Keep making the tablets!

08/05/2018
This article shows how valuable manufacturing production line downtime in the pharmaceutical industry can be reduced by ensuring predictive maintenance of tablet making machinery using Harting’s MICA industrial computing platform.

Introduction
Harting recently challenged postgraduate students from the Centre for Doctoral Training in Embedded Intelligence at Loughborough University to investigate practical application solutions where MICA – the company’s innovative open platform based ruggedised industrial edge computing device – could be applied to the benefit of manufacturing. Simple seamless integration within existing established production processes was the target, based on the concept of machine predictive maintenance.

The key objective was to achieve immediate productivity improvements and return on investment (RoI), thus satisfying the increasing trend for Integrated Industry 4.0 implementation on the factory floor. One such proposal was suggested for volume manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industry: in particular, those companies manufacturing tablets using automated presses and punch tools.

Data from these machines can be collected using passive UHF RFID “on metal” transponders which can be retrofitted to existing tablet press machines and mounted on the actual press-die/punch tools. The RFID read and write tags can record the pressing process, i.e. the number of operations performed by a particular press die, plus any other critical operating sensor-monitored conditions. The system can then review that data against expected normal end-of-life projected limits set for that die.

Such data can be managed and processed through Harting’s MICA edge computing device, which can then automatically alert the machine operator that maintenance needs to take place to replace a particular die-set before it creates a catastrophic tool failure condition and breakdown in the production line – which unfortunately is still quite a common occurrence.

Open system software
MICA is easy to use, with a touch-optimised interface for end users and administrators implemented entirely in HTML5 and JavaScript. It provides an open system software environment that allows developers from both the production and IT worlds to quickly implement and customise projects without any special tools. Applications are executed in their own Linux-based containers, which contain all the necessary libraries and drivers. This means that package dependencies and incompatibilities are eliminated. In addition, such containers run in individual “sandboxes” which isolate and secure different applications from one another with their own separate log-in and IP addresses. As a result, there should be no concerns over data security when MICA is allowed access to a higher-level production ERP network.

MICA is already offered with a number of containers such as Java, Python C/C++, OPC-UA, databases and web toolkits, all available on free download via the HARTING web site. As a result, users should be able to download links to the operating software system compatible with an existing machine, enabling full 2-way communication with the MICA device. Relaying such manufacturing information, which can comprise many gigabytes of data in the course of a day, directly to the ERP would normally overwhelm both the network and the ERP. With the MICA, this data stream is buffered directly onto the machine and can be reduced to just essential business-critical data using proven tools from the IT world.

The resultant improvements in productivity include:

– Less downtime reduces the amount of money lost during unforeseen maintenance of damaged punch tools.
– Individual punch identification will help in removing a specific punch, once it has reached its pre-set operational frequency working limit.
– A digital log of each punch and the number of tablets that it has produced is recorded. This provides vital information for GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) regulators such as the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) or the FDA (Food & Drug Administration).

A further benefit is that MICA is very compact, with DIN rail mounting fixing options that allow it to be easily accommodated inside a machine’s main control cabinet.

@HARTING #PAuto #Pharma @CDT_EI
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Load cells on stage!

30/04/2018
With theatres striving to create breath-taking spectacles and leave the audience gasping for more, there is often world-class engineering behind the scenes. Sensor Technology is developing technology to ensure safety when excited performers and heavy machinery share the same space.

If live theatre is to compete with film and television, it has to produce visual spectacles to complement the performance of the actors, singers and musicians on stage. Hollywood’s increasing reliance on CGI (computer generated imagery) has upped the ante for stage set designers, who have to work before a live audience, in restricted space and with a constant eye on the safety of the many people working frantically round the set.

Many stage props and almost all of the backdrops are lowered onto the stage from the fly tower just behind it. Usually this is done quickly between scenes, but sometimes it is during – and as part of – the actual performance. Either way, safety and reliability are essential.

“Until recently, the sets were manually controlled with a technical stage manager watching everything from the wings and giving instructions by radio to the winch operators above.” explains Tony Ingham of Sensor Technology who is helping to introduce safety systems and automation to the theatre industry.

