Wireless networking: Temperature sensing network simplifies FDA compliance

By Control Engineering Staff November 1, 2006

Pharmaceutical companies have critical responsibilities for safe manufacturing processes for the sake of their customers and to comply with FDA regulations for monitoring and documenting production. When one company wanted to deploy a new temperature monitoring network on existing production lines, it chose wireless technology to simplify installation while reducing cost and downtime. System integrator GE Sensing selected Sensicast ‘s SensiNet products to provide centralized data collection which integrated with its existing software infrastructure.

The subject manufacturing lines are spread out over three buildings on the plant campus. Compliance with U.S. FDA 21 CFR Part 11 regulations required placing sensors at 130 locations, so adding cabling to all those would have been a major undertaking. However, using wireless technology, the individual sensors were installed over a period of several days, and since no data wiring had to be added, the work was done without interrupting production.

SensiNet uses mesh technology to provide a self-managing and self-healing network. Using a combination of sensors and mesh routers reportedly extends the range of sensors and supports reliable communication with the gateway. Once operating, mesh networks configure themselves for optimal performance.

‘GE Sensing has been using Sensicast RF sensors primarily within pharmaceutical companies, where data connection and integrity must be at 100%,’ says Jon Aldous, application engineering manager, pharmaceutical, medical, and foods division. ‘The flexibility of sampling data from previously difficult environments—HVAC, mobile racks, and sealed chambers—is an obvious advantage over a wired solution. The formation of the RF network was created within minutes, and with a detailed performance utility provided by Sensicast, we were able to create a completely stable RF system within a few hours. Typical stainless steel environments create black spots for RF, but Sensicast’s system has been performing for over 6 months without a glitch.’

The temperature sensor network fulfilled the customer’s requirements and FDA compliance. Data from the monitoring points now flow into the control and logging software fully validated and documented.

Daily News Desk, Peter Welander ,
process industries editor , Control Engineering