Automation survey results announced.

09/09/2014
Professionals express positive outlook for automation in Ireland now and in the future!

The Automation Market Survey,organised by Irish company SimoTechnology, specialists Manufacturing Information Systems for regulated industries such as life sciences and food & beverage, has been published. The survey ran from 10th June through 5th August 2014 and Pat Desmond, Managing Director, expressed himself satisfied with the number of responses received.

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The survey incorporates a wide representation among the automation community of practice, primarily in Ireland, with participation from a good variety of employers, employees, and contractors at different levels across the main industry sectors.

“Significantly, the survey results would indicate an overall positive outlook in the industry at present with industry professionals and engineers expecting this outlook to continue for the foreseeable future or to improve further,” says Pat Desmond.

Among the results of note are:

  • Job security or prospects are reported as improved among Staff (46.15%) and Contractors (46.15%) and Employers/Owners/Directors (53.33%).
  • Job satisfaction is reported as generally high with 74.36% of Staff and 69.23% of Contractors being Satisfied with their current roles
  • For those considering a move the key motivators are
      - Contractors: Remuneration and Location
      - Senior Mangers: Career Progression and Remuneration
      - Staff: Job Security, Location and Career/Technical
  • The Most Challenging Aspects of working in the automation field are reported as Excessive Workload/Unrealistic Demands by 60.26% of Staff and 46.15% of Contractors. Among Employers/Owner/Directors Travel Away From Home is reported as the most challenging aspect of their roles by 46.15% of respondents.
  • In the technical skills required in the industry the areas of most shortage are reported as Process Automation, Data Historian/Reporting and MES with long delays (1-4 months) in sourcing candidates or no suitable candidates being reported by some Employers/Owner/Directors in these fields.

Request your own copy of the Automation Market Survey 2014


Demand for valves to soar as political and economic conditions stabilise in emerging economies!

08/09/2014
Emerging Regions Prove Increasingly Profitable for the Industrial Valves and Actuators Market

The increase in oil exploration activities, investments in new refineries, and modernisation of existing facilities will spur the uptake of valves and actuators, particularly in emerging markets such as Africa and Latin America. Demand from the offshore oil and gas industry in Latin America, in particular, is expected to fuel the valves and actuators market. In addition to the demand from the emerging economies, control valve manufacturers will find growth opportunities in North America and Europe due to end-user preference for greater process automation.

1024px-ValveNew analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Strategic Analysis of the Global Industrial Valves and Actuators Market, finds that the market earned revenues of €14.86 billion (US$19.51 billion) in 2013 and estimates this to reach €19.76 billion (US$25.95 billion) in 2018. The study covers the oil and gas, power generation, chemical processing, mining and metallurgy, and water and wastewater end-user industries.

“The water and wastewater industry will offer significant growth potential for valve and actuator manufacturers in Asia-Pacific, Africa and Latin America,” said Frost & Sullivan Industrial Automation and Process Control Research Analyst Niranjan Paul. “Due to the burgeoning population and rapid urbanisation in these regions, water scarcity and the need to provide purified and portable water for human consumption have led to the setting up of desalination plants, boosting the use of valves and actuators.”

Despite this demand, valve and actuator manufacturers are likely to witness a loss of potential revenues due to the political situation in countries such as Iran, Sudan and Syria. In addition, the global financial downturn has compelled end users to defer projects and focus on the maintenance of existing equipment rather than the purchase of new valves and actuators.

The adoption of aggressive pricing strategies in Asia-Pacific too will reduce the sale of new valves. Vendors must enhance their aftermarket capability to sustain profits as well as meet wide-ranging consumer requirements.

“Valve and actuator manufacturers need to invest in R&D to deliver a comprehensive solution complete with wireless monitoring and advanced valve-condition monitoring capabilities,” recommended Paul. “With subsea exploration in Europe and Latin America projected to rise, widening product portfolios to include double-expanding gate valves will help vendors appeal to a larger consumer base in this high-potential market.”


Derailing the hype train!

01/09/2014
Industrial automation spares supplier, European Automation has written this blog post about the dizzying journey that groundbreaking innovations take through the Gartner Hype Cycle. The company use the current industry hot topic, 3D printing, as a case study in portraying the different stages of the cycle and what we can expect in the future.