“Speed is of the essence during scene changes, but you have to be confident the winches won’t fail – which could easily damage the set or injure a person.”

Sensor Technology is achieving this using real-time load signals from each winch. The data is monitored by a computer in the control room so that instant action can be taken if any loads move out of tolerance.

“We developed the load cells, which we have called LoadSense, a couple of years ago, originally for monitoring cargo nets carried under helicopters.” says Tony. “We were asked to develop one specific capability within the cell and were delighted to do so because we could see that the technology would transfer to many other fields – although I didn’t realise it would get to be a backstage pass to a world of greasepaint and legwarmers!”

That critical characteristic was robust, industrial-grade wireless communications, something in which Sensor Technology already has a 15 year track record from its TorqSense transducer range. In basic terms, each LoadSense has an on-board radio frequency transmitter which sends signals to the control room computer. The transmitter has to be physically robust to cope with the environment it finds itself in and capable of maintaining its signal integrity through the most corrupting of harmonic conditions.

“By working in real time, we can act instantly to any problems. For instance, if a load starts running too fast we would slow it down immediately. If a prop is heavier than expected this could suggest someone was standing on it so shouldn’t be whizzed 50 feet into the air at high speed. In fact, in this case, the computer ‘jiggles’ the load for a second or two as a warning to encourage the person to step away: If the load then returns to normal we are happy to let it rise; if it doesn’t, the floor manager is alerted by an alarm to check the situation.”

LoadSense is proving so sensitive that it can provide a feedback signal to close the control loop on a vector drive controlling the winch. Normally theatre engineers use sensorless vector drives, which offer good dynamic performance without the complications of wiring in a feedback sensor.

Sensor Technology is closing the loop which improves system integrity and enhances safety by a significant margin.

“Not that many years ago, stage scenery was fairly static, being moved only during the interval when the curtains were closed,” Tony recalls. “Then the big theatres in the West End and on Broadway started to emulate some of the things you see in the movies. Looking back, those early efforts were pretty crude, but you would say the same about long-running film franchises such as James Bond or Indiana Jones. “Nowadays, film directors can produce their spectacular images using CGI, and this has upped the ante no end for their cousins in live theatre. The computer power they turn to is not virtual reality but industrial automation.”

In fact, theatre engineers probably work in more demanding conditions than manufacturing engineers. Everything has to be right on the night, harmonic corruption is at stratospheric levels, there can be major changes at a moments notice, people run through the ‘machinery’ without a thought for personal safety.

“But with automation some order is brought to this creative chaos. In fact, the health and safety inspectors now insist on it, with lots of failsafes and feedbacks. I honestly don’t think theatre engineers would be able to achieve half of what they do without wireless communications. There would be just too many wires running all over the place and inevitably some would get broken at the most inopportune of moments.”

@sensortech #PAuto #Stagecraft

Researchers investigate ultra-low Mediterranean nutrient levels.

25/04/2018

Researchers at Haifa University’s Marine Biological Station in Israel are exploiting the ultra-low detection limits of advanced laboratory equipment to measure extremely low nutrient concentrations in marine water.

H.Nativ – Morris Kahn Marine Research Station

The University’s Prof. M. D. Krom says: “We work in the Eastern Mediterranean which has the lowest regional concentration of dissolved nutrients anywhere in the global ocean. We therefore utilize an automated segmented flow analyzer from SEAL Analytical, which has been specially adapted to accommodate ultra-low measurements.”

The SEAL AutoAnalyzer 3 (AA3) is a 4 channel system, measuring Phosphate with a long flow cell which has a detection limit of 2 nM. Ammonia is measured using a JASCO fluorometer with a similar ultra-low detection limit, and Silicate, which has a higher concentration, is measured using SEAL’s high resolution colorimetric technology.

The measurement data are being used to determine the season nutrient cycling in the system, which will then be used to help understand the nature of the food web and the effects of global environmental and climate change.

