Extend your control: digitisation of the industrial world

Schneider Electric
Tuesday, 20 November, 2012

In today’s real-time and highly connected world, digitisation is radically changing day-to-day life. The digital world pervades our every waking moment and sometimes our sleeping moments too (check out the popular snoring app!).

The world’s volume of digital data more than doubles every two years (Source: Discovery Institute’s Technology and Democracy Project, January 2008). By the end of 2012, 20 typical broadband households will generate more traffic than what flowed across the entire internet in 2008 (Source: AT&T). The majority of businesses (83%) believe they will be doing more than 50% of their services on the cloud.

These statistics are indicative of the digital wave that has flooded our personal world and is now impacting our industrial world. The industrial automation space has traditionally been conservative, with a focus on reliability and high availability. Today, with these principles common across the digital world, many production plants, facilities and industrial businesses are expecting the same real-time, connected and mobile digital experience combined with the traditional principles of data resilience and availability in order to meet their production needs.

Technology streamlining processes

Complicated, multiple workflows of different roles in an industrial business can be managed in the digital domain but the seamless interoperability across the entire process control system enables the rapid identification of production losses and root cause, and immediate rectification of the fault - all minimising process downtime, the key contributor to profitability. These integrated solutions featuring enterprise-wide centralised control, mobile technologies and industrialised PCs at local control stations form the backbone of industrial digitisation. Put simply, with industrial digitisation, that which used to take hours (if not days) now takes minutes.

The first critical piece of the industrial digitisation architecture is enterprise-wide centralised control. This can be achieved through the consolidation of disparate site-based monitoring, control and operations intelligence solutions into one holistic production management system that operates across all sites in the demand chain.

Centralised control embeds standardisation in automation across the demand chain - emphasising the need for common visualisation and control standards.

The second critical piece of industrial digitisation leverages the strength of mobility solutions, such as tablets and smartphones, which provide the flexibility necessary when consolidating operations for centralised control.

The third key piece of industrial digitisation architecture is the use of localised, industrialised PCs (iPCs) in local stations. This is critical to centralised control and the strength of the industrial digitisation model. It is also important for production processes requiring high-maintenance activities (a physical presence) together with the need for digital visibility (SCADA).

Building blocks for industrial digitisation

Enterprise-wide centralised control combined with mobility solutions and local control station (iPC) architectures are the fundamental building blocks for industrial digitisation. With these in place, industrial businesses are leveraging the rapid paced digital world - effectively combining the real-time, connected and mobile, digital experience with traditional industrial automation principles of data resilience and high availability.

Industrial companies that take up the industrial digitisation challenge drive more effective, agile and ultimately profitable businesses as their workflows are streamlined across their operations.

With over 15 years’ experience in industrial automation and MES, systems engineering, consulting and business development, Alison Koh is currently the Solutions Marketing Manager responsible for the life cycle management for Schneider Electric’s automation solutions offerings in Australia.

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