How open process automation will shape the future of pump control
While Industry 4.0 can potentially allow for the intelligent optimization of multi-pump systems, without an open control platform, operators may struggle to properly coordinate their devices.
- Learn how Industry 4.0 can allow for the intelligent optimization of multi-pump systems by more effectively coordinating many devices.
- Learn how open platforms can enable interoperability, collaboration and flexibility.
- Learn how running your pump control applications on a Linux platform can enhance interoperability.
Pump control insights
- Pump systems vary greatly, as do the devices that control them. Generally, there are two ends to the pump controller spectrum. On one end is the dedicated-purpose controller. On the other are general-purpose devices, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
- Open platforms enable use of advanced technologies and applications, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning and cloud communications, to provide greater connectivity, interoperability and flexibility.
- Open Process Automation (OPA) is an initiative aimed at developing a new and open standard for process automation systems.
Industry 4.0 holds the promise of optimal performance, improved reliability and cost savings in the operation of automated systems, including multi-pump systems used in municipal water and wastewater systems. Those benefits cannot be fully realized using proprietary legacy control platforms.
Open platforms enable Industry 4.0 by facilitating the integration and interoperability of diverse systems and devices and providing a foundation for collaboration and innovation.
The future of pump control — and for all automation — is open, and it’s now.
Pump systems vary greatly, as do the devices that control them. Generally, there are two ends to the pump controller spectrum. On one end is the dedicated-purpose controller. On the other are general-purpose devices, such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are programmed to control multi-pump systems along with peripheral functions, or even entire pump stations.
Dedicated controllers or PLCs for pump control?
Dedicated controllers are optimized for pumping applications, have a defined feature/function set, are easy to specify and are supported by the manufacturer. By contrast, PLCs can be programmed to provide any required function and offer a wide range of choices for hardware platforms and communications for integration into plant networks.
Both approaches have been employed for decades, and each has advantages for specific use-cases. However, they both have disadvantages as well. Dedicated-purpose controllers typically are fixed designs without options for upgrades or migration to newer technology. PLCs require specific knowledge of proprietary platforms for programming and support, and the feature/function set programmed by a third party is custom and difficult to support over the lifecycle of the system. Although PLCs have more options for migration to newer platforms than dedicated-purpose controllers, transitioning from a legacy PLC system to a current platform can be time-consuming and costly — even if using the same manufacturer. Other drawbacks that both dedicated-purpose controllers and PLCs suffer from include limited options for process visualization and the need for specialized hardware that may require additional programming and configuration.
The ideal pump controller would combine the best features of a dedicated-purpose controller and PLC-based controller with none of the disadvantages. It would be built on an open platform that supports application development in a variety of programming environments from different sources. Most importantly, the ideal controller would be easily integrated with other systems and devices, enabling sharing of real-time data and analytics to make better decisions for operating a pump system.
Why open automation for pump control and other applications?
Why are open platforms so beneficial in automation? Open platforms enable use of advanced technologies and applications such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), machine learning and cloud communications to provide greater connectivity, interoperability and flexibility. Open platforms enable:
Interoperability: Open platforms allow different systems and devices to communicate, work together and seamlessly integrate diverse technologies and data sources, leading to increased efficiencies.
Data sharing: Open platforms enable data sharing across different systems and applications essential for process optimization and greater efficiencies.
Collaboration: Open platforms provide a foundation for collaboration between manufacturers, programmers, suppliers, system integrators and customers leading to more innovative products and services.
Flexibility: Open platforms allow manufacturers to adopt new technologies and processes quickly and easily, allowing a nimble response to changing market conditions and needs.
A Linux approach to automation
Linux is a popular open-source platform due to its open-source nature, flexibility, stability, security and affordability. A pump control application running on industrial hardware with a Linux operating system can offer advanced capabilities that go well beyond basic functions of starting and stopping pumps. Application enhancements could include:
Predictive maintenance: Leveraging data analytics and machine learning algorithms to predict when maintenance is required for a multi-pump system enables proactive maintenance, reduces downtime and increases system reliability and resilience.
Real-time monitoring: Real-time monitoring of pump systems provides valuable insights into the performance of individual pumps and the system, allowing for quick and effective intervention in the event of a problem.
Improved efficiency: Data analytics can help to optimize pump systems by identifying areas for improvement. For example, data can be used to determine the most energy-efficient operating conditions for individual pumps, reducing energy consumption and operating costs.
Increased automation: More data allows more decisions to be automated, reducing the need for manual intervention and increasing efficiency. For example, automatically controlling the speed of individual pumps in response to changes in demand ensures the system operates at peak efficiency.
Enhanced collaboration: Greater integration allows more collaboration between different parts of the pump system and between the pump system and peripheral systems. This enables data to be shared in real-time, allowing quick and effective decision-making.
Pump manufacturers offer products today that use data to improve efficiency and reduce downtime. Some offer platforms that allow customers to monitor and manage pumps remotely, using data analytics and machine learning algorithms to optimize pump performance.
Controlling the pump and beyond
The goals of process optimization and reduced costs are not limited to the pump system. The ideal pump controller would support any pump or pump system and would easily integrate into other systems to achieve plant-wide goals for improved efficiencies and cost reduction.
Some suppliers offer advanced platforms that can be used on any pump system. Use real-time monitoring to optimize pump performance and reduce lifecycle costs by providing detailed information on when to repair or replace a pump. A drawback to this approach is that it is a closed, proprietary system, is expensive to install and requires a subscription service to maintain access to data. The ideal pump controller handles control and advanced functions on one platform to minimize cost and support requirements.
The ideal controller is built on an open platform such as Linux, allows integration of best-in-class components, offers cloud connectivity and supports applications in different programming languages from different sources.
Of course, this conversation isn’t limited to pump control. The concept of open process automation is gaining traction in the process-rich industries, where upgrades or replacement of large-scale plant systems is immensely costly and requires protracted downtime to accomplish.
New open standards are on the way
Open Process Automation (OPA) is developing a new standard for process automation systems. The goal of OPA is to create an open, interoperable and secure standard for process automation systems that allows users to mix and match hardware and software components from multiple vendors, enabling greater flexibility and innovation.
OPA is being developed by the Open Process Automation Forum (OPAF), a group of more than 200 companies from a wide range of industries. The forum is developing a set of standards and specifications for OPA, which will enable the interoperability of hardware and software components from different vendors.
The benefits of OPA include the ability to customize and optimize process automation systems to meet specific needs; reduce costs and increase efficiency using standard, off-the-shelf components; and improve cybersecurity using secure, interoperable components. OPA represents a significant shift in the process automation industry, from closed, proprietary systems to open, interoperable systems that offer greater flexibility and innovation.
Although it will be some time before OPA is a mainstream approach for pump control, its foundation — an open platform for industrial systems — is available now. So too are pump control applications running on a Linux platform that represent the future of pump control.
Don Dickinson, senior business development manager — water/wastewater, Phoenix Contact USA. Edited by David Miller, Content Manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on Open Process Automation, also visit www.opengroup.org.
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