Efficiency in the context of process control can be summarized as improved profitability and sustainability.
Process optimization is derived from reduced consumption of energy and other resources such as water and raw materials.
Improving operational efficiency in all areas is on top of virtually every industry’s mind.
This involves the running of operational processes as well as executing projects with small or large capital investments. Whether it is building a new water treatment plant or modernizing a paper mill, demand for efficiency is universal.
Let’s have a look at an example of an essential element in process control. Control valves when well-engineered and carefully specified, using relevant process data, can play an important role in improving operational efficiency. If the valves chosen are automated, meaning they actuate physical control functions, and come with an intelligent valve positioner that is capable of monitoring key parameters online to support the planning effort for predictive and proactive maintenance, one is off to a good start. That means savings on (unscheduled) maintenance which means fewer process interruptions which means more output and less waste. This may sound straight forward but finding all three components (valve, actuator, valve positioner) is key for real efficiency.
control valve with SRD998 positioner
To take this up a notch let's have a look at another scenario key instrument in any process – The flow meter. Think of a flow meter specifically designed for remote water distribution network management and district metering . What are the key capabilities of such meter? Obviously, it needs to be capable of measuring or counting water. But it also needs to be powered (battery, mains power, solar or, maybe capable of all these options?). Then, how do you collect the data? Do you send someone with a tablet to drive by the meter every month and capture the values? Unlikely in this day and age. Instead, you research and budget for a cybersecure, encrypted device that can connect to several sensors simultaneously (i.e. the previously mentioned flow meter) that then collects data over any communication network. That is not the end of it. At this point one has only measured/sensed data and collected it. The critical part is to integrate into an analytics platform via CSV, DNP3 or OPC to make the most of this valuable data.
IIOT devices will soon be a standard sight in plants as well. Easy, one-touch to install mesh network solutions let plant asset managers access data points that were previously too costly to consider. These area network devices also provide quick insight into assets’ health for more timely response and scheduled maintenance and let users implement a preventative wireless monitoring program that can save thousands of dollars.
IIOT solutions for the future
Substantially lower energy use, fewer carbon emissions and reduced costs for all can be achieved anywhere and in any application with today’s technologies. The question is whether we are ready to take the leap into digitalization and asking the right questions.
What this means for the future of operational efficiency is in summary this:
Chose your process instrumentation based on the process and application
Ensure you budget (CAPEX) for IIOT devices so that you can gain operational efficiency (OPEX)
Research right: capability, IIOT (enabled), cybersecurity, value etc.
Think digital and find the right partner to help you save energy and be more equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century.