Running the plant has become a matter of adopting technology and adapting to it. In 2011, the world of automation and control saw a wide range of technology advances, from software to integrated safety, and from cloud computing to collaboration between control and IT.
2012 will see an expansion of new technologies as tools introduced in 2011 get deployed. The leading technology -- whether wireless systems or diagnostics -- is going mostly into greenfield plants, and most of those tend to be in Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America -- low-cost labor areas. Even so, some of the new technology is also appearing in brownfield developments in North America and Europe.
What we'll see through the deployment of new technology is higher productivity, greater throughput, and safer plants. These developments in technology are beginning to draw young engineers. After all, the plant can now be run like a video game. Older engineers have been leery of new technology, while the recently graduated engineers find the technology the most attractive aspect of running a plant.
Click the image below to start a slideshow highlighting automation & control technologies that will flourish in 2012:
Increasing Simulation in Automation
Plant updates can be tested before operators throw the switch on the control system. The use of simulation will likely expand considerably in 2012. Simulation is being used in new plant development, plant updates, and in configuring the plant for new products or for greater optimization.
The advantage is the ability to test the system before it is deployed. The result is a significant reduction in set-up costs -- both labor and time –- and greater optimization. Plant operators report that the reduction in set-up costs alone covers the cost of using simulation. This photo shows an example of simulation used to configure robots.
(Source: Simx Simulation.)
Yes, and the benefits are measurable. That's always been critical in plant operation. The benefits always have to be measurable or the tools don't get deployed. In the case of recent technology the benefits come in reduced energy consumption, increased uptime, less unplanned maintenenace and less maintenance altogether, quicker changes, and improved communication from supply through the delivery of finsihed materials.
The real takeaway from reading this very spot-on automation trend wrap-up is that plant floor contral and automation systems are definitely following in the footsteps of mainstream enterprise business systems in terms of leveraging the same new technology hot buttons. Advances in graphics (i.e., gaming-like capabilities), cloud computing, smart software, and remote monitoring functionality are all poised to radically change how the plant floor is run and monitored and bring far greater efficiencies and transparency to plant floor operators.
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