Digital technologies support the future of industrial measurement

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

By Neil Wold
Thursday, 09 July, 2020

Digital technologies support the future of industrial measurement

Over the years, digital technologies have rapidly transformed several industrial processes, including instrumentation. Digitalisation ensures accurate measurement, and it remains at the forefront of enabling process engineers to improve the efficiency and controllability of their plants.

Instrumentation is one of the most critical components of a process plant as it helps intensify safety, cut costs, improve productivity and ensure operational control. For example, instrumentation performs an indispensable role within all process industries in Australia, including mining, oil and gas, water and wastewater, and manufacturing. These industries specifically need to maintain a high level of measurement accuracy, for process control efficiency and safety as any faults could potentially result in colossal damages.

The global process automation and instrumentation market is projected to reach a whopping $95.5 billion by 2024, according to research firm Markets and Markets.1 While automation has expanded the possibilities of leveraging technology to advance industrial processes, accurate instrumentation further improves these automated processes.

Process engineers can leverage digital measurement technologies to advance their processes’ efficiency. Most instruments make a measurement, amplify it, convert it and then transmit it. In traditional analog instruments, data is represented through varying electrical signals, often resulting in a mismatch between data being transmitted and received, whereas with digital devices, it is expressed in a uniformed manner of ones and zeros, resulting in increased accuracy and elimination of incorrect readings while saving time.

Digital instruments allow the combining of multiple process values into one signal, providing more comprehensive process information. For instance, chemical analysers and level detectors that can also provide temperature sensing.

As technology gains traction, instruments are increasingly connected, and data-driven. While plenty of data can be collected from these connected devices, data analysis is the key to turn it into valuable information. As data is being continuously collected and is easier to access, it can be analysed to accurately trace potential faults and their root cause. Comprehensive analytics makes it easier to make the right decisions, thus helping to ensure maximum productivity even when there’s a shortage of workers.

While data on the health of equipment and other parameters is collected remotely, it can also be analysed to enable predictive maintenance, helping process engineers implement maintenance activity before a potential fault occurs. This improves reliability, equipment availability and performance. Further analysis can also ensure the shifting maintenance of regimes to condition-based frequency and away from time-based.

Overall, the power of digital technologies offers a better view of, and higher control over, plant operations. Digital instrumentation can be integrated into the larger process of digitalisation at a company, leading to the creation of a digital ecosystem. This will enable better decision-making regarding several other vital factors, such as optimised cost and enhanced productivity.

With a multitude of changes occurring, several companies are still intimidated by the idea of adopting newer technology processes. The key to overcome this is to initiate the change from a single process that can be easily digitised. Companies can also extract the most out of existing instruments — many existing instruments offer a raft of additional data apart from its primary role.

The culture of digitalisation will continue to be an integral part of improving performance and expanding the possibilities of heightened efficiency, safety and reliability. It also forms the foundation to ultimately build a digitally enabled plant.

  1. Markets and Markets 2019, Process Automation & Instrumentation Market, <<>>

Neil Wold oversees ABB’s Measurement and Analytics marketing and sales team in Australia. Neil has more than 35 years of extensive experience in the industrial instrumentation and process automation sector. He joined ABB in 2019 and holds formal qualifications across instrumentation, controls and applied sciences.

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