Embracing a New Era of Industrial Automation
Published on : Friday 08-01-2021
By : Editorial Team
The technology we invest in today will define our industrial future for many decades to come, says Meenu Singhal.
The Industrial Automation and Instrumentation Market in India is expected to attain growth of $2.58 Billion during 2020-20241. We are on the brink of transformative change. According to Accenture2, by 2030, the industrial internet of things (IIoT) will not only add trillions to the global economy, it will also increase productivity and efficiency for manufacturers worldwide.
The existing automation approaches and tools are currently not optimised for the creation and management of modern data and software-driven automation systems. Closed and proprietary industrial automation systems can’t easily integrate or collaborate with third-party devices, nor be easily upgraded. The industry – and its engineering talent – continues to be held back by the stranglehold of closed proprietary systems, hampering innovation, productivity and agility.
Henceforth, it is critical to have intelligent and automated predictive maintenance operations with production lines attaining self-healing capabilities.
Automation doesn’t just happen in isolation
As industrial automation grows more prominent, and as marketplace conditions increase in complexity, more manufacturers are finding it difficult to remain competitive. As a result, many of these organisations are starting to digitise their automation infrastructures.
When modernising a plant’s automation systems, the degree of change required will depend on customer demands and the strategic vision of the corporate leadership. Of course, physical and financial realities will always constrain some of that ambition. But the technical debt of old systems can kill off an upgrade before it even has a chance to get off the ground. It does not have to be this way.
Current industrial automation architectures have served us well until now, but closed proprietary technology makes it difficult to embrace advanced technologies quickly and efficiently. Failure to apply open industrial automation standards is costly on all fronts. Many automation suppliers talk about ‘open’ but have yet to fully embrace implementations with code and function portability. As a result, industrial organisations waste unnecessary engineering time in rolling out innovative automation technology. The result is reduced agility and lost business opportunities.
IEC 61499 is the missing link
Fortunately, adoption of a known standard, IEC 61499, for interoperability and portability can alleviate the challenge. The standard defines a high-level design language for distributed systems. It encourages an open software-component approach to automation applications, making it easy for engineers to pick them up and integrate rapidly. Simply put, it establishes a common language between automation solutions, ensuring they can ‘talk’ to each other and work together, empowering engineers to be 100% efficient and focus on more added-value tasks.
By eliminating much of the hard work involved with adopting automation technologies, IEC 61499 makes automation potentially universal – able to streamline processes from raw material handling to machine maintenance to finished goods and services.
From smart factories to smart industries
Downtime has long been the enemy of industrial efficiency. When there’s a power outage, malfunction or machine failure, operations shudder to a halt. Productivity suffers as workers wait for the problem to be fixed, and valuable business opportunities are left to elapse.
Fortunately, universal automation has exciting potential for maintenance and efficiency. With a single, open and homogenous automation system, maintenance engineers can rapidly find and fix faults. This lowers risk, minimises unplanned downtime, and helps address simple faults before they become expensive systematic failures.
By utilising IT architectures and technologies natively within a robust automation infrastructure, manufacturers simplify the integration of advanced data-driven applications. This includes predictive and proactive maintenance – the process of repairing a plant asset just before it fails. This makes it cheaper and simpler to eliminate asset failures and increase overall equipment effectiveness. Indeed, predictive maintenance is highly cost effective, saving roughly 8% to 12% over preventive maintenance, and up to 40% over reactive maintenance.
Universal automation can also aid efficiency when the unexpected strikes. A transparent communications architecture eliminates the difference between local and remote subsystems. This saves automation engineers from having to configure communications between components, saving time and reducing room for error. It also enables the rapid reconfiguration of automation systems to address business requirements or mitigate equipment failures that weren’t prevented.
Ultimately, universal automation removes technology barriers. No longer bound by historical constraints, future universal automation systems will be driven by software-centric architectures fuelled by data and will be decoupled from specific hardware allowing for ongoing performance upgrades. This transformation will bring many benefits. In particular, by eliminating delays associated with system refactoring, manufacturers will be able to accelerate time to market and free engineers to innovate by automating low-value work and eliminating task duplication across tools.
We must be bold and act fast. The technology we invest in today will define our industrial future for many decades to come. The good news is that the future of industrial automation is wide open.
Meenu Singhal, Vice President, Industry Automation, Schneider Electric for Greater India Zone. Meenu Singhal is an avid professional having remarkable experience across various sectors which includes Organisation services and support management, customers and partners relation, distribution strategy and sales and marketing.