Low nutrient levels in the Mediterranean
The eastern Mediterranean Sea (EMS) has an almost unique water circulation. The surface waters (0-200m) flow into the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar and from there into the EMS at the Straits of Sicily. As the water flows towards the east it becomes increasingly saline and hence denser. When it reaches the coast of Turkey in winter it also cools and then flows back out of the Mediterranean under the surface waters to Sicily, and then eventually through the Straits of Gibraltar to the North Atlantic. This outflowing layer exists between 200m and 500m depth.

Phytoplankton grow in the surface waters (0-200m) because that is the only layer with sufficient light. This layer receives nutrients from the adjacent land, from rivers and wastewater discharges, and also from aerosols in the atmosphere. These nutrients are utilized by the plankton as they photosynthesize. When the plants die (or are eaten) their remains drop into the lower layer and are jetted out of the EMS. Because the water flows are so fast (it takes just 8 years for the entire surface layers of the EMS to be replaced), these nutrient rich intermediate waters rapidly expel nutrients from the basin. The result is very low nutrient concentrations and very low numbers of phytoplankton – some of the lowest values anywhere in the world. Prof. Krom says: “The maximum levels of nutrients measured in the EMS are 250 nM phosphate, 6 uM nitrate and 6-12 uM silicate. Ammonia is often in the low nanomolar range. By contrast, in the North Atlantic, values are 1000 nM phosphate, 16 uM nitrate and 20 uM silicate, and the levels in the North Pacific are even higher.”

The value of data
The low levels of plankton caused by low nutrient levels, result in a low biomass of fish. Nevertheless, coastal areas generally support more fish than offshore, so the research will seek to quantify and understand the nutrient cycle in the coastal regions, which is poorly understood at present. “We plan to develop understandings which will inform stakeholders such as government. For example, there is a discussion about the potential for fish farms off the Israeli coast, so our work will enable science-based decisions regarding the quantity of fish that the system can support.”

To-date, three data sets have been taken from the EMS, and the first publishable paper is in the process of being prepared.

Choosing the right analyzer
Prof. Krom says that his first ‘real’ job was working for the (then) Water Research Centre at Medmenham in Britain, where he was involved in the development of chemical applications for the Technicon AA-II autoanalyzers, which included going on secondment to Technicon for several months. SEAL Analytical now own and manufacture the AutoAnalyzer brand of Continuous Segmented Flow Analyzers, so his career has been connected with autoanalyzers for decades. For example his is Professor (Emeritus) at the University of Leeds (GB), where, again, he worked with SEAL autanalyzers. An AA3 instrument was employed at Leeds in a project to investigate the nature of atmospheric acid processing of mineral dusts in supplying bioavailable phosphorus to the oceans.

Explaining the reasoning behind the purchase of a new AA3 at Haifa University, Prof. Krom says: “During a research cruise, it is necessary to analyse samples within a day to avoid changes in concentration due to preservation procedures.

“Typically we analyse 50-80 samples per day, so it is useful to useful to be able to analyze large numbers of samples automatically. However, the main reasons for choosing the SEAL AA3 were the precision, accuracy and low limits of detection that it provides.”

Commenting on this application for SEAL’s analyzers, company President Stuart Smith says: “Many of our customers analyze nutrient levels in freshwater and marine water samples, where high levels of nutrients are a concern because of increasing levels of algal blooms and eutrophication. However, Prof. Krom’s work is very interesting because, in contrast, he is looking at extremely low levels, so it is very gratifying that our instruments are able to operate at both ends of the nutrient concentration spectrum.

Bibliography
• Powley, H.R., Krom, M.D., and Van Cappellen, P. (2017) Understanding the unique biogeochemistry of the Mediterranean Sea: Insights from a coupled phosphorus and nitrogen model. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 11; 1010-1031. DOI 10.1002/2017GB005648.

• Stockdale, A. Krom, M. D., Mortimer, R.J.G., Benning, L.G., Carslaw, K.S., Herbert, R.J., Shi, Z., Myriokefalitakis, S., Kanakidou, M., and Nenes, A., (2016) Understanding the nature of atmospheric acid processing of mineral dusts in supplying bioavailable phosphorus to the oceans. PNAS vol. 113 no. 51

#SealAnal #Marine @_Enviro_News

Blockchain: the future of food traceability?

