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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One of our goals in the Corporate Facilities Services group at Genentech is to attain world-class operation. We particularly focus on continuous improvement of facilities and maintenance systems to reduce operating costs. Driving down these costs enables the company to allocate more funds for developing the product pipeline and achieving its mission of meeting unmet medical needs.

Steam Trap Monitoring
Figure 1. Steam Trap Monitoring:
Wireless data indicated serious
problems with a quarter of the traps.
The guiding principles we use to identify and execute continuous improvement projects include:

• implementing performance-based maintenance;
• reducing energy costs; and
• increasing uptime.

We identified several assets — steam traps and critical research freezers — for which a performance-based maintenance strategy could cut energy costs or boost uptime.

Genentech has an annual steam-trap maintenance program. However, throughout the year, steam traps often fail. We estimate that steam loss from failed traps annually costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, monitoring to prevent or at least find failures as they occur could result in significant energy savings.

Crucial Freezer
Figure 2. Crucial Freezer:
Amperage data provided by
monitor enabled detection of
imminent failure.
Research activities rely on ultra-low-temperature freezers. Reliability issues with older stand-alone freezers lead to downtime and potential loss of work product — mandating more-frequent maintenance to avoid these problems. Proactively detecting issues and preventing failures would result in increased freezer uptime and could potentially extend the useful life of the units.

The Challenges
Implementing performance-based maintenance on existing systems raises issues such as cost and invasiveness. Asset-condition monitoring requires replacing analog instruments or installing new instruments to collect data. Traditionally, this work is invasive and demands a process interruption and engineering oversight. Furthermore, the new system must be commissioned for restart. This often includes inspections and leak checks as well as revalidation to return the system to service — frequently resulting in an unfavorable cost/benefit ratio.