New technologies are brilliant but, for better or worse, all of them are susceptible to the twisting, labyrinthine, eldritch machine known as the Hype Train. It’s also called the Gartner Hype Cycle, if you want to be clever about it.

EPA120Looking back at past technologies, it’s clear that new, groundbreaking innovations are destined to follow the trajectory laid out by the Hype Cycle without fail. The cycle runs technology trigger, peak of inflated expectations, trough of disillusionment, slope of enlightenment and finally the plateau of productivity. Believe it or not these are well thought out and accurate analytical tools; not names of places in Game of Thrones.

But this is our fault; humans love to get excited about things and think ahead to something better. Unfortunately, after the heady heights of the peak of expectations inevitably comes the trough of disillusionment.

The Trough is often the key point of the cycle, the part responsible for the product’s success or failure. This is the time after the product has been hyped beyond its ability to deliver and the public realises it can’t make good on the claims made about it, at least not right away. Whether it makes it out of the Trough and onto the plateau depends entirely on people’s behavior after the hype has moved on.

In the past we’ve seen technologies move along various stages of the cycle, eventually catching up with their potential some years down the line. The Internet has been riding high on the Plateau of Productivity for years now, with some of the things it has produced outstripping what was claimed in the heights of its own Peak of Expectations. Whether or not you count the ridiculous number of cat pictures as one of the better things to come out of the Plateau is up to you.

Technologies such as 3D Printing are just starting to fall into the Trough. The claims made, like being able to bio-print entire human organs for transplant, may well be possible, and even likely in the next decade. However, it is important to remember that we aren’t all going to simply pop down to the chemist for a new liver any time soon. Not to sound too cynical, but what is being promised seems too good to be true, and that’s a sign that it’s cresting the Peak and heading into the Trough.

European Automation is firmly invested in the realism of the Plateau of Productivity, despite being as excited as the next industrial technology expert by the technology trigger. While we are interested in the what-ifs and predictions the majority of our work is focused on delivering real-life, usable, functional technology.

“We are committed to providing the most up-to-date solutions for cutting edge use, such as sensors and industrial PCs and PLCs used in Internet of Things applications for instance. But we are equally at home sourcing an obsolete inverter manufactured in the early nineties for a straightforward replacement.

While it’s great fun to look ahead and see what may be possible ten or 20 years down the line, it is important to stay grounded as well; so we can deliver the best possible service now while keeping an eye on the future to ensure we stay ahead. We are happy to de-rail the hype train when needed. “


Process optimisation by Real-Time Control!

23/08/2014
Major installation at English sewage treatment works.

Wessex Water, an English water authority,  is investing around £20m at its Taunton sewage treatment works to improve the facilities for wastewater and sludge treatment in a project that is due for completion by the end of March 2015. The upgrade to the works under the DWF (Dry Weather Flow) Improvements Scheme will increase the site’s treatment capacity whilst also improving the efficiency and quality of the treatment process, lowering energy costs and reducing the site’s carbon footprint.

Prior to the implementation of the DWF Scheme, the STW was comprised of an inlet pumping station and balance tank, coarse and fine screens, grit removal (detritor), primary settlement tanks, a conventional ASP & biological filter beds, final & humus tanks and final effluent lagoons. The construction work involves the creation of a new four-lane ASP to replace the existing 16 biological filters. To facilitate this, one of the lagoons and four of the filters are being taken out of service to create space for the new works, and this has allowed all development to remain within the existing site boundaries enabling most works to be constructed under permitted development rights.

tauntonProcess optimisation of the new ASP stage will be achieved through implementation of Hach Lange’s Real-Time Control (RTC) system, which monitors influent ammonium concentration and dissolved oxygen concentrations along the aeration lanes, providing more efficient control of the fine bubble diffused aeration. The measurement of other quality parameters in the process train provides feedback to the RTC. A reduction of up to 15% energy usage is anticipated as a result.

Balfour Beatty has provided the civil works and Nomenca Ltd is responsible for the supply, installation, commissioning, and performance testing of the mechanical and electrical components of the new works. Contracts Manager Trevor Farrow says, “Nomenca’s reputation is built on a track record of successfully delivered projects, and the relationships that we develop with both clients and suppliers are key to this success. We have already worked with Hach Lange’s instrumentation on a wide variety of projects, so we are confident that this project will be a further success.”

