Industrial automation has come a long way from the first SCADAs in the early 90’s. With machine manufacturers embedding “smarts” into more and more “things”, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to take automation to the next level.
For example, an industrial mixer for the food processing industry may once have only reported motor temperature and oil pressure to a control system. Now with embedded chips, new mixers can report on drive gear and blade condition, when the next oil change should take place, and whether or not the mixer is performing optimally given energy input.
SCADA systems have been architected to provide supervisory ability to ensure necessary actions have taken place and alert operators when they haven’t. The incremental cost and complexity of monitoring more than just the “must have” information once prevented control engineers and system designers from monitoring systems beyond critical data. The ease with which we are now able to configure systems to capture data and diagnostics from many more applications in plants at a negligible cost gives companies more options for monitoring and control.
What does the IIoT mean for SCADA systems?
The IIoT can extend the reach of SCADA systems beyond just the mission critical steps in a process, allowing for the management of all the steps in a process. This includes the ability to easily integrate all machines into the workflow, creating a whole systems approach to monitoring rather than one limited to reacting to impacts on core systems. Plant operations will still be controlled by SCADA systems coupled to PLCs and control panels. New information from more “smart things” is being integrated with the SCADA, increasing the complexity of control and response scenarios.
The data from the IIoT and SCADA historians can also be combined for predictive analytics that may discern relationships between certain conditions and a better product. These relationships allow operators to predict more precisely when a part needs renewal or maintenance to prevent failure.
Beyond operational questions, the large amounts of data that the IIoT generates along with the mission critical information from a traditional SCADA can fuel analytics software to help answer business questions like:
“How can we make this product more quickly and more cheaply?”
“To accomplish this do we need to shift production schedules to different times or days?”
“How can we save on energy costs?”
What does the Industrial Internet of Things mean for alarm notification?
From an alarm system perspective, alarm and event management is more effective as the amount of data available grows. More data means operators, control and applications engineers can design more refined alarms that monitor more events for different purposes. A sophisticated classification of categories in alarms that require human intervention can be quickly and directly communicated to the appropriate person for action.
Alarm notification software will need to accommodate the different processes caused by the expansion of smart machines as the IIoT extends to the edge of operations. Truly useful alarm notification software will handle real time conditions and diagnostics, dynamically changing alert routing based on severity and type. The versatility of the software will be judged on how well it models complex applications coupling personnel capabilities and schedules.
The task laid before industry is how best to take advantage of the new information the IIoT can provide to automation projects.