Using a Building Management System (BMS) in a Pharma/Medical Device Manufacturing Facility: An economic justification

03 Jan 15:00 by


Coming across this topic way too much of late. Facilities Engineering teams taking readings in a manual fashion. Facility Managers are “saving money” so as to not spend money on automation.

There is always the element of human error. Maintenance technicians will miss entries, transpose numbers, decimal errors, use the wrong document revision and, even worse, fabricate data for fear of facing disciplinary action due to not completing a task.

Many would agree that documentation may be simplified by using their Building Management System (BMS).  There is the benefit of no documentation errors, having real-time data for investigation/troubleshooting and the opportunity cost gained by having technicians focus on other items that better serve the operation.

I was just at a facility with a BMS where there were 3 water systems (with each about 20-30 manual entries made daily), weekly readings for dust collector differential pressures (~20 on site), weekly chiller readings (4 on site) and daily waste water system readings (5-6 entries daily).  I am sure there were more items as well.

This site takes over 25,000 manual readings per year!

Even if the collected data is error free, there is a lot of effort to analyze as well. Manual collection of data is outdated and inefficient for fully functional facilities.

Yet with all of this downside, facilities with Building Management Systems are no means strangers to a clipboard. Filling out forms and getting their supervisor/manager approval after each sheet is completed. Facility and Operations teams still tolerate all the negatives associated with manual readings.

Why? Wiring Instruments to a BMS costs money. Depending on the system, costs can range from $500 to $2,000 per point.  

Let’s try to overcome the hurdle of this cost.

Here is a quick methodology of how Facility Managers can economically justify adding points to their system. Obviously, situations will vary site by site so feel free to adjust!


Here is a fairly conservative scenario that was derived from the aforementioned experience:

A maintenance technician performs weekly readings for differential pressure on a dust collector. The reading is necessary for their state Department of Environmental Protection. The number of manual readings equate to 52 per year.


The costs are as follows: $12,000 to install a point. (Calibration is not considered since a calibrated instrument needed in either case.)


The value of an employee is more than the hourly base pay and often understated at many sites. Here is a quick rundown of benefits:

Labor is a precious commodity and time is something that can never be gained back. There is an opportunity cost in the plant where Facilities can contribute in different ways. Question: How to make this opportunity cost more concrete? Many executive managers flinch at opportunity costs due to being “soft” savings.

Well, we can make this benefit a hard savings. Use this opportunity to reduce the external maintenance budget. Examine your site Preventative Maintenance performed by outside contractors and look to bring internally. Can you eliminate $960 worth of contractor work on an annual basis? Seems plausible.

Return on Investment:

With a cost of $2,000 and a savings of $960 per yr., the payback is just over 1 year. The internal rate of return (IRR) is 84% per year and is a great return on capital!

When looking at a site maintenance programs and the hundreds points collected daily/weekly, the payback is very strong of moving forward with extensive use of a BMS. When looking at a site holistically, thousands of labor hours per year can be saved performing tedious/routine data collecting and instead focus their effort on items that better serve the business!