With the Industrial Internet of Things gaining more and more momentum, Emerson is moving to embrace it wholeheartedly…while leaving an indelible mark.
Emerson offers customers a wide range of wired and wireless sensors. In the picture, only the wireless sensors are on display
With the constant evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT), it was of absolutely no surprise to Emerson when the movement soon set its sights on the industrial sector, birthing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
IIoT, a combination of Industry 4.0 and IoT, has swept through multiple industries, bringing change wherever it has gone and opening new opportunities.
According to Accenture, a global management consulting company, the implementation of IIoT has the potential to generate US$12 trillion in global gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
Furthermore, companies will be able to boost revenue in the future by using analytics for innovation, developing new business models and improving productivity, as well as transforming the workforce.
And using analytics for innovation, developing new business models and improving productivity, Emerson is doing.
Jonas Berge, Director of Applied Technology at Emerson
Jonas Berge, Director of Applied Technology at Emerson said, “The Industrial Internet of Things comes down to equipment like pumps, heat exchangers, cooling towers, and control valves. And because of their value, you really want to monitor their health.”
But the IIoT needs the Internet, and on the Internet, data security is one of the most significant and crucial challenges users face today.
To that end, Emerson has not only managed to keep abreast with the rapid pace IIoT has set, but they have also managed to address one of the Internet’s most daunting challenges: Sending data securely to cloud-based applications through their Plantweb software, a complete digital ecosystem that is one of the largest, most comprehensive and integrated portfolios of measurement and analytical technologies in the industry, as well as a dependable solution for customers.
Even today, data regarding the health of plant equipment is still being gathered manually, a gruelling task that may be done anywhere between once a month to once a year.
However, many things can occur over the course of 30 days, let alone 365 days.
With an eye on eliminating unexpected failures of plant equipment that may cut into productivity, Emerson offers non-intrusive pervasive wireless sensors that allow operators to get constant updates on equipment health once a day up to once a minute.
As Berge put it succinctly, “The easiest, and really only practical way, to modernise an existing plant is to use wireless sensors.”
After all, wireless sensors have the ability to remotely monitor the health of a great variety of equipment.
Simpler tasks such as measuring temperature and pressure, flow and level, all the way to more complex duties like calculating electrical power consumption for energy management and diagnostics to detect any underlying issues in electrical equipment can be accomplished through a wide range of sensors.
“With a great variety of equipment in a plant, you need a great variety of sensors,” Berge commented.
Early warnings as well as the opportunity to prevent equipment breakdowns also allow users to estimate the rate of degradation and give them time to prepare for it, ensuring the reliability of their equipment.
The plant need not even monitor their equipment themselves though they have the option to do so themselves on premise; they also have the option to outsource the monitoring to a private company cloud network with a third-party cloud services arrangement, or even leave the monitoring to Emerson.
Berge with the Plantweb data diode. On the right behind him, the Plantweb Advisor Software shows the health of the pumps it is monitoring
The issue of security
It is common knowledge that the Internet – which IIoT is wholly dependent on – is a platform increasingly vulnerable to an extensive array of malware.
Thus, in terms of data security, Plantweb, Emerson’s complete digital ecosystem, offers, among myriad other functions, the Secure First Mile, a bundle which includes four different options for sending data securely into the cloud.
Of the options to move vital data into the cloud, the data diode is the most remarkable, straightforward, and most importantly, easiest to manage. A device whose simplicity is the very key to its security, the data can only flow out of the plant – but never back in.
“Data can only flow in one direction. It can only go out from the plant; there’s no path back into the plant to send malicious commands or malicious codes into the plant,” Berge explained. “And that’s one way because only the transmit fibre is connected – the receive fibre is not connected. There’s no physical path back.”
After the data has been transmitted to the Plantweb Advisor Software, Emerson’s advanced and vigorous integrated analytical expert applications for asset health, performance modelling, and facility-wide energy optimisation reminiscent of applications found on a smartphone, the plant equipment can be monitored.
If there is an issue with any of the pumps, the software would reflect it, showing which pumps are in need of maintenance and a description of the problem, ranking them in terms of how critical the situation there is.
Furthermore, customers are given several options in terms of monitoring their plant equipment: The equipment can either be monitored in-house, or outsourced to a private company cloud network in a third-party cloud services arrangement. Alternatively, Emerson can monitor the equipment for the plant, with the company operators receiving regular reports on the health of their equipment.
“The customers don’t even need to look at the software if they don’t want to,” Berge said. “We at Emerson can just given them a weekly report that will be passed on to the maintenance team.”
Additionally, there is Always Mobile, an analytics and dashboard role-based extension of the Plantweb Advisor Software that allows experts to monitor the equipment and processes securely and remotely, regardless of their location.
Jonas Berge with the wireless sensors Emerson offers
With the sensors monitoring the equipment, management of the equipment in the plant can become more predictive with the early warnings, and manifesting in an improved reliability for the plant.
Because issues with the plant equipment can be pre-empted with the wireless sensors, the higher efficiency rate translates into higher availability.
“25% of the best performing plants in the industry have a higher availability of 4%,” Berge revealed. “In terms of time, 4% of higher availability translates into two weeks. Thus, the best performing plants in the industry are actually running for two weeks more than the average plant, and the solutions we offer help to achieve that.”
The wireless sensors Emerson offers may look like they are simply targeting the health of plant equipment and reducing periods of equipment inactivity, but they can positively affect the operational costs of the plants they are installed in as well.
“Water treatment plants can reduce their electricity consumption,” Berge elaborated. “Because they rely on reverse osmosis, they have a lot of big pumps that consume a lot of electricity, and are very costly especially when they break down. But in monitoring the health of the pumps and lowering the period of downtime due to timely maintenance, they do not lose profits and can save more.”
This article was published in Water & Wastewater Asia’s July/August 2017 issue.