Automation: It's a good start

Judicious use of automation can help successful organizations achieve the growth associated with productivity and profitability.


April 2013 Applied Automation Cover. Image courtesy: Emerson Process ManagementAutomation alone does not make a plant successful, productive, or profitable. However, judicious use of automation can help successful organizations achieve the growth associated with productivity and profitability. 

As I have written many times in this commentary, implementing automation solutions for the sake of automation is short-sighted. Automation should be implemented and/or improved upon for the right business and technical reasons. 

Managing the operation of your plant requires that you fully understand its infrastructure. Measuring key performance indicators and collecting data are important steps, but they are just the beginning of understanding what’s going on in your plant. Translating collected data into useful information requires analysis; proper analysis requires context. Managing data, information, and knowledge enables plants to understand where they are, where they are going, and how to get there. 

Automation has long been an enabler for manufacturing productivity and efficiency. Process automation keeps continuous operations flowing. However, for many years, plant operators have been plagued with how the alarms that are supposed to keep their processes safe are managed. In this issue’s cover story, the authors provide tips for starting a successful alarm management program. Their advice is based on ISA-18.2: Management of Alarm Systems for the Process Industries. This standard “helps to clear the confusion by providing clear definitions of the common terminology and helping to create a universal alarm management language.”

Automation also helps organizations manage and optimize how electrical power and other energy sources are distributed throughout their facilities. It also helps them control and optimize building environment and security. The other features in this issue focus on both power management and building environment control from an automation perspective.

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