Systems integration for Industrie 4.0.

22/11/2016
The latest trends and challenges in systems integration.

Our world is getting smaller every day. Never before have remote locations been more accessible thanks to communications technology, smartphones and the internet. Connected devices have infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including the most traditional industry sectors. Here, Nick Boughton, sales manager of Boulting Technology, discusses the challenges connectivity poses for industry, particularly with regard to systems integration and the water industry.

boulting_industrie_4-0One question industry has been unsuccessful in answering refers to the number of connected devices that exist in the world at the moment. Gartner says that by 2020, the Internet of Things will have grown to more than 26 billion units. According to Cisco, there will be 10 billion mobile-ready devices by 2018, including machine to machine – thus exceeding the world population.

The Industrial Internet of Things

Only fifteen years ago, an industrial plant operated on three separate levels. You had the plant processes or operational technology (OT), the IT layer and in between stood the grey area of middleware – connecting management systems to the shop floor. The problem in most enterprises was that the commercial and production systems were entirely separate, often as a deliberate policy. Trying to connect them was difficult not only because of the divergence in the technology, but also the limited collaboration between different parts of the organisation. For these reasons successful implementation of middleware was rare.

Fast forward to today’s smart factory floor that uses the almost ubiquitous Ethernet to make communications as smooth as possible. Supporting the new generation of networking technologies is an increased flow of data, collected and analysed in real-time. However, data is only useful when you can decipher and display it. The next step to industry nirvana is using relevant data for better decisions and predictive analysis, in which the system itself can detect issues and recommend solutions.

Smart manufacturing is based on a common, secure network infrastructure that allows a dialogue – or even better, convergence – between operational and information technology.

The trend goes beyond the factory floor and expands to big processes like national utilities, water treatment and distribution, energy and smart grids, everything in an effort to drive better decision making, improve asset utilisation and increase process performance and productivity.

In fact, some water and energy companies are using the same approach to perform self-analysis on energy efficiency, potential weak points and the integration of legacy systems with new technologies. In a highly regulated and driven sector like utilities, maximising assets and being able to make predictions are worth a king’s ransom.

System integration challenges
System integration in this connected industry landscape comes with its challenges, so companies need to keep up to speed and get creative with technology. Keeping existing systems up to date and working properly is one of the main challenges of industry and big processes alike.

Finally, ensuring your system is secure from cyber threats and attacks is a new challenge fit for Industry 4.0. Connecting a system or equipment to a network is all fine and dandy, but it also brings vulnerabilities that weren’t there before.

Systems integrators relish a challenge and they’re very good at adapting to new technologies. For this reason, some systems integrators have started working closely with industrial automation, IT and security experts to help overcome the challenges posed by Industrie 4.0.

Regardless of whether we’re talking about companies in utilities, manufacturing or transportation, the signs are showing that companies want to get more from their existing assets and are retrofitting systems more than ever.

Of course, retrofitting isn’t always easy. In many cases, upgrading a system without shutting it down is like trying to change the brakes on a speeding bus – impossible. However, unlike the bus scenario, there is usually a solution. All you have to do is find it.

Flexibility is essential for good systems integrators. Being familiar with a wide range of systems and working with different manufacturers is the best way to maximise industry knowledge and expertise, while also keeping up to date with the latest technologies. At Boulting Technology, we partner up with market leaders like Rockwell Automation, Siemens, Mitsubishi, Schneider, ABB and others, to design and supply tailor-made systems integration solutions for a diverse range of industries, processes and platforms.

The world might be getting smaller and we might be more connected than ever before, but some things never change. Relevant experience, partnerships and the desire to innovate are as valuable as they have ever been in this connected new world of Industrie 4.0.

@BoultingTech #PAuto #IoT #Industrie4 @StoneJunctionPR

Why PLCs fail!

24/10/2016

Boulting Technology has released an infographic to help engineers mitigate problems with programmable logic controller (PLC) based control systems. The handy guide highlights the top five causes of failure and can be downloaded, free of charge, from their news page.boulting_plc_failure_paperPLC-based control systems are invaluable to a manufacturing or processing business because they control and regulate critical production systems and processes. A failed control system can cause significant plant downtime and is likely to be extremely costly; it can also create a hazardous situation when the system is controlling a critical process. By following correct maintenance procedures, businesses can minimise the chances of system failure, which in turn increases productivity, minimises costs and helps to maintain a valuable business reputation.

Faults with PLC input/output (I/O) modules and field devices account for 80 per cent of system failures. Usually, fixing these types of issues is relatively straightforward; however diagnosing them requires a basic knowledge of the system and on occasion specialist test equipment such as a multimeter. In addition, more often than not some form of PLC software diagnosis can aid with identifying the root cause of the fault. Although diagnosing the fault can often be time-consuming and requires specialist knowledge and experience, rectifying it can be as simple as replacing an I/O module or reconfiguring a field device.

