Integrate your approach to process control

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An integrated approach to process control can have immediate tangible benefits with the potential to enhance efficiency and the bottom line, says Mark Daniels of Rockwell Automation.
As well as facing up to more demanding market forces, many modern manufacturing operations also have the additional, but necessary, burdens of enhanced and more stringent security, safety and legislation with which to contend.
With these extra commitments in mind, the management of processes and procedures has leapt to the top of many priority lists as companies seek to address the myriad of external factors pushing and pulling their internal operations in different directions. By taking a step back and looking at plant operations from a machine or process point of view – it becomes obvious where enhancements can be made to the overall enterprise that will not only result in significant savings and efficiency improvements, but also help address more stringent legislation.
Business guru Charles Handy is quoted as saying: “The market is a mechanism for sorting the efficient from the inefficient.” Only by adopting a completely integrated approach to process control – from shop floor to top floor – can companies hope to remain competitive and, as a result, also be agile enough to cater for the fluctuating needs of these increasingly demanding markets and the possibilities of even tougher and more demanding legislation in the future.
Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture philosophy provides the foundations for this type of approach to strategic operational and process management. It is an industrial automation infrastructure that provides scalable solutions for the full range of automation disciplines, including – and in addition to process control – sequential motion, drive control, safety and information.
By utilising a single control infrastructure for the entire range of factory and process automation applications, and by supplying all of the tools that address the internal factors, Integrated Architecture provides a modular and flexible remedy to the challenges created by external market forces and legislative issues. In short, this approach gives companies the potential to enhance process control by reducing lead times, improving productivity and optimising plant assets and availability, while also reducing the total cost of ownership.
As well as sharing, controlling and auditing information from the top of the factory to the bottom and vice versa, this integrated approach to process control also helps to manage the enterprise from side to side, helping to maintain optimum operational conditions across the enterprise – from goods-in to final despatch.
The integrated approach to process control can result in substantial benefits, many of which have a direct impact on the bottom line. With a single integrated architecture, the sharing of actionable information will help improve response time and decision-making. Time and money can also be saved thanks to improved efficiencies such as reductions in engineering and implementation time, operator response times, maintenance costs and downtime.
Increasing productivity is also a realistic expectation, resulting from improved asset management. Increased speed and cost savings can also be realised when implementing or making batch changes using standards-based batch production management embedded in the system.
With Integrated Architecture, data can also be accessed throughout the system – regardless of its source. But Integrated Architecture does more than simply provide access to data; it collects and stores it for presentation as secure, actionable information. System-wide access to both historical and real-time data provides critical information to those responsible for making decisions and taking action. Freed of the delays and confusion associated with accessing isolated pieces of data through multiple databases or gateways, responses can be planned and implemented quickly.
Using the Integrated Architecture, process operators, engineers and maintenance personnel can view and analyse information in whatever format they prefer. Standard templates and customised analysis tools make data mining simple. The system can also interact with external production planning and scheduling functions to reduce errors and time delays, share equipment, personnel or materials availability; update expected batch or production run completion times; and share projected resource availability. These functions can be local to the site, or at a business level, as with Oracle, Microsoft, or SAP ERP functions.
To help maximise uptime, the system enables maintenance personnel to plan repair activities and reduce potential process downtime by monitoring critical production equipment and performing predictive diagnostics that automatically alert them to issues. It also provides them with the information and tools they need to identify and locate faults easily while reducing the risk of damage to equipment, and it assists them to perform those repairs more quickly. Redundant controller and power supply options further improve availability and reduce risk.
To maintain batch-to-batch quality within process environments including food, pharmaceutical and chemical processing, automation and production management systems must follow defined procedures and provide early detection of off-quality production, before downstream equipment is committed. By combining automated process control with easily managed procedures, you gain production reproducibility.
One example of a unified approach, being adopted across a variety of process-based industries, is the adoption of common batch standards.
Rockwell Automation’s batch solutions are based on standard ANSI/ISA-S88.01-1995, commonly known as S88, and its IEC equivalent IEC 61512-01. These have become two of the most widely adapted standards for batch processing in Europe and the United States. They define a common set of models and terminology to be used with batch processing systems. The models emphasise good practices in the design and operations of these systems and a methodology called Modular Batch Automation has been developed to codify these practices. Rockwell Automation’s batch solutions provide repeatability by automating procedural settings and integrating manual activities with in-line verification of operator actions.
Many companies realise there are significant benefits to be gained from an integrated approach to process automation and factory control; it is the reticence to take the first step that prevents many of them becoming adopters. Rockwell Automation is well placed to help companies take that tentative first step and then support them through the adoption and installation process. With worldwide service operations, continued support through the entire process lifecycles is another option helping with maximum uptime and optimum operating conditions