Digitisation Focusing the Utility Industry
Published by : Industrial Automation
Integrating factory automation with utilities monitoring enables a factory to become more efficient, smart, productive and profitable, asserts Ninad Deshpande.
For over several decades, industrial pioneers have successfully implemented automation, robotics and digital technologies to improve productivity, accuracy, precision and meet increasing consumer demands. Today, in order to stay globally competitive, optimise operations, improve efficiencies and reduce costs, factories are considering upgrading and digitising their operations. These factories are aspiring to digitise their manufacturing lines and machines, experience a connected shop floor, as they have understood its importance and to leverage various benefits. With digitisation, management is able to seamlessly connect to their shop floors from anywhere across the globe availing extensive trends and reports in real-time. This makes it easier for them to take corrective actions, thus, avoiding wastage and losses.
Legacy systems and brownfield plants are becoming smart with next generation automation solutions. Digitisation is radically changing the face of manufacturing industry. Smart factories are transforming manufacturing process, as companies implement innovative technologies. Digitised, smart, connected factories generate immense data. This data is converted to information by various advanced automation solutions, helping factories to optimise operations, reduce wastage and losses and improve productivity, efficiency and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). These technologies provide significant efficiency gains and allow factories to produce highly customised products, often at batch size one. Digitisation thus, helps Greenfield as well as brownfield factories benefit from higher production uptime, improved efficiency, profitability and a seamless horizontal and vertical connectivity.
Utilities, an essential part of factories and processes
Technology has been increasingly adopted by all major industry sectors. When factories consider digitising operation, they usually consider machines and lines, which are manufacturing products or end-goods. However, utilities are an essential part of any factory and process, which also needs to be digitised. Boilers, compressors, generators, chillers, heaters are various forms of utilities found in a factory. Some factories consider lifts, building automation systems too as part of utilities. The former is essential in smooth functioning of the lines and productions, whereas the latter is convenience for the work force in these factories. Let us take the example of a compressor, which provides air to machines for performing various operations. These are operated continuously and demand 24/7 operations to keep machines and lines working. Over a period, these continuous operations could lead to wear and tear thus, leading to an unplanned downtime. Similarly, heaters and chillers provide the necessary heating and cooling arrangements respectively, enabling smooth functioning of machines and lines. Any downtime in these utility systems could bring the entire production to a standstill. This eventually leads to wastage of raw materials or losses in resources, ultimately hampering productivity.
It is essential for utilities to perform with consistency for manufacturing quality products. Integrating building automation in the factory automation solutions is possible and feasible, which can further reduce the cost of implementation, enabling factories to have a single solution for all its needs. Combined with data analysis abilities, advanced automation enables factories to inexpensively quantify efficiency gains compared to past performance. Meticulously planned investments in smart factories could provide energy savings data to manufacturers and their utilities in real time and with a high degree of confidence.
Capturing values through digitisation
Increased digitalisation has influenced various activities in factories as also the business models, by introducing efficient products and service offerings as well as new forms of company relationships with customers and employees. However, utilities, which are an integral part of all factories are not considered while upgrading or digitising operations. It is not just the machines on the shop floor which hamper productivity due to unplanned downtimes. Optimising operations in the utilities will play a major role in reducing energy usage across the factory, reduce losses and improve productivity. Capturing data from various utilities in real-time helps in understanding the efficient functioning of various components. Management with the help of data collected from connected assets can see trends and reports on any smart phone from anywhere in the world. Edge computing is one of the easiest way forward for implementing such systems as the factories can have complete access to the data being generated on site. Edge architectures can be integrated with energy monitoring and condition monitoring solutions for cost effective implementation. Coupling these edge architectures with open source vendor independent communication protocols such as MQTT, OPC UA help in achieving a seamless vertical connectivity from the sensors to the IT systems. In addition, this data from the edge at any point in time can be moved to the cloud for achieving long-term storage or further analytics.
Taking operations to next level with predictive maintenance
In any manufacturing facility, the maintenance team faces a number of challenges in order to maximise asset availability. Usually maintenance strategies and process is combined of many techniques to predict machine or system failures and lessen downtime in the manufacturing facilities. These strategies and processes are core elements for any successful maintenance organisation. Among all, predictive maintenance offers the potential to optimise maintenance tasks in real time, maximising the equipment life and avoiding disruption to operations. Downtime leads to wastage, losses and reduces throughput. Diagnosing such breakdowns might take up hours causing productions to stop. In a continuous process, entire batch of processed raw materials might be wasted due to such breakdowns. With digitisation, maintenance teams can use predictive maintenance to monitor assets and its efficient functioning. Predictive maintenance is vital in today’s next generation factories where everyone is looking at optimising processes, reducing unplanned downtimes and losses. They can understand if a component in any utility would be failing beforehand and make necessary schedules for maintenance. This helps maintenance teams to optimise costs, as they are able to use a product for its entire life rather than making experienced based guesses as in preventive maintenance. This reduces the risk of unplanned downtime and improves system availability. Continuous condition monitoring increases quality of products and availability of machines and factories, while at the same time reducing maintenance costs. The benefits of predictive maintenance improve the overall operation of manufacturing and processing plants. In this way, any factory can obtain effective implementation in costs by adopting predictive maintenance.
The big benefits of going small
It is possible to use the same edge architectures for all utility systems. This reduces the cost of implementation as a single system manages multiple solutions. The power of digitising utilities is immense and factories can leverage its benefits through effective implementation of edge architectures and open source communication solutions. Digitisation has opened various avenues for optimisation. Factories at any time should not leave out utilities, while considering upgrading or digitising their factory operations. Initially it might looks as an overhead to include utilities in the factory automation system, but it would reap great benefits if executed properly. Edge architectures play a vital role in digitising factory operations in a single system, integrating condition monitoring, energy monitoring and data acquisition coupled with open source, vendor independent communication for seamless vertical and horizontal connectivity. Integrating factory automation with utilities monitoring enables a factory to be ready for Industrial IoT implementation and become more efficient, smart, productive and profitable.
Single system for smart utility solutions for process automation
With B&R Edge architectures, utilities can take huge advantage and implement these next generation systems in utilities in any process and factory with ease. Moreover, they benefit from a single system for energy monitoring, condition based maintenance, cloud connectivity, security, data acquisition, process control, business intelligence, reporting, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Thus, making the entire implementation high in performance and drastically lower in costs.
B&R Industrial Automation, a member of the ABB group, is an innovative automation company and a global leader in industrial automation. B&R combines state-of-the-art technology with advanced engineering to provide customers in virtually every industry with complete solutions for machine and factory automation, motion control, HMI and integrated safety technology. With Industrial IoT communication standards like OPC UA, POWERLINK and openSAFETY as well as the powerful Automation Studio software development environment, B&R is constantly redefining the future of automation engineering.
Head – Marketing and Corporate Communication
Ninad Deshpande has made it a mission to get to know the needs of internal as well as external customers and understanding their unfulfilled desires thus, being able to provide extraordinary experience. Whether it is executing an exhibition, seminar, conference, implementing a campaign for print or social media, delivering a technology oriented presentation, implementing a branding campaign, or internal and external branding, Ninad takes pride in providing best in class service and experience in record time while always leading by example.