An instrumentation upgrade to an ageing water storage facility at research based pharmaceutical and healthcare giant, GlaxoSmithKline in Cork, not only provided an ­opportunity to trial the latest self-organising wireless ­technology from Emerson Process Management, but may have also introduced a future network for the entire plant. Emmett Martin, ­services & automation manager for the site explains

GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. Our Cork site in Ireland is a strategic manufacturing plant that produces a range of bulk active ingredients for use in the formulation of prescription drugs.

The company is continuously looking to improve its plant performance by increasing the number of parameters measured.

This enables our management to gain a better understanding and control of all parts of the plant, as well as more detail into the costs involved.

One focus of attention is water management. Water is a considerable overhead to the plant so it is important that we monitor flow rates to manage consumption, and to help identify any usage trends. We strive to reduce natural resource consumption and GlaxoSmithKline has adopted global standards on water management to ensure the sustainability of our operations. To support this policy, it is important to obtain additional measurement data of water use.

The water storage facility at the Cork site, dating back to the 1970s, was too small and had no measurement instrumentation in place. This part of the plant needed to be upgraded and two new storage tanks with capacities of 100,000 and 250,000 litres were installed, along with a new pipe work infrastructure. This updating of the storage equipment presented an opportunity to install measurement devices to monitor both the mains and potable (drinking) water usage.

The remoteness of the new water tanks and associated equipment, and the lack of any existing instrumentation wiring, made this an ideal application for a wireless solution. The installation of wireless pressure and flow meters would provide us with the opportunity to put in place a wireless network that could be used to cost effectively connect additional instrumentation and of course to better manage our water usage.

GlaxoSmithKline was one of the first companies to install a DeltaV ­digital automation system. When Emerson presented its Smart Wireless technology to us we saw this application as a great opportunity to trial the technology on non-critical measurements that do not affect the quality of our final products.

The Cork site covers around 150 acres with the storage tanks remotely located within the dedicated water treatment area of the plant, around 300m from the main control room. There was no line of sight between the location of the transmitters and the ideal position for the gateway. To overcome this, we selected Emerson’s Smart Wireless self-organising technology to connect the devices through which each wireless device can act as a router for other nearby devices, passing messages along until they reach their destination. If there is an obstruction, transmissions are simply re-routed along the network until a clear path to the wireless gateway is found. The technology also offers redundant communication via two or three routes ensuring the highest possible communication reliability.

The Cork site has a total of six DeltaV systems controlling various parts of the production process and there are a large number of Emerson instrumentation devices as well. This includes wired Rosemount measurement devices, which are identical to the wireless devices in look and feel. The Rosemount instruments are very reliable and robust and comfortable with the core measurement technology. We just needed to be convinced that the wireless technology could offer similar levels of reliability.

Ten Smart Wireless devices were installed including six Rosemount pressure transmitters, two Rosemount flow meters and two Rosemount level transmitters. The Smart Wireless technology integrates seamlessly with the existing automation equipment. The flow transmitters send data every 30 seconds and the level and pressure transmitters every 300 seconds to a Smart Wireless Gateway positioned on the control room roof. This is connected using a serial connection to the existing DeltaV system that handles the environmental section of the plant. From here the flow and pressure measurements are sent to a data historian and are available to plant operators for regular monitoring and reporting.

The new data has enabled us to clearly identify the water usage for different areas of the plant providing a far better understanding of the costs. We are now in a position to spot changes, perhaps at different times of the year and to understand what processes might create any changes in usage.

Whenever we look to improve the plant with new equipment we are always looking to minimise capital expenditure and wireless can help achieve lower costs. Compared to a normal wired installation a wireless network of this size with just a few devices doesn’t usually present huge savings. However, because there was no existing cabling, we would have had to lay new power and data cables both requiring trunking and ducting. We would also probably have had to dig trenches to bury the cables as well. These costs have been avoided by adopting a wireless solution.

One of the benefits of the mesh network is now it is in place it is easy and inexpensive to add additional measurement devices without the need for new cabling. Additional flow, temperature or pressure devices, or indeed a whole host of process instruments, can be added without the need to install new power or data lines.