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Monitoring Cold Storage in Research and Pilot-Plant Facilities

 In something of a “man bites dog” moment, here’s a discussion of how to work with industrial instrumentation in an IT environment, rather than the more common topic of how to move IT infrastructure out into the plant. While the former is a far less frequent occurrence, it does happen and will happen more in the future as wireless technologies improve.

Chris Meyer looks at Monitoring Cold Storage in Research and Pilot-Plant Facilities, in the January issue of Process Cooling. These facilities have need of some basic instrumentation, such as temperature monitoring in this specific case, but lack common industrial infrastructure. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is a perfect example.

For these types of products [pharmaceuticals], storage temperature is effectively a process variable, just as a reactor temperature or pressure. Documentation of storage temperature becomes part of the traceability chain, and it must be measured and recorded at all stages. This often requires a wireless networking infrastructure, preferably one designed to work in critical applications.

So, is it practical to use industrial temperature sensors in an office environment? IT networks don’t seem particularly well-suited to the task.

Small cold storage units are common in research or pilot-plant environments. Such environments are more like offices than industrial facilities in many respects. Adding a temperature sensor to a freezer is easy enough, but where does the data go? In some respects, building a device-level network to communicate with field instruments in a low density, a nonindustrial environment can be more challenging than automating a refinery or large chemical plant because there is no appropriate networking infrastructure. Still, the right tool needs to be used for the job because industrial equipment works best for these types of networks.

To make matters worse, much of this kind of equipment is moveable. A small freezer may need to be taken to a different area once one experiment is finished. Wi-Fi would seem like a good choice, but Wi-Fi enabled instrumentation hardly exists. Where’s the bridge over the gap? Chris explains:

If industrial instruments are needed to achieve the required reliability and accuracy, it is necessary to use industrial networking. A leading wireless network for instrumentation and control devices is WirelessHART, and it has much to offer in these types of situations. While it was originally designed for the complex and potentially harsh environments of process manufacturing facilities, WirelessHART also works well in light manufacturing or office buildings.

The article goes into more detail where Chris discusses how WirelessHART signals propagate a lot like Wi-Fi and work well in most office-type buildings. Integrating with IT networks is also straightforward because WirelessHART gateways can use Ethernet as a backhaul. Even the diagnostic information from individual smart temperature transmitters, such as the Rosemount 248 and Rosemount 648 Wireless Temperature Transmitters, can be transmitted over the network, and eventually sent to the control system.

You can find more information like this and meet with other people looking at the same kinds of situations in the Emerson Exchange365 community. It’s a place where you can communicate and exchange information with experts and peers in all sorts of industries around the world. Look for the Temperature and IIoT Groups, and other specialty areas for suggestions and answers.

Posted by Deanna Johnson, Director Integrated Marketing Communications for Machine Automation Solutions