20/04/2018
Shan Zhan, global business manager at ABB’s food and beverage business, looks at how blockchain* can be used to enhance food traceability.

“The Blockchain, can change…well everything.” That was the prediction of Goldman Sachs in 2015. There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about Blockchain, particularly around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but just as the investment bank giant predicted, the technology is starting to have more wide-reaching impacts on other sectors.

A report from research consultancy Kairos Future describes blockchain as a founding block for the digitalization of society. With multinationals such as IBM and Walmart driving a pilot project using blockchain technology for traceability, the food and beverage industry needs to look at the need for the protection of traceability data.

The United Nations recognizes food security as a key priority, especially in developing countries. While most countries must abide by strict traceability regulations, which are particularly strong in the EU, other regions may not have the same standards or the data may be at risk of fraud.

Food fraud is described by the Food Safety Net Services (FSNS) as the act of purposely altering, misrepresenting, mislabeling, substituting or tampering with any food product at any point along the farm-to-table food supply chain. Since the thirteenth century, laws have existed to protect consumers against harm from this. The first instance recorded of these laws was during the reign of English monarch King John, when England introduced laws against diluting wine with water or packing flour with chalk.

The crime still exists to this day. While malicious contamination intended to damage public health is a significant concern, a bigger problem is the mislabeling of food for financial gain. The biggest areas of risk are bulk commodities such as coffee and tea, composite meat products and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) labelled fish. For example, lower-cost types of rice such as long-grain are sometimes mixed with a small amount of higher-priced basmati rice and sold as the latter. By using blockchain technology in their traceability records, food manufacturers can prevent this from happening.

Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology that keeps a digital record of all transactions. The records are broadcasted to a peer-to-peer (P2P) network consisting of computers known as nodes. Once a new transaction is verified, it is added as a new block to the blockchain and cannot be altered. And as the authors of Blockchain Revolution explain, “the blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value”.

When records of suppliers and customers are collected manually, to ensure the end manufacturer can trace the entire process, this does not protect the confidential data of suppliers. Blockchain technology anonymizes the data but it is still sufficient to ensure that the supply chain is up to standard.

In the case of mislabeled basmati rice, blockchain technology would prevent food fraud as the amount of each ingredient going into the supply chain cannot be lower than the volume going out. This would flag the product as a fraudulent product.

Not only can it help to monitor food ingredients, it can also monitor the conditions at the production facility. These are often very difficult to verify and, even if records are taken, they can be falsified. A photo or digital file can be taken to record the situation, such as a fish being caught, to show that it complies with the MSC’s regulations on sustainably caught seafood.

The blockchain will then create a secure digital fingerprint for this image that is recorded in the blockchain, known as a hash. The time and location of the photograph will be encrypted as part of this hash, so it cannot be manipulated. The next supplier in the blockchain will then have a key to this hash and will be able to see that their product has met the regulations.

Food and beverage manufacturers can also use blockchain to ensure that conditions at their production facilities are being met, or any other data that needs to be securely transferred along the production line. While we are not yet advanced enough with this technology to implement across all food and beverage supply chains, increased digitalization and being at the forefront of investment into these technologies will help plant managers to prepare their supply chain against the food fraud threat.

* The Wikipedia entry on Blockchain!

@ABBgroupnews #PAuto #Food @FSNSLABS @MSCecolabel

Why monitor dust?

17/04/2018
Josh Thomas of Ashtead Technology discusses the reasons for monitoring dust in the workplace.

Almost any place of employment can present a potential threat to health and safety from airborne particulates and aerosols. It is important to note, however, that dust hazards are not necessarily visible to the human eye and that the finest particles can represent the greatest threat because of their ability to travel deepest into the lungs. Effective monitoring is therefore key to the implementation of an effective risk management strategy.

