Integrating IIoT to your control system to boost efficiency

August 30, 2016

Many industrial and manufacturing firms have started to integrate wireless networks for sensor data and controller systems to improve internal processes. From power plants, to oil refineries, to manufacturing facilities of all types, industrial control systems (ICS) are allowing more plants to operate at a higher efficiency.

There are several different types of wireless technologies that can be retrofitted to integrate with the plant mechanisms, including wireless local area network (WLAN) technologies and sensor-and-control-type technologies. Connecting sensors and controllers within a plant to the Internet of Things is known as industrial IoT, or IIoT.

Categories of Internet of Things

The Internet of Things can be broadly organized into three categories: consumer, M2M, and industrial.

  • Consumer IoT embodies things, sensors, appliances, phones, HVAC systems, and other wirelessly-connected “things” in consumers’ lives. Consumer IoT devices are usually found in homes.
  • Machine-To-Machine (M2M) IoT generally refers to cellular-connected devices, but is also often used as a broader term, encompassing industrial applications.
  • Industrial IoT is one of the oldest markets for wireless technology. However, plants with operational technology (OT) stacks often have “air gapped” networks—meaning they aren’t connected to the internet. This is primarily because many OT systems were originally created before the internet existed, and have thus remained in the “stone age.” Security plays a part too, since it is hard to hack a system that cannot be accessed except through physical access.

Integrating Industrial IoT To Your Control System

Deciding which type of technology to integrate when moving their industrial control system to wireless is an important decision. The two main choices would be a WLAN (WiFi-type technology) or a more purpose-built sensor-focused wireless technology. Both offer some unique advantages and disadvantages.

WLAN Technology

The upside of Wi-Fi/WLAN is that it’s standardized to the point that everything is pretty interoperable. Most computer-based control systems are already retrofitted (or is easily outfitted) for Wi-Fi network connections. If you deploy a Wi-Fi network in a plant and buy a computer system to manage your industrial control system, you may have an IT problem (while you figure out how your computer and machinery are going to talk to each other). But you won’t have a big integration challenge with the technology, because the Wi-Fi interoperability and standardization issue has already been handled.

Sensor-focused wireless technology

There are far fewer sensor- and controller-focused wireless technologies on the market for industrial systems than there are WLAN technologies, but there are still plenty of options out there. Sensor-level technology can be a challenge because of system integration—i.e., how will sensors interface to the radio (MODBUS, etc.) and how will the data stream be captured and routed back into existing data management software systems.

The upsides of a Wireless Industrial Control System Will Help You Do

Improving efficiency and lowering costs can determine the success and profitability of an organization, organizations are always tweaking and examining issues. Here are some benefits of integrating IIoT in an organization:

Avoid excessive “manpower.”

For example an oil refinery holding field and refinery is in rural Texas, and it requires that someone drive out to check the oil levels every hour of every day to monitor when the tanks need to be emptied. This is an important job, but it costs the refinery quite a bit to manage (i.e., for gas for the vehicle, the individual’s salary, etc.). Adding a wireless industrial control system that reads the levels wirelessly every hour is a more efficient system that saves manpower, which in turn improves their bottom line.

Save scrap

Asset control and management can, at times, be more of an analytical or business operations problem, but it’s a problem that can often be solved by smart industrial control systems. The less time people spend looking for and buying parts they don’t need, the better.

Decrease cost of operations

Many organizations waste money because they waste energy. Whether it is lights being left on or machines running when they don’t need to be, unnecessary electricity use drives up the cost of large-scale operations greatly. Fortunately, sensor-level technology is perfect for these types of scenarios. Take a construction company, for example. If upper management realizes that all their heavy, human-operated machinery is being left on when it’s not in use, they could implement a sensor-driven solution that won’t allow the machine to be on unless someone is sitting in the seat.

Further optimize your “fully-optimized” processes.

IIoT can help you squeeze the last pennies out of processes that have faced the brunt of optimization over the decades. It may appear to the naked eye that a process cannot be optimized any more than it already is, but there are typically still efficiencies to be found. Only when you take it to machine-level sensing and control are you able to see what you can improve upon, because humans can only optimize processes to a certain (and limited) extent. Once you start to save time on the millisecond level—which is quite possible through sensor-technology industrial control systems—you can “squeeze the last drop” out of a large-scale optimization process.

The Anglo African team is fully committed to helping you in achieving your  industrail  new vision to drive operations to the fullest potential. For specific queries, get in touch with Navin by calling on: 2331636 or via e-mail at navin.mautbar@infosystems.mu .

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