As Project Manager for Wessex Water, Garry Orford says: “The drivers for this works upgrade include an increased treatment capacity requirement and a tightening of the consent, taking in to account longer-term requirements that may be implemented in AMP6. We have already implemented Hach Lange’s RTC process optimisation systems at our Holdenhurst plant – 175,000 PE – near Bournemouth, and this has delivered energy savings of around 25% so we are confident that we can repeat this success at Taunton – 85,000 PE.”

taunton2Following completion of the new works, the site will meet the following consent conditions:

  • Dry Weather Flow (DWF)   30,595 m3/d
  • Sanitary parameters BOD:SS:AmmN 15:30:3 mg/l

In addition to the upgrade of the sewage treatment facilities, a third anaerobic digester (AD) is also being built at the Taunton works. “This will increase our capacity to generate renewable energy and further reduce our electricity bill,” according to Garry Orford. “The power generation of the AD plants is fairly stable, but the energy demand of the treatment plant varies according to the load, so there will be occasions where we can sell energy back to the grid, and others where we will continue to have a power requirement. It is essential therefore that we use this power as efficiently as possible.” 

Real-Time Control in industrial processes is commonplace. However, wastewater monitoring represents a greater challenge because of its physical and chemical variability. Historically, wastewater monitoring technology was prone to drift (especially galvanic dissolved oxygen monitors) and required a high level of maintenance, so RTC was not feasible. However, the latest sensors offer much higher levels of reliability than was possible in the past, with substantially lower levels of maintenance and recalibration. This has been a major factor in enabling the development of RTC in wastewater treatment. In addition, many of the latest sensors provide a ‘health status’ output in addition to the readings. As a result, if any problems arise they can be quickly remedied, and control systems can ignore data from sensors that are not performing to their target specification.

Monitoring technology
The capital outlay for the addition of RTC to a treatment plant is relatively small; the most significant extra cost is the requirement for extra sensors plus the RTC unit. The Taunton build includes the installation of the latest sensors for dissolved oxygen, ammonium and turbidity, controlled by an sc1000 network, providing reliable data on the influent, and from within the treatment process.

IMG_0056The LDO sc dissolved oxygen sensor employs an optical luminescence method for calibration-free and drift-free measurements. Once the construction work is complete there will be four new lanes, each with three zones, so a total of 12 LDO probes will monitor dissolved oxygen.

In addition, two SOLITAX ts line dip probes will measure Mixed Liquor Suspended Solids (MLSS) content in the aeration lanes and the solids content of the Returned Activated Sludge. The RTC at Taunton will also control sludge retention time, which enhances plant efficiency. The suspended solids probes employ a patented dual scattered light method with a built-in wiper, to provide colour-independent measurement of solids without a requirement for calibration. Ammonium measurements will be undertaken at both the entrance and exit of the aeration lanes with two AMTAX sc instruments; high-precision analysers that continuously collect samples via an air-bubble cleaned filter probe. The ammonium analysers will be mounted directly over the filters to minimise the distance travelled by samples.

Real-Time Control
The Hach Lange RTC is implemented on an industrial PC which communicates with an sc controller network and the local PLC. The RTC system determines the most efficient aeration level and continuously feeds DO set points to the PLC which controls the blowers. This means that under RTC, DO set points are no longer ‘fixed’, instead they ‘float’ according to the load. The RTC modules continuously deliver set points to the PLC, which applies them to the process. This ensures that response to changing conditions is immediate. The algorithms employed by the N-RTC (Nitrification Real Time Controller) are mainly based on the Activated Sludge Models of the International Water Association.

The N-RTC also constantly reads the NH4-N concentration at the outlet of the aeration lane. This value provides a feedback control loop and ensures that the DO concentration is fine tuned to achieve the desired ammonium set point at the end of the ASP. In this way, the N-RTC control module combines the advantages of feed forward and feedback control, which are (1) rapid response, (2) set point accuracy and (3) robust compliance.

Aeration to achieve the biological oxidation of ammoniacal compounds to nitrate is the most energy intensive process at activated sludge plants because blower power consumption can represent over 50% of total costs at some plants. However, in addition to the advantages of the process optimisation system, four new Sulzer high speed HST-20 turbo-compressors are being installed by Nomenca, following trials on similar units by Wessex Water. These machines employ a control system that manages both the number of blowers to run, and the speed of the blowers, which will further improve energy efficiency.

