Any Color You Want, As Long As It's Black
For manufacturers trying to keep pace with global demand, the days of mass producing a limited range of products has disappeared. More and more, demand for customized manufactured goods with short product development times touches numerous industry segments; particularly biotech / pharma, fine chemicals, food and beverage and water treatment. To keep pace with demand, manufacturers are turning more readily to factory automation for process plants, not just for help with achieving reliability and flexibility, but for fine tuning process control as well.
Centralized automation is the traditional design model in factory automation for process plants that are tailored towards precision task completion using a single, centrally controlled management system. But fluctuating market requirements have resulted in a fundamental shift in the design and engineering requirements for process plants when in the context of the Internet of Things. Meeting flexibility requirements can be accomplished without the need for multiple facilities by separating the whole plant into functional units. The beauty of these functional units is their ability to:
- Facilitate market and production responsiveness
- Increase plant capacity
- Reduce downtime by servicing sidelined units / decrease impact to overall productivity
Another benefit is that these functional units can be combined to produce specific process plants, which can be extended again and again, just by adding units.
Industrial Technicians in Factory Automation for Process Plants
Historically, process plants had nominal instrumentation and few, if any, automated diagnostic tools. However, automated plant control systems are now the norm and becoming ever more complex. Unattended operation capability for extended periods of time is a required design parameter for process plants. Control systems can no longer be operated by a semi-manual means, and operations require more complex controllers with sophisticated software and increased connectivity to the Internet.
The shortage of trained and qualified operations personnel has impacted the process industries just as much as it has the rest of the manufacturing. Salaries have risen, headcounts have been reduced and automation is increasingly being used to substitute for the direct monitoring and control by operators.
The Internet of Things
The concept of the Internet of Things, developed a decade ago by a group of visionary companies including Cisco, provides a way to think about organizing the information in a plant, from operating variables to maintenance and diagnostic information.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to the Internet of Things, but the benefit to manufacturing is that it is becoming easier to connect all the devices in a plant to a real time network.
The minute you can get real time information from all devices in a plant, you have the ability to operate and maintain the plant in a significantly different way from the past.
The Tattletale and the Chameleon
Most people responsible for the operation of a biotech / pharma, fine chemicals, food and beverage or water treatment facility can embrace the concept of a modern plant with everything connected. But it’s the practical application that falls short of belief.
The theory that productivity is more reliable when equipment can be monitored to detect upcoming failures, and short production runs with quick changeover times is possible if modularized equipment can be temporarily introduced or sidelined is easy to accept; the reality of accomplishing this is difficult to achieve. Or is it?
Troubleshooting a system to determine actual cause of failure can take a lot of precious time from even highly trained and experienced technicians. Solutions should provide components that can report issues for themselves so that operators can easily determine and correct faults.
Many devices, such as analog control valves, pneumatic valve terminals and field sensors, offer diagnostic feedback and real time programmability over familiar and trusted networks. Modern factory automation for process plants has perfected these products and has been implementing them for years. These tried and true items are ready to be applied in the process automation world today.
Look for a trusted partner to help you identify your true needs, situation and future requirements. The right solution should provide you with sufficient information to diagnose component productivity, and in the case of failure, shorten necessary downtime to get the system back on line.
With the right partner, you will be pleasantly surprised at the broad variety of cost effective solutions that can be customized just for you. Call us today to talk with the manufacturing process automation experts at Electro-Matic Products.