Using Internet of Things in pharmaceutical packing

IoT technology standards, adoption will drive its potential. John Kowal, the director of business development at B+R Automation, argues that the technology already is in place.

By Anisa Samarxhiu November 3, 2014

The Internet of Things has arrived; now manufacturers, especially those in the pharmaceutical packing industry, just need to ask for it.

At his keynote address to open the 2014 Pack Expo and Pharma Expo in Chicago on Nov. 3, John Kowal, the director of business development at B+R Automation, argued that the technology already is in place. He said while capital investment is a barrier, the hype surrounding IoT is encouraging companies to spend the money to be more interconnected.

The interconnectivity of IoT allows manufactures to be able to do a lot more with their data and do it remotely. IoT allows remote access of the Internet with cloud services. More and more, remote diagnostics are becoming a necessity. With the Ethernet and Internet, the technology is allowing for more collaboration when it comes to managing projects, as it becomes a part of the control system itself, instead of a separate program.

The IoT also helps create more intelligence from machines, which becomes important in areas such as safety. For example, a more effective reject station working at a one millisecond response rate can distribute intelligence at a faster rate, allowing the plant to have less product waste and a smaller pant footprint.

The IoT also creates more functionality with network safety. If there is a jam, instead of stopping the machine completely, the machine speed and torque can be lowered and the problem can be fixed instead of stopping the entire line of production. In the pharmaceutical industry in particular, the IoT can be applied to packing and tracing the products, which will mean less counterfeit products to be produced.

In order for interconnectivity to be achieved and for manufacturers to take advantage of all these features, two things must happen, Kowal said. The engineers must ask for this new control technology and it must adhere to the same standards so that the programs can talk to each other even regardless of the vendor. ISA, IEC, and IEEE are leading the way in creating standards for the IoT.

Here are some steps that Kowal said manufacturers can take to be ready for the IoT:

  • Hire computer graphic professionals to help create those more intuitive and user friendly HMIs
  • Compile remote monitoring and data acquisition proposals into one unified IoT strategy
  • Get a seat with a technology analyst firm
  • Keep track of IoT consortium activities
  • Move away from PLC and start thinking more about Moore’s Law.

– Anisa Samarxhiu, digital project manager, CFE Media,

See additional stories from the 2014 Pack Expo and Pharma Expo below.