Summarising, Garry Orford says: “Wessex Water has an ambitious long-term objective of carbon neutrality, and these improvement works projects provide us with useful opportunities to make a significant contribution to that goal.”


Industry 4.0 unplugged!

22/08/2014
Electrical component manufacturer, REO, has written a blog post about the four biggest industrial revolutions – the development of mechanization using water and steam power, the introduction of electricity in manufacturing environments, using electronics and IT to further automate manufacturing and finally, Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 is a big concept and a hugely popular buzzword across manufacturing. It originated at the Hannover Messe a couple of years ago, when Siemens defined it as the computerisation of manufacturing, including transition to higher levels of interconnectivity, smarter plants and communication between equipment.

industry4The first industrial revolution was the development of mechanization using water and steam power – in fact Reo mentioned their visit to its birthplace recently. This was followed by the introduction of electricity in manufacturing environments, which led to mass production. The digital revolution happened during our lifetime, using electronics and IT to further automate manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 is the fourth step in this series of revolutions. Although it is still, relatively speaking, in its infancy, the idea relies on sophisticated software and machines that communicate with each other to optimise production.

Furthermore, today’s smart plants are expected to take decisions regarding production efficiency and safety autonomously. Industry 4.0 is more about machines doing the work and interpreting the data, than plants relying on human intelligence – as was the case until now.

Thanks to the capacity of Industry 4.0 ready devices to process big data, they are able to offer statistics and trends that allow manufacturers to make their production lean and more fuel efficient. Saving electricity and water are key requirements for modern plant managers and they can achieve their eco-friendly goals by using smart plant connectivity.

Seamless integration
REO offers a number of products that integrate seamlessly into an Industry 4.0 plant environment.

Automation solutions like recognition systems for product checking and sorting can be used to provide status reports. The information received from them can be sent straight to the quality department who can stop production if faults have been discovered.

In addition, these recognition systems come with a program written as an instruction list, operating sequence or ladder diagram, as specified in the IEC 1131 standards. This makes them ideal for the track and trace requirements of the pharma industry, as well as those of food manufacturing plants.

Vibration measurement instruments can also be integrated into smart plant strategies. The Reovib BK032 is a monitoring unit for vibratory feeders for instance. By using this measuring device in conjunction with an accelerometer, vibration levels can be easily monitored and introduced to a database.

In the Reovib control system, an acceptance window can be set, defining adjustable maximum and minimum limits. If either of these values is exceeded, a corresponding relay will operate. During the unstable, start-up phase a time delay can be set so that spurious readings are ignored. The unit has a built-in sensor power supply for direct connection, which means that REO’s measurement instruments not only collect data, but also react to it and take action as per the input programs.

What does the future hold?
REO believes that Industry 4.0 will ultimately represent a significant evolution in manufacturing and industry. Furthermore, geographical and data boundaries between distinct factories will soon become a thing of the past, with smart plant concepts joining-up sites located anywhere around the world.

Of course, the company recognises that their own products are only a very small part of this bigger picture. Furthermore, they have never set out to design an ‘Industry 4.0’ compliant device, just as customers never ask for an ‘Industry 4.0’ application.

Instead, the may be said to be part of a trend in the electrical industry that SIEMENs identified at Hannover. But this particular trend is an exciting one and they are keen to see how it develops, as are we all!


Labhair liom! Speak to me! Parle-moi! Languages in marketing automation!

18/08/2014
With a work force that boasts 20 different nationalities and 17 languages, the industrial automation spares supplier, European Automation is keen to show its support for any programme promoting learning new languages. Indeed, its recent linguistic placements and support for the British government initiative encouraging businesses to identify the benefits of employing postgraduate language students, is reflected in its endorsement of the European Day of Languages

Our planet has over 7 billion people who speak between 6,000 and 7,000 different languages. In Europe alone there are more than 225 indigenous languages, which only amount to three per cent of the world’s total. “Now how bad do you feel that the extent of your multilingual capabilities is speaking louder and more slowly when abroad and extensive use of hand signals?” In celebration of all these tongues and dialects, the 26 of September is European Day of Languages.

LTnahEEuropean Day of Languages promotes linguistic diversity as a tool for achieving greater intercultural understanding and encourages events designed to showcase the benefits of multilingualism.

