This is the technology needed to enhance process safety

Customer demand drives short production cycles and stimulates growth of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies across industries. This, in turn, is driving changes in industrial work processes, leading to changes in the management of process safety. In a white paper, Schneider Electric’s Steve Elliot considers the impact of IIot in relation to process safety

IIoT technologies enable the gathering and analysis of more data, thereby driving rapid, accurate decisions. By using IIoT-driven algorithms and predictive analytics, users can identify looming threats to equipment safety. They gather equipment historical data and build mathematical models that reflect different operational modes of that equipment. This is combined with sensors gathering live data to form a standard profile on a given piece of equipment.

Having established the profile or signature for that equipment determines guidelines for its expected performance. Holding this information in an online data repository allows a comparison between actual and expected performance. If a large deviation occurs, informing safety and maintenance teams helps them mitigate any emerging risks.

Benefits of IIoT

Machines and smart devices connected to the Internet are forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide by this year. Since the cost of IP enablement is now low, all sorts of devices are free to participate in the more open IP-style networks. This allows plant managers to have more data about plant operations than in the past.

Industrial safety incidents are rarely caused by a single event.  More often they are the sum of small, disconnected events that, when combined result in an incident. Furthermore, for industrial safety stakeholders to benefit depends on their ability to integrate the proper software tools that drive the benefits of big data.

New analytics tools allow for more precise identification of behavioural trends of assets. Patterns in the asset performance data can, therefore, begin to emerge much earlier. This allows operators and safety experts to spot early signals of impending danger before situations can spiral out of control.

Process safety

Centralising the process safety data ensures its availability for the analytics to get meaningful and actionable insight from the disparate data and systems. These help plant personnel determine the optimal production and maintenance activities across many assets to reduce cumulative risk and to reduce downtime.

Sensors in modern processes collect data on tens of thousands of variables. Operator Training Systems (OTS) use dynamic simulation technology to produce a high definition representation of industrial processing systems including the process equipment, controls, and automated procedures. Applying simulation-driven changes to live production systems ensures they are the best changes for the plant from a safety, efficiency, and productivity perspective.

Digital twinning

Virtual models referred to as “digital twins” analyse the gathered data and then use it to run simulations. These benchmark performance, allowing plant operators to pinpoint where to make efficiency gains. By pairing both virtual and physical worlds (the twins), averting problems before they occur and preventing threatening safety situations.

Manufacturers like Schneider Electric, for example, apply a Secure Development Life Cycle (SDL) approach to product development. SDL performs secure architecture reviews for threat modelling, ensures the following of secure coding rules, uses specialised tools to analyse code, and security tests the product. These actions help to ‘harden’ products, making them more resilient against cyber-attacks, right out-of-the-box. In this way, as new products replace old, entire systems evolve to become more cyber secure.

Process safety has for many years pursued a philosophy of managing safety systems as separate entities, independent, unconnected, and secluded from the internet as much as possible. This approach is now changing.

The use of IIoT tools and techniques represents tremendous potential for smarter and faster execution of safety best practices. Finally, these tools empower the industrial workforce to make more informed, better operating and business decisions to drive profitable, safer operations.

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