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Industrial IoT Enables Real-Time Maintenance Control.

India, May 26 -- The next industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) - whatever you want to call it, is one of the primary megatrends impacting our market today, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Industries are being driven by increasing infrastructure investments in new economies, the push to modernize aging systems and equipment, increasing regulations, increasing market speed and volatility, and disruptive technology trends that change everything. To compete and win in this new world - a world of 50 billion connected devices in 2020, where we produce and consume differently, and with intelligence everywhere - you need practical solutions that address your specific needs - not just technology change for the sake of change.

Real-time process and logic control have been effectively applied across industrial operations to improve operational efficiency for decades. In fact, the application of real-time process and logic control for efficiency improvement is so mature that the focus on the science of real-time control has diminished over the past thirty years. As I observe industrial operations, I cannot help believing that the loss of focus on real-time control across the industry is a huge mistake.

When looking at the manner in which the operations of industrial plants compares to the maintenance functions, stark differences surface. Automation technologies have been applied to a significant extent to underpin operations through the application of real-time process control, while, to a large extent the maintenance function is still largely based on manual functionality. This is not to say that there have not been significant advancements in maintenance and asset management - there have. But with the major changes accompanying the IIoT technology transformation, new and significant opportunities are emerging to totally rethink our approach to all functions in industrial operations - including maintenance and asset management.

The primary purpose for automation systems is as delivery vehicles for real-time control. To this point in time, most process control, whether manual or automatic or whether feedback or predictive, has been applied to improve the efficiency of industrial operations. Efficiency improvement is important but is only one area in industrial companies requiring real-time controls. As the speed of industrial business has continually increased over the last decade, triggered by the deregulation of electric power grids, a number of business variables that had been stable for months at a time have started to demonstrate real-time variability. Traditional approaches to try to manage the profitability of industrial operations on a monthly basis just do not work anymore. Improving the profitability of industrial operations is a real-time control problem requiring good, business-oriented, control engineers.

Profitability is one of a number of industrial domains that had been effectively managed on a daily, weekly or monthly basis 10 years ago, but require real-time controls today. Other domains include reliability, safety risk, environmental risk and security risk. All of these domains, including efficiency of course, require the skills only found in control engineers.

Rethinking the maintenance function from the perspective of real-time controls may provide the next major leap forward. The primary objective of the maintenance function is keeping equipment operating and operating effectively in order to support the operations of the plant. This can be accomplished by maximizing the availability and maintained state of the equipment and minimizing the probability of failure. The maintained state and probability of failure variables tend to change as equipment is operated.

Currently, either predictive, preventive of reactive maintenance approaches are utilized to meet these goals, but more can be done. By measuring maintained state and probability of failure of each asset in real-time - as the equipment is operating - real-time control actions can be enabled. For example, as the probability of failure of the equipment increases, the system may be able to make an automatic decision to reduce utilization to reduce the immediate probability of failure and extend the equipment operating time in order to complete a run. Or perhaps the system could automatically switch from the failing asset to a backup piece of equipment if one is available. These, and other similar real-time actions, are automatic control decisions that could significantly improve asset performance of industrial plants.

The automation industry was born out of the need to effectively measure and control. The focus of measurement and control on improving operational efficiency has provided significant performance improvements for industrial operations. As IIoT technologies continue to advance, perhaps it is time to look for other domains of real-time control in industrial businesses. Maintenance is one domain which can seriously benefit from the application of real-time control.

The author is Director, OEM Business, Schneider Electric India

Published by HT Syndication with permission from The CTO Forum.

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Publication:The CTO Forum
Date:May 26, 2016
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