There are two major reasons for monitoring dust in the workplace; to enable air quality management, and for regulatory compliance. The immediate effects of dust can be irritation to eyes, headaches, fatigue, coughing and sneezing. As such, poor indoor air quality can lower employee performance and cause increased absenteeism through sickness. In addition, particulates are known to create long-term deleterious effects, contributing to serious illnesses. In combination with outdoor exposure (to pollution form vehicles for example), the Government has estimated that 29,000 premature deaths occur in the UK every year as a result of particle pollution. This means that, particularly in urban areas, natural ventilation may not necessarily improve indoor air quality.

Dust-TrakEmployers are responsible for ensuring that staff and visitors are not exposed to poor air quality in the workplace, so it is necessary to conduct monitoring. Accurate and effective monitoring data can be used to check exposure levels and to help identify safe working practices.

Monitoring also helps to demonstrate compliance with relevant regulations. COSHH is the law that requires employers to control substances that are hazardous to health. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), employers can prevent or reduce workers’ exposure to hazardous substances by finding out what the health hazards are; by deciding how to prevent harm to health; by providing effective control measures; by providing information and training; by providing monitoring and health surveillance, and by planning for emergencies.

In order to evaluate workplace safety, monitoring data is compared with Workplace Exposure levels (WELs) which prescribe the maximum exposure level to a hazardous substance over a set period of time. Failure to comply with COSHH and WELs can result in financial penalties, prosecutions and civil claims.

Indoor air quality is affected by both internal and external factors. Air pollution may arise from external sources such as neighbouring factories, building and development activities, or from vehicles – especially those with diesel engines. Internally, air quality is affected by working practices and business processes. For example, dust may arise from raw materials such as powders, or it may be produced by processes that generate particulates; including dust, mist, aerosols and smoke. In all cases, internal and external, it is important to identify both the source and the seriousness of the problem, so that appropriate and effective mitigation measures can be implemented. These might include, for example, ventilation, process dust prevention, the management of shift patterns, personal protection equipment (PPE) and alarm systems.

Regulatory requirements to monitor
Under the British Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers have a legal duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees. Furthermore, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (GB) require employers to assess and control risks to protect their employees. A key element of this is the requirement to comply with the COSHH Regulations. The HSE says that exposure measurement is required:

  • For COSHH assessment, to help select the right controls
  • Where there is a serious risk to health from inhalation
  • To check that exposure limits are not exceeded
  • To check the performance of exposure controls
  • To help select the right respiratory protection equipment
  • To check exposure following a change in a process
  • To show any need for health surveillance; or
  • When an inspector issues an ‘Improvement Notice’ requiring monitoring

The COSSH Regulations include dust, mist, vapour, fumes and chemicals, but they do not cover Lead or Asbestos. Specific requirements exist for certain industries such as construction. Generally, WELs relate to particulate diameter because the health effects of particulates are heavily influenced by their size.

Inhalable dust is that which enters the nose or mouth during breathing and is available for deposition in the respiratory tract. It includes particles with a width between 2.5 and 10 microns (PM2.5 – PM10), and the WEL for this fraction is 10 mg/m3 as an 8-hour Time Weighted Average (TWA).

Respirable dust is the fraction that penetrates deep into the gas exchange region of the lungs. It includes particles with a width between 1 and 2.5 microns (PM1– PM2.5), and the WEL for this fraction is 4 mg/m3 as an 8-hour TWA. Lower specific WELs exist for particulates that present a greater threat to health. For example, Silica dusts have a WEL of just 0.1 mg/m3 respirable dust as an 8-hour TWA.

The costs of non-compliance
In addition to the enormous numbers of premature deaths that result from exposure to outdoor air pollution, there are also numerous well-documented instances demonstrating the harm caused by exposure to indoor pollution from dust, smoke, aerosols and vapour. For example, a 46-year-old cook developed breathing problems after working with flour in a school kitchen with poor ventilation. Her breathing problems became so severe that she could hardly walk and had to sleep sitting up. She became severely asthmatic and had to retire early on health grounds. With the support of her Union she made a compensation claim on the basis that decent working conditions were not provided, and the council admitted that it had not taken sufficient action despite repeated complaints. Consequently, the courts awarded the cook £200,000 (€230k) in damages.

