Biogen LSM 3X Capacity Upgrades
Research Triangle Park, N.C.      
Best Project

Owner: Biogen
Lead Design Firm (Upstream) / Process Engineer/MEP Engineer: CRB Consulting Engineers Inc.
General Contractor: DPR Construction
Structural Engineers: Fluhrer Reed PA; Mainstay Engineering Group
Lead Design Firm (Downstream) / Process Engineer: IPS-Integrated Project Services LLC

While fast-tracked projects have become the norm, the $42-million design-build reconstruction of Biogen’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant carried extra implications for the project team. As the capacity upgrade project would force a 14-week plant shutdown, any delays could result in a loss of pharmaceutical products, posing a risk to patients living with serious diseases.

After 18 months of collaborative planning using a variety of project management tools, the team developed a strategy for achieving the formidable schedule milestones without compromising quality or worker safety.

The project began with early release of long-lead procurement packages for precision equipment, including 12 vessels, six prefabricated process equipment skids, 1,000 sanitary diaphragm valves, 4,000 process instruments and 18,500 linear ft of hygienic piping. A custom database allowed all project stakeholders to view the status of approximately 5,000 parts, ensuring proper on-time delivery and installation. The project also included upgrades to HVAC, MEP and instrumentation and controls systems to support manufacturing process improvements.

Working on a 24/7 schedule in 12-hour shifts, workers reconstructed seven plant production areas totaling more than 100,000 sq ft, readying them for the meticulous process of installing the new equipment. Communication during shift handoff was critical, “with the supervisors meeting to understand the work status and any safety issues that had to be addressed,” says Shawn Pepple, project manager at DPR Construction.

The meticulous planning effort mitigated a number of potentially risky time and safety hazards, such as the modification of sidewall nozzles on six existing seed train bioreactors and six media vessels to support a new advanced process controls program. By using prefabricated probe belts as part of the process, the project team cut welding needs in half, reducing vessel warpage and saving six days on the schedule. In addition, more than half of the project areas were completed ahead of schedule, with the remainder delivered on time and without any issues that disrupted Biogen’s production timeline.

Though time and quality were of the essence, no shortcuts were allowed when it came to workers’ well-being. A comprehensive all-phase safety program encompassing continuous reviews of daily job hazard analyses, incentives, root-cause assessments of “near misses” and other measures resulted in more than 251,000 project staff hours with no lost-time or recordable injuries. Pepple adds that jobsite walk-throughs by groups representing all project team members “were essential to monitoring and identifying potential safety issues and keeping all the trades engaged.”

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