Wireless prosperity

It is time to end any perceptions that wireless costs too much to implement, connect, and integrate, as recent information from Motorola and Honeywell demonstrate. Wireless also can be the next game-changer in productivity advances, an easy-to-construct "bridge" between islands of automation, even as handheld wireless devices converge, offering multiple capabilities.
By Mark T. Hoske, Editor in Chief July 1, 2009
ONLINE extra below: More resources on industrial wireless

It is time to end any perceptions that wireless costs too much to implement, connect, and integrate. Honeywell demonstrated that for process plants at its recent user group meeting (p. 20 – linked below). Wireless also can be the next game-changer in productivity advances, an easy-to-construct “bridge” between islands of automation, even as handheld wireless devices converge, offering multiple capabilities.

Motorola shared recent survey results with Control Engineering , and I was gratified to hear that more than a dozen large-scale wireless projects, previously on hold, are now re-approved and underway. Manufacturers are determined to get out in front of competitors with higher levels of efficiency and profitability.

Wireless standards play a role (p. 35 – linked below), but plants that could benefit now from wireless implementations shouldn’t delay. Some major providers of automation, controls, and instrumentation promise to make their equipment comply with emerging wireless standards, as they become final, via firmware.

Jim Hilton, senior director of Global Manufacturing Solutions for Motorola’s Enterprise Mobility Solutions business (formerly Symbol Technologies), says he hears people say: “I’m looking for increases in efficiency. That’s why I’m talking to you.” Sites didn’t want to take production lines down that were running flat out, he says, but now, just before things pick up again, they’re making wireless productivity investments. Other key points:

  • PPG process control supervisor Robert Brooks uses Motorola handheld computers (MC9090s) as mobile operator PDAs for views into automation and maintenance systems, seeing “significant opportunities” after enabling wireless on 4 of 20 lines. In installation, Brooks has saved at least $250,000. Cost per foot has been at least one-tenth that of wired in some locations. And he sees huge potential benefits in efficiency, safety, and environment, as well.
  • 48% consider themselves innovators or early adopters; 41% are conservatives. (I wonder if the 11% in the laggard group will be around in a few more years?)
  • 80% of decision-makers say mobility is increasing in importance , a 9-point gain over the last survey.

Still think wireless implementations are more trouble than they’re worth? Think again. Add in the value of smarter, more timely decisions to realize the full potential of wireless prosperity.

MHoske@cfemedia.com

ONLINE extra – more on industrial wireless

More on the survey:

Honeywell demo shows how process industries ‘can do work wirelessly’

Wireless standards

Industrial Wireless Implementation Guide .