For manufacturers investing in IIoT or Industry 4.0, the challenge is to improve automation in a way that improves the bottom line. Most of the control strategies employed today evolved in response to a business climate that remained largely static. However, manufacturing now operates in an environment expecting greater outputs at lower costs. The challenge for managers is whether they can translate this into real profitability for their plants.
In a recent Schneider Electric white paper, Dr Peter G Martin addresses these issues. He believes it requires new solutions for integrating intelligent industrial devices, regulating them, and optimising operations around them. He sees a new breed of controller as a key automation component. Dr Martin cites several interesting market studies to support his ideas.
Like traditional programmable logic controllers, his solution supplies edge technology to control connected assets. Added to this is Ethernet connectivity, built-in cybersecurity, and more processing power. This provides the capacity to handle Big Data analysis and protect against new vulnerabilities.
Continuous processes like oil and gas use distributed control systems (DCS) to control their processes. On the other hand, discrete manufacturing industries have used PLCs for years. They control product assets and cut inefficiencies in their operations. Furthermore, industries like food and beverage and water focus on batch and continuous operations. Either way, production operations are already growing in complexity.
One of the key advantages of IIot is handling the data from vast numbers of interconnected devices. Handling this Big Data requires extensive controls system capabilities. DCS technology can handle this scope of control but may not be the most effective answer. This is due to the programming and process engineering required to support is difficult to justify financially.
The need for new IIoT controller
An asset-centric approach is like what has happened with PLCs since Modicon introduced them to the market 50 years ago. Although traditional PLCs, and more recently PACs have flourished, Dr Martin argues they no longer have the capability. He argues that a new category of IIoT programmable automation controllers is necessary.
From a control standpoint, the IIoT might well be considered the industrial internet of assets. And these advanced new PACs are well positioned to supply all the information that managers need about those assets. They will include pre-programmed application libraries and open engineering environments. Importantly, they will also feature: device-level cybersecurity; fully embedded Ethernet; and fault-tolerant design. In addition, EcoStruxure Control Expert provides a unique software platform to increase design productivity and performance of the Modicon M580,
Different individuals consider the advantages of transformative IIoT in different ways. Plant managers with operational productivity and staff safety. Control engineers consider ease of design and technical excellence. Maintenance managers valuing the ability to identify issues and troubleshoot them. Senior executives, while cognizant of these, focusing on profitability, shareholder value and growth
IIoT advantages from advanced PAC technologies is already proven to provide gains in all these categories. These controllers will help manufacturers achieve very fast ROI. Furthermore, they inspire new business models that will help them impact on profitability for the future.
Finally, the right controller for the IIoT and beyond from BPX.