IIOT and Digital Transformation

While the costs and time involved may seem daunting, embracing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) may not be as difficult as some might think. The pressure to get more done with fewer resources has led different industries to consider the benefits of digitalization. However, the potential costs involved in retrofitting legacy equipment, possible production delays during upgrades, and questions about digital security has caused slow adoption of the latest in IIoT innovations. Fortunately, options abound to take advantage of the environmental and economic improvements available in digitalization. The key is to take simple, incremental steps that provide immediate value to you while advancing towards the digital future.

Getting More Out of Your Legacy Systems

It does not require a complete, expensive overhaul of current equipment to benefit from digital evolution. Anywhere data can be collected, evaluated and presented in a format that provides actionable intelligence is a great place to begin introducing digital improvements. The crucial element is data. The value of digital applications lies in being able to take information about your system performance and make quick, business-critical decisions to continuously improve that performance.

Most industrial plants are operating on legacy systems that are not digital. However, sensors that are already attached to meters and/or piping make an excellent starting point for incremental enhancements. Gathering reliable data from these sensors, for example, can help identify equipment that requires maintenance or replacement without waiting for an extensive efficiency audit. This, in turn, allows you to prioritize maintenance and identify and address potential hazards or failures.

To best utilize this data, you can blend current digital outputs with software applications that provide real-time analysis of your key asset data. These purpose-built apps will then display the information on a dashboard that is easily accessible from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The result is a much more responsive and agile facility, with access to critical insights into vital components of the system at all times. The experts at Emerson can assist with your digital transformation. Our consulting services can help you choose which legacy systems would benefit from these upgrades the most.

What the Industrial Internet of Things Makes Possible

One specific area that can take advantage of apps-based software is in monitoring shell-and-tube heat exchangers found in hydrocarbon refineries, for example. Due to their critical role in efficient heat transfer, cleaning and repairing heat exchangers accounts for a large part of refinery maintenance budgets. Gathering plant sensor data through existing infrastructure, built-in software tools allow operators to immediately recognize when heating requirements change and identify early indications of fouling. This predictive and continuous heat exchange monitoring ensures optimal cleaning for enhanced production and energy efficiency.

Additionally, wireless sensors can monitor air-cooled heat exchangers and fin fans. The information is fed to a software application that will alert operators if limited cooling is detected, as this can indicate issues with the heat exchanger. Steam traps can also be monitored with wireless acoustic transmitters to catch any failing equipment before it causes significant energy loss. All of these incremental digital improvements reduce the threat of unexpected failures and process shutdowns, saving energy, production time, and money.

The app-based software approach can significantly enhance safety, as well. With wireless pressure gauges and inline corrosion monitoring, personnel can oversee plant data without exposure to hazardous areas. The data would be collected within the established, secure plant network of software applications and displayed all together in a single dashboard. This system will eliminate the need to physically check each process point and will alert technicians if changes are detected so corrective measures can be taken immediately. This approach could be configured in such a way as to provide an audit trail of the production process, which could be used to create regulatory compliance reports.

Even if a facility is not ready to expend massive amounts of capital to replace all legacy systems, they can still begin moving toward a digital future. Taking even a few of these smaller steps could mean significant improvements to crucial business processes. Ask the question: What can be done with what is available? You might find purpose-built software apps to be your viable entry point into the IIoT. To learn more, check out Plantweb Insight applications, Emerson’s latest data analytics software innovations.