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Optimizing Pharmaceutical Processes with WirelessHART Instrumentation

July 24, 2018
WirelessHART can be used to cost-effectively, hygienically collect more data to improve pharmaceutical operations
Pharmaceutical companies are under the same pressures as many other industries to improve operations, produce associated documentation, ensure quality products, reduce maintenance and other operating costs, and maintain a safe facility. One way to accomplish these objectives is via an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) strategy using a digital ecosystem to monitor processes and assets, analyze the data, and take steps to improve and optimize equipment operation and processes.

In many cases, WirelessHART instrumentation can be used to cost-effectively and hygienically collect more data from the process and equipment to improve pharmaceutical operations.

Background

WirelessHART is an open standard supported by hundreds of companies through the independent FieldComm Group. A WirelessHART installation typically includes:

  • One or more wireless instruments
  • A gateway to receive wireless signals from up to 100 instruments
  • A wired connection – such as Ethernet or Modbus – for the gateway to send data to a host system
  • Analytical software to turn the data into actionable information

No wiring, cables, conduit or power supplies are needed because each WirelessHART instrument contains a power module. The wireless system can operate completely independent of the plant’s control system – for example, with a connection to an asset management or data analytic system. The control system can also have access to the data, if so desired.

Mobile Monitoring Applications

When multiple wireless instruments are involved, they form a mesh network, where signals from one instrument are relayed by other instruments until they reach the gateway. This allows the WirelessHART signals to bypass obstacles, cover greater distances, and provide network redundancy if one instrument fails. The mesh network also makes it possible to monitor mobile equipment.

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. With wireless, if a portable process tank is moved to a refrigerated area, the temperature in the tank can still be monitored to ensure there are no excursions.

Cleanability Requirements

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. Plus, clean rooms may require recertification if a door is left open too long. A wireless device can easily be installed to monitor whether a clean room door is open or closed.

Retrofitting Processes

WirelessHART monitoring systems can also be retrofitted on plant equipment such as steam traps, pumps, pressure relief valves and similar devices. Key areas include refrigeration units and their support systems to detect a pending failure so corrective action can protect the final product.

For example, a dedicated WirelessHART monitoring system for steam traps can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a traditional system, and plant personnel can install it themselves. And once the first wireless system is installed with its gateway and mesh network, additional dedicated equipment monitoring systems can be installed at an even lower cost because they will simply join the existing network.

Finally, WirelessHART instruments can also be retrofitted on existing processes to provide control systems with additional parameters. Because the instruments provide a HART-compatible signal, the gateway can make the information available to any legacy control system using standard HART data protocols.

Conclusion

Recent developments in hardware and analytical software have made it possible to employ wireless equipment monitoring systems for a fraction of the cost of a wired solution, bringing the benefits of automation to production processes as well as supporting utilities.

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