Improving Pharmaceutical and Biotech Plant Utility Performance - Emerson Automation Experts

Improving Pharmaceutical and Biotech Plant Utility Performance

Emerson's Michalle Adkins

For pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers, the use of steam, heating and air conditioning systems, water and other utilities are an important part of the manufacturing process. Efficient and reliable operations for these plant utilities is very important.

In a Pharmaceutical Manufacturing article, Monitoring Plant Utilities for Operational Excellence, Emerson’s Michalle Adkins describes how additional measurements from wireless instrumentation can help in more efficient and reliable operations.

Pharmaceutical Manufacturing: Monitoring Plant Utilities for Operational ExcellenceMichalle opens highlighting the importance of consistent and reliable utilities:

…to avoid the possibility of contamination, deviations and even quarantined inventory or lost batches. Outright failure can stop a manufacturing campaign. Even a minor disruption of flow or a temperature moving out of specification can sabotage a batch or result in approved additional processing. Such losses can be extremely expensive, however, many of these losses and problems are avoidable with effective monitoring and control.

For steam service, steam traps capture and release the water which has condensed from the steam as it travels through the piping. They operate with moving parts and can fail over time.

Traps that fail open discharge water but also create a steam leak, whereas those failing closed allows slugs of liquid to accumulate and continue to pass through the piping system.

Inconsistent steam flow and temperatures can affect sterilize-in-place (SIP) operators and cause incomplete sterilization. The traditional method to check steam traps is manually by maintenance technicians checking the steam traps on periodic rounds.

Continuous, wireless acoustic steam trap monitors:

…make permanently mounted acoustic monitors practical and affordable… These devices have internal signal processing able to recognize the sounds produced by a properly functioning unit, and by common failure modes. They can send an alarm to the automation system if there is a failure.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) control ambient temperatures and humidity as well as filter out dust and other contaminants in the air surrounding the process and storage areas.

When the cleaning is done on a periodic schedule, premature or late filter changes can result due to seasonal and other changing environmental conditions. By adding a measurement from a DP pressure transmitter across the filter, flow data can be reported on a regular basis and thus appropriate and timely maintenance can be performed.

Read the article for more on monitoring rotating equipment, water purification and other measurements in the utilities area. The data provided by these additional measurements helps to assure reliable and efficient operations.

You can connect and interact with other pharmaceutical, biotech and wireless experts in the Life Sciences and Wireless groups in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.


  1. RJ Palermo says:

    Very good article Michalle.

  2. jonasberge says:

    There are several Digital Transformation (DX) opportunities in pharmaceuticals / biotech / life sciences plants; for how the plant is run and maintained; to achieve operational excellence such as improve reliability, reduce maintenance cost, improve energy efficiency, reduce HS&E incidents and response time, and increase productivity etc. This includes not only sensors and analytics mentioned, but other digital tools such as the Emerson digital logbooks (DeltaV and non-DeltaV versions) used in these industries for better traceability of manual tasks carried out. Plants can use a mix of on-premise digital and IIoT. Solutions can be implemented without re-validation of the plant because they don’t touch the process. They are also platform agnostic so it doesn’t matter what system you have. Learn more from this essay:

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