Industrial Internet is empowering control and instrumentation companies to expand the capabilities of their automation systems and thereby meet the enhanced expectations of their customers. The term Industrial Internet was coined by GE and according to Techopedia the Industrial Internet incorporates ideas of intelligent machines, or specific pieces of equipment, with embedded technology and the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT is a system of interrelated computing devices and machines provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. By enhancing the connectivity and distributed processing capabilities, Industrial Internet in conjunction with the wireless technology is playing an ever increasing role in automation industry in particular and manufacturing in general.
Collecting valve data and analyzing them online offers many benefi ts, such as improving their performance, availability, etc.
Due to the inherent cost and other constraints of the traditional plant automation systems, many valves in process plants are manually operated and even those, which are automatically controlled, are not closely monitored for their performance.
Intelligence embedded plant equipment and devices
Control and instrumentation companies leverage the technological developments taking place for meeting the ever-evolving needs of the manufacturing companies. This interplay continues. On the technology front, as a consequence of the exponential growth of the processing capabilities and memory capacities of microprocessors, their availability at affordable prices, and their miniaturization & robustness, it has become possible to embed large processing & computing power and Internet connectivity capabilities in plant equipment and devices, such as pumps, valves etc. Such internet-connectivity, communication, and edge-computing capabilities enabled equipment / devices are turned into Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) or Industrial Internet.
CPS can communicate with control systems and remote servers, hosted on the Internet; they can store, manage, and process data. Industrial Internet, that includes Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), edge and cloud computing, big data and analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous robots, and such others, is the overarching technology that is playing an ever increasing role in automation industry in particular and manufacturing in general.
Industrial companies seek more actionable information
On the industry front, the manufacturing companies’ ever growing need to improve asset utilization, gain greater agility, and become more responsive to customers’ demands, resource & energy efficient, and agile, is pushing them to seek more actionable information from their automation systems. They also want to adopt more efficient predictive maintenance practices instead of more-expensive break-down or preventive maintenance practices so as to improve the plant-availability. The entry of Industrial Internet of Things and wireless communication technologies into plant automation systems is helping more sensors to be connected to the control systems and processed cost effectively.
The plant automation systems, such as Distributed Control Systems (DCS) and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC), are conceived and engineered to gather real-time information from sensors, process them so as to execute control actions automatically, and provide guidance to the operators so as to aid safe and efficient plant floor operations. Mostly cost implications restrict, on one hand, the number of inputs and outputs connected to the controls systems and, on the other, their applications.
Data acquisition constraints
The initial investment in a control system can sometimes be prohibitive. As a consequence, the important signals are automatically monitored and controlled by control systems. It is not uncommon, even in a modern plant, to restrict the number of signals connected to the automation systems and to operate manually a large number of equipment / devices, valves being a typical example. Often, they are geographically scattered and located at difficult-to-access places.
As a consequence of cost considerations and other constraints, a large number of valves in a plant are manually operated and control valve data, such as valve stem stickiness, time for the valve stem to move, etc., are not connected to the control systems. Hence control systems do not have enough data to carry out performance diagnostics. Thus, break-down maintenance or preventive maintenance of control valves, during plant shut-down, is the norm in industries.
IIoT technologies are not limited to new plants–existing sites can implement these solutions and reap the benefits.
Valve operation and availability
The entry of Industrial Internet of Things and wireless communication technologies into automation systems dramatically increases the connectivity and distributed processing capabilities of control systems at affordable costs. With the help of these technologies, valves can be cost effectively connected to the control systems and thus they can be monitored, shut down, and opened remotely.
They can also help more control valve related data to be gathered from smart positioners for diagnostic and predictive maintenance purposes and for studying control valve response characteristics. If data from control valve’s smart positioner are accessed, friction analysis can be done to determine the amount of friction present in the valve assembly; excessive friction can make the valve more difficult to travel. Air consumption analysis can reveal whether the valve assembly is using excessive amount of air. Excessive air usage can be caused by wear or damage to the pressure retaining portions of the actuator assembly and/or to the instrument tubing. With wireless vibration or acoustic transmitters embedded at the right locations on a control valve assembly, a centralized monitoring system can gather data and perform trend analysis to assess the possibility of leaks. Such IIoT enabled applications can result in improving the performance & uptime of control valves and their failure reduction & reliability improvements. Based on the above and similar other valve analyses, one can determine whether and when maintenance needs to be scheduled, what kind of work needs to be done on the valve, etc. This can save time and money and eliminate unnecessary work.
Through wireless and IIoT technologies, manufacturing companies can access large amount of data from valves & such others and process them locally or on cloud cost effectively. These technologies are helping industrial companies to achieve high level of efficiencies and productivity improvements, and are not limited to new plants--existing sites can implement these solutions and reap the benefits.