Five factors to smart instrumentation in Industry 4.0

Learn how Industry 4.0 incorporates the data and analytics from smart instruments to add tremendous value to an organization.

By Cory Perelman November 20, 2019

Instruments in today’s market are heavily data-driven and connected. Live information about the process can be accessed at the field level without having to be networked through a traditional HMI (human-machine interface). Learn how Industry 4.0 incorporates the data and analytics from smart instruments to add tremendous value to an organization. Consider these five factors to smart instrumentation in Industry 4.0:

1. Smart instruments in the Industry 4.0 infrastructure

“Smart” Instruments are instruments that, besides their primary purpose, generate additional data such as diagnostics. They are highly accessible platforms such as phones, tablets, and laptops that work over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals. Smart instruments often have advanced protocols such as Ethernet/IP or OPC-UA that allows them to be tied directly into site networks instead of through the control system. This can also be done with the use of gateways. Control systems can, therefore, predominately focus on control while maintenance, calibration and commissioning data is still accessible at higher levels such as the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) or manufacturing execution system (MES).

2. Common examples of Industry 4.0 instrument data

Flowmeters are a typical smart device that uses advanced diagnostics in their sensors and transmitters to notify the user when there has been a physical or calibration-type failure or drift. Also, analytical sensors such as pH and conductivity have been evolving to primarily digital outputs, and advanced protocols have become available on the transmitters. These transmitters coupled with their digital sensors will provide diagnostics such as number of run cycles, calibration drift, and sensor health so informed decisions about calibration and replacement of probes can be made.

3. What advantage do advanced instrument protocols offer in Industry 4.0?

Ethernet connected devices offer a lot more data from a single instrument than 4-20mA, with fewer wires. Traditionally getting temperature, conductivity, and flow off of a magnetic flowmeter would require 3x separate outputs if the transmitter had them available. These measurements plus all analytical data generated by the instrument can be communicated over Ethernet, reducing wiring and the need for additional measurement devices, possibly cutting cost and space requirements.

4. What do you get from a 4.0-connected facility?

When instrumentation is connected to a site MES, data is at the user’s fingertips! When walking through a facility, instruments will be accessible via a mobile interface, helping to identify where instruments are located and the data they are generating. The process will be available on-demand rather than having to go to a fixed workstation. When networked via gateway or open protocol directly to a historian or SCADA, maintenance and calibration data available to the MES directly allows it to print work orders and lead to reduced downtimes and proactive maintenance schedules. No more nuisance “going out of calibration” alarm outputs from the programmable logic controller (PLC), which often get ignored.

5. What do you do with the data?

Smart instruments can generate a lot of data, which can be scary if the user doesn’t know what to do with it all. Creating custom dashboards to help clean, organize, and visualize the data can provide valuable insight into decision making. By harnessing data using smart devices, manufacturers can collect, store, analyze, and share information about their products and the equipment that produces them, making manufacturing more flexible, quicker, and efficient. Smart instrumentation data can be trended to avoid costly downtimes and can help create more intelligent design & manufacturing decisions.

Continuous improvement is the goal of every business, and smart and connected instrumentation can reduce calibration cycles, unplanned downtime, and cut cost and space requirements. Don’t be afraid of how much data will be collected, start small, with a few instruments and work up to a proactive, reduced calibration schedule and reduce unplanned downtime.

This article originally appeared on CRB’s website. CRB is a CFE Media content partner.

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