Ken Baker, CEO
NewAge Industries

Ken Baker is the CEO of NewAge Industries. He has over 20 years of experience with plastic hose and tubing technology. Mr. Baker is responsible for developing NewAge’s AdvantaPure sanitary products division, which recently added an RFID (radio frequency identification) technology called Process Equipment Tracking (PET) to its list of product offerings. The system allows users to identify and track the lifecycle statistics of process equipment to ensure timely replacement and limit the possibility of contamination in critical applications. The following Q&A focuses on the PET program and provides some insight on how this technology works.

Q: What is Process Equipment Tracking, and how does it relate to tube and
hose technology?

A: Process Equipment Tracking, or PET, is an expansion of our Hose Track program, a patent-pending system for identifying and tracking hose assemblies by the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) tags. Each tag is assigned a unique number and is placed on reusable fluid transfer lines in process applications. The tags and an accompanying portable reader/writer aid in tracking, recording, and receiving lifecycle data, such as the number of batches processed and the number of cleaning cycles completed.

Hose Track was designed to address the critical needs of the pharmaceutical, food & beverage, chemical, cosmetic, and biomedical industries. Its purpose is to aid manufacturing and maintenance personnel in monitoring cleaning intervals, usage rates, and assembly replacement dates. PET extends this tool for tracking and controlling the use of other process equipment such as pumps, valves, and filters.

Q: In what types of process applications do you see PET as a good fit?

A: In general terms, PET is a tool for electronically tracking all wear-related events that affect a reusable process component where exposure to risk would be deemed high and the corresponding loss would be considered extreme. A certain level of risk exists in day-to-day activities, such as the removal of fluid transfer lines for cleaning and sterilization. If that line is placed on the wrong piece of equipment, the potential for contamination rises. If, for example, a batch of a pharmaceutical drug became contaminated, many dollars would be lost.

Another reason for the use of PET is its ability to track equipment usage to predict the equipment’s life expectancy. Failure of a hose assembly or other process component due to overuse is avoidable, because PET enables personnel to electronically encode each part with its cleaning and usage history. This information is then used to project a replacement date. Underutilization is also overcome with the use of PET. Manufacturers waste money and effort when process parts are disposed of before the end of their useful life, and that increases costs.

Q: How is PET different from current methods for tracking process equipment?

A: According to our research, most facilities use either handwritten records or a calendar method for equipment replacement dates. Handwritten records have inherent problems such as transposed numbers, incorrect dates, legibility, misread data, and misfiled documents. The calendar method of replacement works by using a predetermined date for equipment replacement. Without tracking what that piece of equipment has been through (batch processing and cleaning cycles), the calendar method is simply an estimate. PET protects companies from overused equipment and from prematurely replacing parts.

Q: How does PET help users in regard to compliance issues?

A: PET provides an electronic audit trail showing accurate documentation of wear-related events. It lowers the amount of risk associated with a paper or calendar tracking method. PET can also be used as part of predictive maintenance

Q: What are your ultimate goals for this technology, and how do you see it evolving into the future?

A: One of AdvantaPure’s goals is to build a network of suppliers who understand the potential savings offered by PET. Part of the current PET system is the attachment of the RFID tags to existing equipment, which may already be in place. This equipment can be in any number of locations within a production plant. If replacement parts from the manufacturer arrived at a plant with the tags already attached, it would simplify installation.

The future would be a pharmaceutical plant that has all of its equipment and devices RFID tagged with data regularly uploaded and downloaded to the plant’s main computer for equipment lifecycle analysis, tracking, and online reordering.

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