Other common causes of failure include environmental issues, the integrity of the system earth, power supplies, failure of battery back-up during a power outage, electromagnetic or radio frequency interference and network and communication problems.

“Understanding the main causes of PLC control system failure means engineers can do more to prevent them,” explained James Davey, service manager of Boulting Technology. “In most cases, the minute a control system fails a business starts to lose money through downtime and missed deadlines. At worst it can result in a hazardous situation that needs immediate attention. Simple steps, such as regular control system health-checks, backing up PLC software and planning for contingency in the event of a power outage helps keep production processes up and running.

“At Boulting Technology, we pride ourselves on our ability and experience to use planned maintenance to prevent problems before they occur. Similarly, our guide to PLC control system failure will help plant engineers look out for warning signs of a failing system and take action before the issue becomes severe.”

@BoultingTech #PAuto #PLC

Changing industry standards for OEMs Enginers & contractors: one year on!

04/10/2015

In 1998, Google was founded, the first Apple iMac was introduced and the legendary Windows ’98 was released by Microsoft. In a less glamorous but equally important corner of industry, a new commission was being formed to revise the complex IEC 60439 industry standard, which governed the safety and performance of electrical switchgear assemblies. Although Windows ‘98 has long been consigned to history, the new industry standard – BS EN 61439 – only became mandatory on November 1, 2014.

One year on, Pat McLaughlin, Boulting Technology’s Operations Director, evaluates how original equipment manufacturers, panel builders, electrical engineers, consulting engineers and contractors have been affected by the new BS EN 61439 standard.

Boulting_BS_EN_61439

Why a new standard?
In a market where the demand to optimise and reduce costs blends heavily with higher needs for assembly flexibility, the introduction of a new set of standards was needed to guarantee the performance of Low Voltage Switchgear Assemblies.

Switchgear and Control Gear assemblies are multifaceted and have an endless number of component combinations. Before the introduction of the new standard, testing every conceivable variant was not only time consuming and costly, but impractical.

The intricate character of assemblies also meant that many did not fit into the previous two testing categories: Type Tested Assembly (TTA) and Partially Tested Assembly (PTTA). For example, panels which were too small to be covered by TTA and PTTA fell outside the standard. Finally, in the case of a PTTA, ensuring the safety and suitability of a design was often dependent strictly on the expertise and integrity of the manufacturer.

Design verification
The major change introduced by the new BS EN 61439 standard refers to testing. It states that the capabilities of each assembly will be verified in two stages: design verification and routine verification. This means the new standard completely discards the type-tested (TTA) and partially type-tested assemblies (PTTA) categories in favour of design verification.

Although BS EN 61439 still regards type testing as the preferred option for verifying designs, it also introduces a series of alternative routes to design verification.

The options include using an already verified design for reference, calculation and interpolation. The BS EN 61439 standard specifies that specific margins must be added to the design, when using anything other than type testing.

One of the main benefits of the new design verification procedure is its flexibility. Under the old BS EN 60439 specification customers would demand a Type Test certificate for each assembly particularly Incoming Air Circuit Breakers, which was very expensive and time consuming.

The new standard allows users and specifiers to pertinently define the requirements of each application. Annex D of the BS EN 61439 standard provides a list of 13 categories or verifications required, what testing method can be used and what comparisons can be made. In order to optimise testing time, the standard allows derivation of the rating of similar variants without testing, assuming the ratings of critical variants have been established by test.

Dividing responsibility
The second major change implemented by the new industry standard refers to the responsibilities of each party involved in the design, test and implementation of low voltage switchboard assemblies. Unlike BS EN 60439, which stated the OEM or the system manufacturer was solely responsible throughout the testing programme, the new standard divides the responsibilities between the OEM and the assembly manufacturer, or panel builder.

The new standard recognises that several parties may be involved between concept and delivery of a switchboard assembly. The OEM is responsible for the basic design verification. In addition, the assembly manufacturer is meant to oversee the completion of the assembly and routine testing.

For innovators like Boulting Technology, the new BS EN 61439 has brought more freedom and flexibility when designing switchboard assemblies. For example, Boulting Technology has designed and launched the Boulting Power Centre, a range of low voltage switchboards, which are available in 25kA, 50kA, 80kA and 100kA, fault ratings, and up to 6300Amp current ratings.

Although change is never much fun, it’s what technology and industry are all about. If this wasn’t the case, we would all still be using Windows 98 or the indestructible Nokia 5110.