The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has the potential to be the most significant development in automation systems since the introduction of distributed control systems. It offers a wide range of potential uses and benefits. Specifically, PLCs with IIoT capability can provide a broad range of advantages:
- Reducing the time and effort for configuration and commissioning
- Bringing new production fields online faster
- Enabling businesses to leverage vast amounts of data
- Enhancing data collection even in the most dispersed enterprises
- Providing operations personnel with improved remote monitoring, diagnostic and asset management capabilities
- Improving collaboration across the company
Some of the concerns around utilizing IIoT include safety and security, connectivity, and compatibility with existing network technologies and devices. The challenges to adoption are readily surmountable with the right partners who understand the industry’s needs as well as the new technology.
Next generation of controllers utilizing IIoT
An IIoT-ready PLC should optimize operations and maintenance efficiencies to liberate personnel from manual processes. It should also provide all the benefits that open systems has historically promised: secure connectivity, tight integration to devices from multiple vendors, easy configuration, efficient operations, and reduced maintenance. Utilizing OPC UA as THE common protocol provides smooth and secure integration to a broad range of instruments, equipment and software. Many sites have legacy equipment that needs to be integrated together to make use of the data and still preserve the investment that has already been made at the site. Interoperable multi-level and multiplatform open communication provides flexibility and scalability in the engineering and design phase – enabling standardization with less hardware. An IIoT-ready platform enables more direct access to cloud-based applications for visualization and analytics. With direct access and reduced gateways, IIoT-ready PLCs provide investment protection and easier maintenance resulting in reduced cost and risk.
An integrated solution reduces implementation risk and cost
Coordination among several vendors can present risk to implementation of an automation project. Communication problems and resulting errors and gaps can be alleviated by using a single vendor for design and installation of PLCs as well as the overall control system. Coordination is easier with fewer teams and direct access to system knowledge, resulting in faster system setup, testing and troubleshooting. There is reduced risk with fewer elements to manage and a single point of responsibility. Reliable integration reduces both risk and cost with fewer coordination errors, less engineering, faster installation, less training and reduced hardware. Utilizing a single vendor can provide a single point of responsibility for both PLC and DCS implementation.
Increasing operator effectiveness reduces risk
In addition, with a leaner control room, operator effectiveness can be increased and risk reduced. Common HMI for PLC and DCS means fewer operator and engineering stations, less hardware and wiring, reduced IT licensing, and less training with a common operator interface. Your operators, technicians, and engineers will make fewer mistakes because they are using only one system consistently. An integrated system utilizing PLCs integrated with DCS can offer remote configuration and device monitoring, all on an integrated HMI providing a single view across operations. Finally, integrated PLCs and DCS allow for a stronger, integrated cyber security solution. The end user benefits from reduced cost over the lifecycle with smaller footprint, easier maintenance, and better situation management.
Leveraging IIoT, big data and the cloud
Ultimately, an integrated PLC/DCS solution reduces cost and unplanned downtime. Reducing time for commissioning and minimizing troubleshooting allows early startup and long-term cost savings. In addition, there is reduced unplanned downtime associated with the ability to remotely diagnose and manage equipment. Solutions are currently being developed to better integrate devices and systems that take advantage of the IIoT, big data, and the cloud in a secure environment. And as the technology develops, the challenges to adoption are being overcome, solutions will become standardized, and the potential benefits will grow. Combining PLC and DCS technology, a vendor with integrated system expertise can help lead you through these changes in technology and the IIoT revolution.