When updating pharmaceutical processes, recent developments in hardware and analytical software have made it possible to deploy wireless equipment monitoring systems for a fraction of the cost of a wired solution.

Wireless is often the best way to retrofit and modernize an existing pharmaceutical manufacturing plant’s instrumentation system. Wireless instruments and a wireless infrastructure are cost-effective to install and don’t introduce issues with cleanliness, like additional wires or penetrations into and out of a clean room.


Michalle AdkinsMichalle Adkins, director of life sciences consulting at Emerson, and Dan Carlson, solution architect at Emerson, explain how to update existing processes with WirelessHART installations in their article, Retrofitting Pharmaceutical Processes with WirelessHART Instrumentation, in the July-August issue of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing. They start by describing the problem faced by pharmaceutical companies:


“Most manufacturing facilities are dependent upon wired instrumentation, and it often becomes cost-prohibitive to extend monitoring and optimization capabilities. Oftentimes there is limited spare I/O capacity, and no ability to leverage the existing wired infrastructure. Adding more wired instrumentation to an existing infrastructure is not only expensive, but also introduces additional challenges with cleanliness.”


This isn’t a problem with WirelessHART. No wiring, cables, conduit or power supplies are needed because each WirelessHART instrument contains a power module. The WirelessHARTsystem can operate completely independent of the plant’s control system. Michalle and Dan give examples of how this works, starting with mobile applications:


“Monitoring temperature of a mobile or portable skid or tank is very difficult with wired instrumentation, but it is a simple matter for WirelessHART, even if the mobile equipment is being moved through several different areas or floors of a building. For example, one life sciences company had mobile process skids that were frequently moved, and needed reconfiguration at each new location because they lost contact with the control system while being relocated.”


The company installed a single WirelessHART network in the five-floor process building and installed wireless instruments on each skid. Installation and startup of the wireless system was completed in less than eight hours, and worked perfectly.


Next, they describe a clean room application: “Cleanability is especially critical in clean rooms. WirelessHART instrumentation for measuring temperature, pressure and humidity eliminates the need for making wall penetrations, which could require recertification of the clean room. For example, a clean room lab in Singapore had to manually monitor temperature and humidity every two hours, and then enter the data into a log by hand. This disrupted operations.”


Dan CarlsonThe company installed wireless instruments and software to make the measurements and log the data, and eliminated the need for technicians to enter the lab just to record these measurements.


Michalle and Dan also describe how WirelessHART monitoring systems can be retrofitted on plant equipment such as steam traps, pumps, pressure relief valves and similar devices. They also show how WirelessHART instruments can be retrofitted on existing processes to provide control systems with additional parameters. Summarizing the benefits of WirelessHART, they say:


“Such a system does not require connection to the plant’s control system, historian, database, ERP or CMMS system, nor does it require a significant investment in computing power, software and consulting. Instead, a dedicated WirelessHART monitoring system can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a traditional system, and plant personnel can install it themselves.”



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