In another example, between 1995 and 2004, a solderer was exposed to rosin based solder fumes and suffered health deterioration and breathing problems including asthma. An investigation conducted by the HSE found that the company did not have adequate control measures in place and failed to install fume extraction equipment. Furthermore, the company did not employ rosin-free solder until December 2003, despite an assessment having identified the need in 1999. The company was subsequently fined £100,000 (€116k) with £30,000 (€35k) costs, a punishment which attracted both local and national media attention.

Monitoring dust
A wide variety of methods exist for the measurement of dust, and the choice of equipment is dictated by the application. For example, it is obviously important to employ a technology that is able to measure the particulates that will be present. In addition, it will be necessary to determine whether monitoring should be continuous, at a single point, or whether portable instruments are necessary to check multiple locations. Monitoring might be conducted in a work space, or personal sampling might be undertaken in order to assess the exposure of an individual over an entire shift.

Personal Sampling Pumps represent the preferred method for workplace exposure monitoring where it is necessary to demonstrate regulatory compliance or where legal dispute is a possibility. An HSE document (MDHS 14/4) provides workplace exposure monitoring guidance for collecting respirable, thoracic and inhalable aerosol fractions. The samples collected by this process are analysed in a laboratory, which means that chemical analysis is also possible. However, the sampling method incurs a delay and incurs extra cost.

In response to the wide variety of applications and monitoring requirements, Ashtead Technology stocks a comprehensive range of monitors for both sale and rental, providing customers with complete financial and technical flexibility. As a TSI Gold Partner, Ashtead Technology provides a comprehensive range of maintenance and calibration services; helping customers to ensure that their monitoring equipment remains in optimal condition. Ashtead’s fleet of rental equipment includes large numbers of the latest TSI instruments, supported by the highest levels of service and technical assistance. Employing advanced light-scattering laser photometers, the TSI products are supplied with a calibration certificate and provide real-time, direct-reading aerosol monitoring and analysis of different particulate fractions in workplace, cleanroom, HVAC, fugitive emissions and environmental monitoring applications.

The TSI range of dust monitors is continually being developed to bring new levels of functionality to the market. For example, the new lightweight AM520 Personal Dust Monitor is able to measure and log PM10, Respirable (PM4), PM5 (China Respirable), PM2.5, PM1 or 0.8μm Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM), providing real-time audible and visual alarms, and running from a rechargeable battery for up to 20 hours. For outdoor applications, the MCERTS approved Environmental DustTrak is web-enabled, providing a quick and easy dust monitoring solution for applications such as building and development projects.

@ashteadtech #PAuto @TSIIncorporated

Robotics: A new revenue source for the taxman?

16/04/2018
Robot tax? A tax on robotics is as absurd an idea as a tax on pencils. As Britain’s political parties discuss a potential tax on automation and robotics, Nigel Smith, managing director of Toshiba Machine partner, TM Robotics, explains why slowing down the machine economy would lead to a productivity disaster.

The world’s first robot tax was introduced in South Korea last year. The tax was created amid fears that a rise in automation and robotics was threatening human workers and could lead to mass unemployment in the country. But, this so-called robot tax was not actually a tax at all. Instead, the country limited tax incentives for investments in automation, lessening the existing tax breaks for automation.

Calling it a tax was simply rhetoric delivered by its opponents. Essentially, it was just a revision of existing tax laws. Regardless of its name, South Korea’s announcement sparked several debates as to whether a robot tax would be advantageous in other countries.

At the time, Bill Gates famously called for a technology levy, suggesting that a tax could balance the Government’s income as jobs are lost to automation. The levy was suggested to slow down the pace of change and provide money for Government to increase job opportunities in other sectors.

Taxing robots?

Fewer workers, fewer tax contributions
While most manufacturers and those operating in the robotics sector would disagree with the idea of a tax on robots, the debate does raise questions of how we tax employment in Britain — and how technology could affect this. The obvious fear at Government level is that if we replace people with robots, we reduce national insurance contributions, lessening a Government’s ability to support its people.

