Schneider Electric: Challenges and Successes for Pharmaceutical Electrical Infrastructure | ASCO Power Technologies

The global health crisis caused by COVID-19 is another challenge that has highlighted the importance of the pharmaceutical industry. Companies in this field quickly responded by launching research into vaccines and a cure for the disease, while continuing to supply existing vaccines and drugs to consumers around the world. This business required an electrical infrastructure capable of supporting the evolution of the industry.

In an episode of the ASCO Power Innovation Talk Webinaron the pharmaceutical industry, I spoke with Juan Tobon at CRB, who was then Core Team Leader and is now Office Leader. He shared his thoughts on recent electrical infrastructure challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry and described his successful responses. Our discussion explored the following topics.

  • COVID-19 and its impact
  • Pharmaceutical Facility Design Strategies
  • Sustainable technologies
  • Digitization

COVID-19 and its impact

The world has experienced a devastating loss of life, unemployment and loss of productivity caused by disease. The race to find a cure and develop a vaccine has impacted the industry, whose utilization rate was already at 95% before the pandemic.

Pharmaceutical companies had limited ability to expand. To adapt faster, the big players had to work with each other. Some companies have delegated different tasks such as adjuvant development, mass production, etc. This added to the disruption the industry was already facing as advanced therapeutic and medicinal products continue to grow.

All of this critical work to control COVID-19 required power continuity to minimize disruption and streamline collaboration. But that’s not the only reason that helps justify a solid backup power systemfor their facilities. power outageshave significant impacts on pharmaceutical operations and may result in products that do not meet quality standards. Many companies have long since solved this problem by using Closed Transition Transfer Switches.

Due to new safety guidelines, construction had to be done in different shifts to avoid having a large group of people in one building and to maintain social distancing. This also came with routine site cleaning and regular employee testing, which drove up costs. Delivery times are another area that has been impacted, in part due to travel delays and restrictions on in-person activities.

Pharmaceutical Facility Design Strategies

More and more facilities are incorporating design strategies used by healthcare facilities to minimize power interruptions. This was caused by a demand for infrastructure that relied on complex processes that required a constant power supply, such as taking DNA from the patient and transporting the samples to a facility where professionals can create specialized treatment using cell therapy. and gene. The importance of power reliability in these processes has prompted them to move backup power equipment such as generator transfer switchesdownstream and place it closer to the operation.

Unprecedented events like the pandemic can create friction in the supply chain due to material supply issues, difficulties in receiving materials from a supplier in a heavily impacted location, etc. This is pushing companies to shorten the supply chain by moving processes ashore. This move has also helped companies speed up workflow and increase productivity.

These pandemic responses are the job of facility managers, whose roles are becoming increasingly complex as the industry progresses. Their work requires an in-depth understanding of electrical infrastructure as well as manufacturing methods and products.

Although it may become difficult for some professionals to keep up with the progress of this industry, Tobon listed methods for professionals to deepen their knowledge and expand their careers. He recommended joining industry organizations, growing their networks, and getting Lean Six Sigma certification.


The pharmaceutical industry was not the first to join the sustainability journey, but it is certainly on board today. Large corporations now have dedicated organizations that drive sustainability initiatives forward. Companies first started participating by tackling low-hanging fruit, such as replacing fluorescent lights with LEDs and adding variable-frequency transformers to motors. Today, energy codes support sustainability goals and companies are incorporating additional sustainable technologies into their facilities and operations.

When it comes to choosing power generation methods, Tobon says customer requirements come first. He shared that diesel generators are often used for installations that only require backup power for a limited amount of time. Natural gas generators are often selected for regular demand response duties and can be used for different applications beyond standby power generation. Other factors such as cost differences and space requirements also help shape the decision.


Tobon explained why the industry has built automation capabilities into equipment. “Nothing does repeatability better than a computer,” he says.

Digitization has taken place in the pharmaceutical industry and will continue to do so in the years to come. It has been applied to activities such as checking reservoir levels, opening and closing valves, monitoring temperatures, and other processes. Digitization is now helping institutions better plan maintenance and replacement of equipment. Additionally, augmented reality has proven invaluable in making examinations of electrical systems safer. Professionals can now see what’s going on inside a machine without having to open the doors, which helps mitigate arc flash hazardsand helps improve safety.


The role of this sector in controlling the pandemic is another reason why its electricity system must continue to be improved. It has long been an instrument for various diseases and ailments as well as prolonging human life.

My conversation with Tobon highlights the achievements of the pharmaceutical industry and its opportunities for continued success. It also shows how electrical infrastructure has helped create better systems that help adapt to changing market conditions and overcome the challenges facing industry.


To watch the full interview, click our recorded interview. Stay tuned to ASCO webinar pageto learn about upcoming innovation talks on critical food-related topics.

Find additional information about backup power solutionson the ASCO Power Technologies website. It offers a library of resources including white papers, Data sheets, Application Notesand Case studies.