Taking Advantage of Smart Plant Technology

At the Emerson Exchange conference in Austin, Emerson’s Doug White presented, Taking Advantage in “Smart Plant” Technology. His abstract:

Every day we see the continuing advances in sensor, automation, and communication technologies in our personal lives. Applying these technologies in the process industries can significantly improve operational safety, increase plant flexibility and improve operating margins. In combination they can lead to what is termed “The Smart Plant.” In this presentation, actual implementation case studies, recent advances in relevant technologies and probable trends are used to explore today’s “state of the art” and forecast likely future changes and their impact.

doug-white-smart-plantsDoug opened noting his first car had 5 sensors. Today in a modern automobile there are 30-40 sensors including parking assistance, lane position assistance, collision avoidance. Networks and wireless networks are present such as tire pressure readings. There is on the order of 100 million lines of code.

Artificial intelligence recently won 4 out of 5 games against the best Go player in the world. Heart pacemakers have continued to shrink in size to now be smaller than a US nickel. Computing power, cheaper data storage and faster communications inexorably continues. Technology is advancing rapidly and it is influencing our world of process instrumentation and automation.

Doug noted how these advancements impact a plant. A big area is moving from reaction to events to prediction of expected events. And experts that can analyze, decide and recommend action can be located anywhere and easily collaborate with the local staff.

External factors have changed. Where energy, water and waste were cheap and instrumentation and automation expensive, today these have flipped relative to their historical levels.

Doug referenced the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition with test beds operational at Praxair and General Dynamics. Goals are to operate more efficiently in energy usage, emissions, levels of safety and overall effectiveness. Germany has similar undertakings with Industrie 4.0. China has Made in China 2025. Japan has Industrial Value Chain Initiative. So a lot of research and collaboration is going on to improve the manufacturing process.

Key industry concerns: don’t be in the newspaper with safety or regulatory incidents, meet production targets, increase margin and effectively manage the workforce. How does a “Smart Plant” address these concerns?

Doug’s answer is predictive analytics, big data storage and analysis, remote automated operation and an emphasis on cybersecurity. Predictive analytics looks back at the past and compare it with how it is currently operating to predict what will happen in the future. The earlier an abnormal condition can be detected, the sooner actions can be planned and taken before the event actually occurs.

This starts with understanding failure modes, understanding what events occur in advance, and what detection methods are available to spot these advanced signals. Deep learning using neural network technology. It uses complex multiple processing layer models, composed of simple individual models for prediction/inference/representation of abstract patterns.

How does impact reliability, safety and performance? Early detection, enhanced operator decision support and enhanced safety systems is the answer. Doug shared examples of wireless emissions monitoring, wireless tank overfill monitoring and operator training system simulators to upskill operator performance through practice over time.

He shared how the Industrial Internet of Things is here already. Valves provide operating & maintenance data including installation instructions, calibration, alerts, and more. The goal is moving the data to the expert and not the expert to the data.

As technology advances the workflows and cultures for collaboration must be managed to take advantage of the technologies. Doug closed by opening up for questions on where people are at in adopting these technologies. People and culture is a limiting factor both in funding projects and adopting new work practices to take advantage of the technologies.

For more, Doug pointed to the Consulting pages on the Emerson website.

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