European Automation knows all about the importance of speaking the lingo when it comes to international business. 82 per cent of their sales currently come from exports and thus it’s essential that we not only speak in terms that our customers understand, but also remain aware of cultural differences.

LTnahE_Logo“With a work force that boasts 20 different nationalities and 17 languages, we feel that we’re not doing too badly on the linguistic and cultural diversity fronts. We regularly organise days celebrating different nationalities – these consist of staff bringing in different foods, playing music and generally getting into the spirit of multiculturalism.”

Their special days are not too dissimilar from the range of events promoting the learning of languages scheduled across the continent for European Day of Languages. Those who wish to be involved the can organise their own event and submit it to the European Day of Languages’ page; there’s even a prize for the most innovative idea. Here is the full list of what’s going on and how you can enter! 

sprachrLanguage can often be a barrier for companies looking to export and can seriously impede a company’s growth. When our customers call from different parts of the world, they are put through to a native language speaker with relevant cultural knowledge. This eliminates communication problems and creates an authentic relationship between our customers and our sales team. Needless to say, in any language, the benefit of this is huge/énorme/riesig/ollmhór/огромный… well, you get the gist.

Therefore the need for more language specialists in companies like European Automation is crucial.

On May 6, British business secretary Vince Cable announced a new initiative, which encourages companies to identify and employ postgraduate students with relevant language skills for key overseas markets. European Automation strongly supports the initiative and have actively sought to nurture local linguistic talents.

They recently rewarded three Newcastle College (GB) linguists a two week placement at European Automation after they beat off fierce competition. All three had to apply for the placement by interviewing first in English and then in their chosen second language, earning themselves the chance to put their skills to the test in the working world.

According to the research that sparked the initiative to recruit more multilingual postgraduate students, as much as €60 billion (£48 billion)  is lost in international sales because of poor language skills and cultural ignorance. Talking louder and enunciating (whilst pointing, always remember to point!) may be fine to communicate with the hotel barman in Lanzarote, but it certainly isn’t good enough for businesses looking to succeed when exporting abroad.

“So what have you got planned for the September 26? Why not take a leaf out of our book and embrace a different culture, or more than one for that matter, in the spirit of European Day of Languages.”

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Demand for accurate, lightweight test & measurement sensors set to increase!

07/08/2014

Test and measurement is a prerequisite for constant innovation and improvement in the development and manufacturing space. In turn, monitoring various operating conditions such as acceleration, pressure, temperature, magnetic field and frequency range while performing test and measurement tasks automatically necessitates a variety of sensors. As innovations in testing methods gather pace, the development of sensors used in test and measurement applications too will pick up.

tandmNew analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Sensors in Test and Measurement, finds that the market earned revenues of €820m ($1.10 billion) in 2013 and estimates this to reach €1,14 billion ($1.53 billion) in 2020. The aerospace and defence as well as automotive industries will generate the maximum revenue due to the large number of applications involved, and the high cost of sensors used. Meanwhile, the installation of wind turbines, owing to the intensifying focus on renewable energy, will present opportunities for sensors in testing wind turbines. Product testing in consumer electronics is another avenue that promises high growth.

“As product design and development become more complex, the need for highly accurate, sophisticated sensors for test and measurement applications will increase,” said Frost & Sullivan Measurement and Instrumentation Senior Industry Analyst Sankara Narayanan. “The shift to smaller, lighter structures will also drive the demand for smaller, lighter electronic components, including sensors.”

However, innovations in core sensor technologies have not kept pace with developments in other areas such as instrumentation and sensor packaging. To expand market scope, proven experience of having met the requirements of demanding test and measurement end markets will be critical. Further, easy-to-use, dedicated sensor solutions that provide state-of-the-art measurement and monitoring will be mandatory irrespective of the end market.

It is important for sensor manufacturers to offer a wide configuration of sensors to support multiple applications. Maturing into a one-stop shop by supplying test equipment and associated software along with sensors will help vendors appeal to a larger consumer base.

“Moreover, sensors used in test and measurement are put to extreme working conditions involving high temperature and pressure,” noted Sankara Narayanan. “Therefore, manufacturers must be able to deliver both on-site and local technical, repair and calibration services to stamp their authority in the global market.”


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