As an alternative, perhaps the answer to this problem is switching to a system where, rather than paying tax per employee through national insurance contributions, NIC was formulated based on a company’s overall operating costs. Using this method, NIC could take account of the impact of all forms of advanced technology, not just robots.

That being said, we are not tax experts at TM Robotics. However, we are experts in industrial robots. We sell industrial robots to manufacturers across the globe and advise them on how robots can increase productivity, efficiency and in turn, create new jobs.

Creating, not destroying jobs
Much of the debate about the potential robot tax has focused on the threat that robots and automation pose to humans. However, we should remember that robots don’t always replace a human job, often they work alongside people to reduce the risk of injury — particularly in the supply chain.

Consider this as an example. TM Robotics recently introduced a robot box opening cell to its range of industrial equipment. This type of automation would typically to be used by companies like DHL and UPS who are delivering product directly into manufacturing plants and retail warehouses to allow them to reduce the risk of injuries from knives. In this instance, a robot tax would undermine a company’s ability to deliver a safe environment for its workers.

The bottom line is that robots create jobs, they don’t take them away. This is supported by the British Government’s recent Made Smarter review on digitalisation in industry. The review concludes that over the next ten years, automation could boost British manufacturing by £455 billion (€525 billion), with a net gain of 175,000 jobs.

Robots are tools and they will create work, especially new kinds of work — taxing them would be a tax on net job creation. Instead of implementing a tax on robots, we should actually be providing tax breaks for companies investing in robotics.

@TMRobotics #PAuto #Robotics @StoneJunctionPR

Helping provide reliable flood protection in Switzerland.

11/04/2018

Extreme weather is becoming increasingly common throughout the world, making flooding a growing threat. Flood defence measures have traditionally been based on mechanical equipment, but innovative automation technology can now be used to provide greater protection for people and the local environment. AWA – the Office for Water and Waste in the Swiss canton of Berne – is using this latest technology to regulate water levels at the region’s Brienzersee, Thuner and Bielersee lakes, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“Water level regulation must protect people from flooding and prevent damage – ideally in an economically justifiable way,” said Dr Bernhard Wehren, head of maritime regulation at AWA. “Some of our important control operations are particularly time-critical, but until recently, we relied on dataloggers that only sent the different measurements we require every few hours or so. Now, thanks to the new state-of-the-art technology we have implemented, this happens in real time. It is therefore very important that the data communications technology supports this by reliably meeting all the challenges and requirements of our unique mission-critical communications infrastructure.”

Modernising facilities
To help provide the most reliable flood protection, AWA decided to modernise its water regulation facilities for the lakes, encompassing four historic locks, the large Port of Bruggweir and accompanying hydropower plant, and a flood relief tunnel. Due to the increasing demand for the availability of more data, AWA also decided to upgrade all the measurement stations with state-of-the-art technology. The measurement stations play a crucial role in regulating water levels in the lakes.

When developing a plan to modernise the equipment, great attention was paid to both operational safety and system redundancy. There was a need to address the obsolete electrical engineering at Port of Brugg. This would include the conversion of all existing drives and the renewal of the energy supply, a large part of the cabling and the control and monitoring elements for the five weirs. Regulation and control technology also needed attention. Not only was there a need for redundancy in the event of a device failure or a line interruption, but also in case of communication disruptions, such as interruptions to the internet connection.

BKW Energie AG was appointed as the technical service provider and after a thorough review of suitable data communications technology companies, they chose Westermo to provide its robust networking solutions for the project.

Fast communication performance
“Crucial to the selection of Westermo was that their products met our high standards and requirements for the project. This included fast communication performance, multiple routing ports per device, high MTBF periods, extended temperature ranges and very low power consumption,” said Rénald Marmet, project engineer at BKW Energie. “Another factor was the operation and parameterisation of the networking hardware via the WeOS operating system. Also, the extremely efficient and time-saving update capability provided by the WeConfig network management software, which enables the central configuration and management of all Westermo devices.”

