For pharmaceutical companies, quality and control is a primary concern at every stage of the production process. This includes maintaining the correct environmental conditions within production facilities as well as associated areas such as storage and packaging etc.
A facility monitoring system (FMS) is used to monitor conditions and provide evidence that environmental conditions have been maintained within the required specifications.
Our customer was already operating an FMS but wanted to extend their facilities with a new media storage area that was several hundred meters away from the main production unit. To do this the FMS needed to be able to receive signals from temperature and other environmental monitoring sensors located in the new storage area.
PlantVision was tasked with helping to connect the new facility with the FMS as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.
In normal situations, existing communication cabling would be used. However, in this case there was no existing underground cabling between the new storage facility and the production unit. Digging new cabling would not only require a substantial financial investment but would also take a significant amount of time to implement.
The customer wanted to bring the new storage area online as soon as possible. At the same time it was necessary to ensure long-term reliability to secure both final product quality and compliance with regulations.
The challenge was to be able to transfer monitoring information to the control system without the customer needing to dig new cabling. The solution needed to be simple, fast and flexible, as well as completely reliable.
PlantVision’s proposal was to use wireless communication to transfer signals from the new media storage facility to the FMS.
The solution was based on radio data transmission using the Profibus standard – a leading fieldbus standard for open digital communications in manufacturing and process automation – together with Siemens SIMATIC PCS 7.
A main unit was attached to the production building and connected using a standard Profibus loop.
A subunit including sender was attached to the wall of the storage facility several hundred meters away. The subunit was connected via Profibus loop to a PCS 7 node with analog inputs reading measurement values.
Using this method, radio links replaced the usual Profibus cable without requiring any additional system configuration in PCS 7 and no differences were seen in the system.
The new solution was rigorously tested for reliability and robustness before going live to confirm its long-term viability.
The solution enables up to four subunits to be added, so the customer has the opportunity to connect additional new facilities to the FMS across their production site. Under the right conditions, the system is able to send signals up to a distance of 3 km.
Since it is based on an industry standard, the solution can also be used with any other DCS and PLC solutions that are capable of communicating with Profibus. In addition, it can also be used for Profinet (an industry technical standard for data communication over industrial ethernet).
The customer had anticipated that new underground communication cabling would be necessary to bring the new media storage facility online. However, through the development of an innovative wireless solution PlantVision was able to help the customer realise several valuable benefits:
- Proven, reliable solution based on industry-standard technology – ensuring product quality through correct and traceable storage conditions
- Significant cost savings by avoiding the need for new, underground cabling
- Reduced lead time for introducing the new storage area
- Fast and simple project implementation.
- Possibility to add additional locations using the same system
- Flexibility to use the system with other DCS and PLC solutions