Optimizing remote collaboration, monitoring at process plants

Mobile solutions also allow plant supervisors and managers to analyze problems and abnormal situations at process plants as well as allow collaboration amongst users to determine ways to improve and optimize operations without traveling to the site.

By Rohit Robinson May 12, 2016

Today’s plant floors must have access to a variety of information, but they are often burdened with issues around large data volumes, integration of multiple systems, and security. As a result, there is a greater need to share expertise across facilities to improve safety as well as optimize production and recovery. The goal of any industrial organization is to improve manufacturing efficiency and productivity. Subject matter experts are becoming increasingly difficult to locate and companies need to find ways to use them more efficiently.

Plant supervisors and managers are responsible for the safety and uptime of their facilities. However, in this multitasking era, they are not usually in front of a computer, looking for alarms. Often, supervisors and managers are busy in meetings, visiting customers, and performing other tasks vital to their jobs. 

Evolution of process monitoring

Process monitoring is the main building block of effective plant operations. If something isn’t monitored, it can’t be measured, which closes the door to all optimization opportunities. Mobility brings greater visibility to monitoring systems. The evolution of process monitoring is providing the ability for industrial workers to easily collaborate with subject matter experts and monitor and trend process variables right from a mobile device.

Mobile solutions also allow experts to analyze problems and abnormal situations and determine ways to improve and optimize operations without traveling to the site. The engineer can learn about critical process conditions and bring them out of the control room, delivering condition-based metrics to relevant personnel. For example, if control engineers can see a process variable trending toward an excursion threshold, they can take necessary actions to mitigate the chances of a potential upset. Neither the process engineer, nor the team he or she is collaborating with, need to access a laptop or go to a control room. A smartphone with a smart app is all that is needed. 

Advancement of mobile technology

A new generation of mobile applications is designed to fulfill the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Users can remotely receive real-time, customized productivity alerts from multiple data sources, such as alarm management systems and process historians, and use this information to resolve problems.

Mobile technology, including industrial mobile apps, improves situational awareness by keeping stakeholders abreast of critical alarms and events in near real time. They are not required to log into another application, and it is easy to initiate an "all hands on deck" approach by forwarding the alert to others. Robust trending capabilities also simplify the understanding of process excursion details.

The latest mobile apps also drive increased collaboration. Users automatically see who else has viewed a notification and initiate a conversation by posting comments about the event. Any users subscribed to the alert can participate directly from his or her smartphone. A Twitter-like feed helps figure out who has taken "ownership" to help bring the problem to a resolution and manage the incident from a particular location.

Global connectivity to the enterprise

Current developments in mobile technology enable key industrial personnel to stay connected to their enterprise—regardless of their location. The mobile app solutions help bring timely, relevant, and proactive metrics and the tools to resolve issues and improve efficiency and safety.

Rohit Robinson, director of portfolio innovation, Honeywell Process Solutions. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media, Control Engineering, cvavra@cfemedia.com.


Key concepts

Process monitoring allows plant managers and supervisors to optimize their facility.

Mobile solutions also allow experts to optimize operations without traveling to the site.

Mobile technology developments enable key industrial personnel to stay connected to their enterprise. 

Consider this

What additional technologies can plant managers and supervisors use to optimize their facility?

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