Non-invasive Wireless Monitoring Provides Fast Payback

Use on steam traps and research freezers leads to energy savings and improved uptime.

By Chris Stubbs, Genentech, Inc.

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integration into existing

We identified a non-invasive monitoring solution from Cypress Envirosystems (, San Jose, Calif., that promised a cost-effective alternative. It uses devices clamped onto existing instrumentation to collect and wirelessly transmit data to a server for trending and alarming. This method eliminates the need for process interruption for installation, minimizes engineering oversight and offers other benefits (Table 1).

However, it’s new technology and, thus, posed concerns about data integrity, wireless security and data integration into our existing infrastructure. To demonstrate proof of concept as well as to quantify potential savings, we partnered with Cypress Envirosystems to pilot the technology on some steam traps and freezers.

Impressive Results
We began installing units in September 2008, putting them in service in our normal operating environment.

Wireless Steam Trap Monitors (WSTM) were placed on 56 traps (Figure 1) at a cost of $42,000. The WSTM were intended to provide early indication of steam leakage or blockage, which leads to failure. Data were collected on a “blue box” server for trending analysis.
Low-Stage Compressor Amperage
Figure 3. Low-Stage Compressor Amperage: Profile of abnormal freezer
indicates a potential refrigerant leak.

Fourteen steam traps showed signs of failure. The maintenance team investigated and replaced the traps. Early detection saved an estimated $53,000 in annual steam loss. Project payback was 10 months.

Wireless Freezer Monitors (WFM) were installed on 20 critical freezers (Figure 2) $20,000. The WFM measure parameters such as low-stage and high-stage compressor amperage, internal chamber temperature and door open/close status, with the aim of giving an early warning of refrigerant leaks or door seal issues that lead to freezer failures.

Four freezers showed signs of distress. Their temperature profiles indicated no problems with freezer functionality — but their compressor amperage profiles pointed to imminent freezer failure (Figures 3 and 4). The maintenance team investigated and resolved the issues without having to replace the freezers. Early detection saved an estimated $20,000 in replacement costs. Furthermore, we repaired the freezers before they failed, minimizing the risk of losing any research samples and, thus, protecting the product pipeline. Project payback was immediate.

A Successful Start
The pilot projects demonstrated that the non-invasive wireless monitoring solution was a successful tool for implementing a performance-based maintenance strategy. Installation didn’t disrupt plant operations. No issues were found with wireless security. The data collected were easily integrated into our existing infrastructure. Overall results showed a less-than-one-year payback period — and certainly point to more extensive use of the technology for such applications and even more broadly.
High-Stage Compressor Amperage
Figure 4. High-Stage Compressor Amperage: Data for abnormal freezer
points to an electrical problem.

Since the initial pilot projects, Genentech’s effort now has expanded to include monitoring of HEPA filters on backup diesel generators using Cypress Envirosystems’ Wireless Gauge Readers. In addition, our site in Oregon has installed the Wireless Stream Trap Monitoring solution first deployed in our South San Francisco facility.

Chris Stubbs is senior director, corporate facilities services for Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, Calif. E-mail him at
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