CFR11 compliant.
The solution we implemented met all customer requirements and now controls full data management on all lines. This includes managing the transfer of data to the equipment, identification, and verification systems, something that is a key part of the majority of Equipment Systems Integration projects.
The system we implemented also included a user interface that lets engineers and technicians create line clearance and purge interlocks as well as product changeover controls for batch management.
In addition, the system controls printers, vision verification systems, and batch parameters, plus it logs all batch details of the product.
To find out more and to discuss an Equipment System Integration project you are planning, please contact us at SL Controls today.
Come See Us at Limerick for Engineering 2020
A key event on the Irish engineering calendar takes place next week – Limerick for Engineering. As with previous years, SL Controls is involved, and we hope to see you there!
Vinnie Boyd, Business Development Associate at SL Controls, said: “Limerick for Engineering is a showcase event highlighting the engineering career opportunities that exist in the West and Mid-West of Ireland. The aim is to encourage young people to consider pursuing a career in engineering.
“SL Controls will have a showcase stand at Limerick for Engineering 2020. At our stand, you will find interactive demos plus members of the SL Controls team will be there to talk about what we do and to answer any questions you have about becoming an engineer.”
SL Controls is also involved in one of the PODs at this year’s Limerick for Engineering event.
PODs are a new feature this year. Each POD promotes a specific engineering discipline that is important to the West and Mid-West of Ireland. They also encourage collaboration between those in the industry and feature interactive, hands-on demos.
Engineering professionals from the companies involved in each POD will also be on-hand to answer questions and provide additional information.
There are five PODs in total:
- Medical devices
- Autonomous vehicles
- Civil and environmental
- Aeronautical and mechanical
SL Controls is involved with the medical devices POD.
See You at Limerick for Engineering 2020
Limerick for Engineering is now in its 6th year. There will be almost 50 exhibitors at this year’s event, mostly companies and colleges with an interest in engineering.
Over 1,500 people attended Limerick for Engineering in 2019 and the expectation is that even more will attend this year. The event takes place on 5 March from 5.30pm to 8.30pm in the Departures Hall at Shannon Airport. Parking is free.
The event is open to students, parents, guidance counsellors, and anyone else interested in pursuing an engineering career or promoting the field of engineering to others.
Come see us at the SL Controls showcase stand.
Advancing Your Career – Job Opportunities at SL Controls for Engineers and Project Managers
Are you looking at options to advance your career in 2020? Are you looking to improve your work-life balance while also achieving your career objectives?
At SL Controls, we have a number of vacancies across the country. These vacancies are the result of our continued growth and will help us deliver on the requirements of our clients now and in the future.
Visit our careers page to find out more about working at SL Controls. There you will find information on the benefits we offer, our employee wellbeing programme, the continuing professional development opportunities that are available, and more.
As for the work we do, SL Controls provides software and engineering solutions to manufacturers in regulated industries, specifically pharmaceuticals and medical devices. We are involved in providing our clients with Industry 4.0, Smart Factory, and Digital Transformation solutions. Our services include Equipment Systems Integration, Factory Automation, Serialisation, Validation, and Professional Placement.
Job Opportunities Currently Available at SL Controls
You can find all the jobs we are currently recruiting for on our careers page. They include graduate, engineer, senior engineer, and project manager roles.
Specific areas of expertise we are recruiting for include:
- Validation – Equipment, Process, and Computer Systems Validation
- Control Systems
- Factory Automation
We have positions available across the country. This includes in the following locations:
- The Midlands
Our roles are suitable for engineers currently working in Ireland and Irish engineers currently working abroad. There are also opportunities for engineers from other countries.
If you are an Irish engineer working abroad, read Alan’s story. He left Ireland after the financial crash and ended up working in Australia. He is now back in Ireland with his family working as a Validation Consultant for SL Controls.
If you are not from Ireland, check out Amit’s story. He is an engineer from India who moved with his family to Ireland to take up a position as a Senior Validation Engineer at SL Controls.
Then, make sure you apply for any roles you are interested in. We would love to hear from you.