Tool training improves the implementation of Industry 4.0

Tool training improves the implementation of Industry 4.0

Tool training improves the implementation of Industry 4.0

In most process industries, many end users may be surprised to discover the digital capabilities of many process tools installed over the past decade. The main reason for this secret is, despite measuring devices for flow, level, pressure, temperature and other microprocessor-based instruments since the 1980s, that these digital interfaces are largely ignored, instead they only use an analog output. 4-20 mA of the primary process variable.

Modern intelligent tools can deliver a variety of information digitally via HART, EtherNet / IP, and other communication protocols, but many plants fail to take advantage of these numerous diagnostic and process data points.

This often occurs due to a skills gap and lack of training for plant technicians tasked with working with these smart tools. Internal training procedures, mentoring programs, online eLearning and instructor-led classroom events (Figure 1) are just some of the options organizations can invest in to overcome this deficit and improve their operations.

Figure 1: Tool training courses, such as those hosted by Endress + Hauser, teach students about modern tool data and its use in IIoT cloud services and other applications.

Training is critical to effective digital transformation so plant personnel can leverage all the capabilities of modern instrumentation to improve productivity.

Learn new technologies

Process manufacturers are pursuing the efficiency improvements and increased automation provided by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digitization, edge computing and the cloud. But these are just passwords unless users understand how to collect and analyze data from modern instrumentation and leverage the acquired information to optimize operations. Many of today’s tools provide up to hundreds of data points, but effectively using this data for operational results requires additional effort.

Although Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID, Ethernet, IO-Link, and other protocols provide options for connecting devices within a plant, the first and most important step for engineers and designers is to plan for desired operational improvements, then collect and analyze the necessary data. Modern tools produce diagnostic, status, process value, calibration and other data, which can be leveraged by sophisticated software systems to facilitate maintenance and process management decisions.

Most engineers and technicians understand how flow, level, pressure and temperature tools work to provide process values, but many are unfamiliar with the full range of digital capabilities. After becoming familiar with these data points and associated performance metrics, users can begin to connect them with complex software applications, such as computerized maintenance management, resource management, and distributed control systems.

The best training incorporates the entire chain from intelligent tools in the field to an IIoT, edge or cloud-based system. For example, at an Endress + Hauser Process Training Unit (PTUĀ®), students observe how data is generated, transmitted and processed, then perform actions and observe the resulting improvements (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Training should go beyond a traditional classroom, providing students with a hands-on experience, like in an Endress + Hauser PTUĀ®.

Preparing for IIoT

As companies continually seek out areas to cut spending, training programs are sadly often among the first on the board, even though these initiatives typically result in a quick return on investment. Furthermore, a long-term strategy for adopting the IIoT cannot take place without the right training programs in place.

Intelligent instrumentation training keeps engineers and technicians updated on their knowledge of modern digital technology. This allows them to evaluate the installation of new devices and use the generated data to improve operations. With this type of optimization measure, plants become better prepared to implement IIoT technologies and improve operational efficiency.

With digital flow, level, pressure, temperature, and analytics devices widely available today, often at less than $ 500 per measurement point, older facilities should consider replacing outdated non-digital devices as part of their plans implementation of Industry 4.0. But often replacement isn’t even necessary, as facilities discover existing digital capabilities in their tools.

As development occurs at a rapid pace, the smart tools on the market acquire significantly new skills every few years. Some of the latest innovations include self-calibrating RTD temperature transmitters and flow and level measurement devices with built-in self-monitoring and verification reporting capabilities, as well as standard diagnostic data and multiple measurement of process variables, which have been available for a decade or more.

However, none of these features improve plant operations unless users understand how to take advantage of these advances. In addition to training, plant personnel can stay up to date on current capabilities by reading industry publications, attending trade shows, tuning into webinars, and staying in touch with local instrumentation distributors and manufacturers.

For example, Endress + Hauser makes it easy to plan classroom lessons at its PTUs in the United States. This provides hands-on learning with the latest instrumentation technologies and multiple communication protocols for connectivity, from plant to central control systems to the cloud (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Modern intelligent tools support many communication protocols, facilitating communication between field devices, central control systems and the cloud.

Another recent improvement, the IEC TS 60079-47 (2-WISE) standard, provides a specification for 2-wire intrinsically safe Ethernet. And the Advanced Physical Layer for Ethernet (Ethernet-APL) provides another tool as new devices become available (Figure 4). Ethernet-APL combines the simplicity and robustness of 2-wire technology with the communication capabilities of Ethernet, providing high-speed, high-performance data exchange around process plants, even in hazardous environments.

Figure 4: The new IEEE 802.3cg standard and additional plant network protocols, including Ethernet-APL, are on full display at Endress + Hauser’s practical PTUs.

These and other modern standards are best learned and understood in hands-on training environments.

Digitization is a necessity for modern organizations

Although IIoT and digitization procedures are relatively new in the sphere of industrial operations, they will soon become a competitive necessity. With proper training, such as learning opportunities with a PTU, users can open pathways for adoption within their organizations, building and maintaining relevant skills as technological innovation continues.

While many establishments are not yet leveraging the digital capabilities of their tools, an increasing number of users are seeking learning opportunities, bringing knowledge back to their facilities and sharing it across their organizations. This process brings the benefits of digitization to the field.

All data was provided by Endress + Hauser

About the author

Jerry Spindler is the Customer Training Manager at Endress + Hauser, a position he has held since 2012. Previously he held positions at Endress + Hauser in product marketing and business development. Spindler is APTD certified and has an MBA in Product Management and Advertising and a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronics and Mechanical Technology.

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