The main control network incorporates the AWA control centre in the capital, Berne,and further control centres at the water locks, Thun and Interlaken, each with one SCADA server and redundant controller. The control centres connect to 29 substations (measuring points). Eight SCADA clients access these servers. There is also a SCADA server located in the hydropower plant, providing BKW employees with access. The hydropower plant part is monitored by the BKW control centre in Mühleberg.

Westermo networking technology allows all data to be transferred in real-time between the participating sites. Should an emergency arise, this enables those responsible to take the appropriate measures immediately to ensure the best possible protection against flooding. Also, maintenance and software updates for all the installed Westermo networking devices can be performed easily and quickly with just a few mouse clicks.

In total, Westermo provided thirty of its RFIR-227 Industrial Routing Switches, twenty-seven VDSL Routers, twenty-fiveMRD-4554G Mobile Routers, thirty-five Lynx 210-F2G Managed Ethernet Switches with Routing Capability, thirty-six L110-F2G Industrial Layer -2 Ethernet Switches, and over eighty 100 Mbps and 1 Gbps SFP fibre optic transceivers via multimode and single-mode fibre for distances up to 80km.

Greater network redundancy
The three control centres all have two firewall routers connecting them to the internet providers and enabling them to receive or set up the IPsec and OpenVPN tunnels. There are also two redundant Siemens Simatic S7-400controllers installed in a demilitarized zone (DMZ) and a WinCC SCADA server connected to the local network. The AWA SCADA station has the same design, but without the control functionality.

BKW took care not only to create network redundancy, but also to set up redundant routes to the internet providers. The VDSL routers use the service provider Swisscom, and the MRD-455 4G mobile radio routers are equipped with SIM-cards from Sunrise. The heart of the main network – the three control centres and the AWA control centre- are linked by IPsec-VPN Tunnels and Generic Routing Encapsulation(GRE) and form the automation backbone via Open Shortest Path First(OSPF) technology.

The result of this is that even should there be simultaneous connection failure to an internet provider in one location and the other provider at another station, or the total failure of one provider, communication between all centres, the connected remote stations and the remote access by BKW or AWA is still possible.

For increased safety, the external zones are segmented further. The service technicians can connect to the control centres through an OpenVPN tunnel and have access to all measuring stations on the network.

There are two different types of measuring stations. The high availability station consists of two completely separate networks. Each PLC is installed ‘behind’ a Westermo Lynx 210 device, which acts as a firewall and establishes the connection to the control centre via an OpenVPN tunnel. The redundant internet access is provided either via a VDSL router, which is connected to Swisscom, or a MRD-455 with Sunrise as the provider. A ‘standard’ station has only one PLC with a Lynx 210 acting as a firewall router and building the VPN tunnels in parallel via the two internet routers.

Security requirements
As well as network redundancy, security was also part of the requirements to guarantee high communication availability. The network implemented by BKW and Westermo provides the necessary security in accordance with recommendations found in the BDEW whitepaper and IEC-62443 standard. The outstations not only form their own zone, but other areas are also segmented where necessary. The network for the SCADA servers in the control centres is also decoupled from the backbone using two VRRP routers.

The flood defence system now has one of the most modern data communication systems in Switzerland. Explaining why this is so important to AWA, Dr Bernhard Wehren said: “Protection against flooding must be guaranteed at all times. Depending on the meteorological or hydrological situation, the availability of the required measured values is critical. Because access to the measuring stations in the extensive regions of the canton is generally very time-consuming, network device failures and communication interruption must be kept to a minimum. It is therefore extremely important that all components of our communication systems meet the highest standards, offer extreme reliability and can be upgraded to meet new requirements.”

“We were able to simplify processes, make them secure, redundant and transparent for the engineering department via VPN connections. This contributes significantly to the simple, safe and efficient maintenance of the system,” Rénald Marmet said. “Thanks to the extensive cooperation with Westermo network engineers, we were able to create the ideal solution that meets all requirements and was delivered on time. Westermo’s reliable networking technologies have given AWA and BKW the opportunity to build individual data communication solutions for critical industrial applications, while providing scalable, future-proof applications. The solution also offers all involved a high degree of investment security.”

#Switzerland. @Westermo @bkw #Environment #PAuto