Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Mr. John O'Shea

Second Advisor

Dr. Aisling O'Gorman

Third Advisor

Mr. Eoin McManus


This thesis outlines a collaborative project between industry and academia based on a short term research contract.

In the past in Eli Lilly, process optimisation in a multi-purpose, modular building had been mainly confined to equipment commissioning and new product development. It was necessary to embark upon an exercise to develop an optimisation programme m order to meet the increased requirements and demands of the building. Increased market demands, through the introduction of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and the demand for cycle time reduction through the expiry of existing patents, made the need for optimisation inevitable.

The purpose of this thesis is to show by case study examples how significant process improvements were achieved by identifying problem areas and implementing changes under a change management system. This system ensured that safety, environmental and product quality aspects are also investigated.

Capacity and performance tests were carried out to determine where the bottlenecks were and then modifications and additions were designed to remove them. At an early stage, the need for a well-defined base case was identified. This led to an initial identification of the data required for the investigations. Four unit operations were identified as cycle time offenders. These units involved separation techniques including centrifugation, drying, catalyst filtration and liquid-liquid extraction.

This thesis consists of distinct chapters in which each unit is investigated in detail. Key features of the problem and solution approach are highlighted and alternative technologies solutions are discussed where appropriate.

Overall the project was successful. From a technical perspective, many different alternatives for process improvement were investigated. Cycle time reductions in the order of 33% leading to cost savings of IRP £1.2million were realised. Improvements to the environment and operator health and safety have been made.


Submitted to National Council for Educational Awards - July 1999.

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