Eye-openers for the process industry

January 2021 News

For a long time, Industry 4.0 was little more than a vision. Now applications are beginning to breathe life into the idea. The benefits of digital services are becoming apparent in real environments. And solutions based completely on internet technologies are opening up brand new fields of applications.

“My smartphone has been serving as a sort of control centre for my daily life for a long time,” says Julia Grether. The 29-year-old uses her smart companion to communicate with others, check the weather, book train tickets, track the number of steps she takes and control the lights at home. After studying international management, she has her eye on the benefits of digital connectivity in her professional life as well. In her role as a business development manager, she has been working for the past year on Netilion, the IIoT ecosystem from Endress+Hauser.

“My goal is to use Netilion to bring the convenience and simplicity that digitalisation provides in our private lives to the process industry as well,” explains Grether. “That makes processes more efficient and reliable.” The heart of the platform is Netilion services, web-based applications that make all field instruments and their data accessible from anywhere. The apps help users carry out tasks such as capturing and managing all instruments in a plant, organizing device documentation or monitoring the instrument status and responding correctly in case of a malfunction.

Keeping an eye on all instruments

“The Netilion apps are easy to use and immediately provide added value,” says Grether.

And sometimes they prove to be real eye-openers, such as at Salzgitter Flachstahl, a Netilion pilot customer located in Germany. While digitally capturing the installed base of measurement devices at the steel mill, more instruments surfaced than the plant had anticipated. Furthermore, some of these devices were found to be in need of replacement.

With Netilion, there is a complete overview of the installed base at hand. Digital twins of the actual field instruments, which are often difficult to access, are made available in the cloud where they can be seen from various devices – from the office PC, the industrial tablet and even from the technician’s smartphone. Prior to the service call, the technician already has the troubleshooting guide at hand. “The plant operator can save costs with the knowledge generated by the Netilion system, such as through streamlined maintenance and higher system availability,” says Grether.

Security around-the-clock

Netilion also opens up access to new applications beyond conventional process engineering. Endress+ Hauser offers cost-effective packages that include IIoT-enabled measurement technology and digital applications designed to solve simple measurement tasks. Setup is uncomplicated. The complete preconfigured packages contain the sensors, including installation material and the transmitter, plus a subscription to the digital service. One example is Netilion Smart Systems for analysing bodies of water, which are currently in pilot operation in two communities in Switzerland.

In Giebenach, near Basel, Netilion is being used to monitor a salmon farm. In the past, the water was checked intermittently. Now it is possible to continuously monitor the oxygen, nitrate and ammonia values. The community of Baltschiederbach, Switzerland uses a similar system to analyse the quality of the water in a stream by measuring turbidity, conductivity and pH.

Employees have constant access to the measurement values on their smartphones. If the values deviate from the target, the system sends out an alarm notification. In addition, it provides information regarding the status of the sensor. “The smart system gives us a sense of security in our daily activities,” says Daniel Zopfi, who oversees the fishery. “We’re always aware of the breeding conditions and can improve them with targeted interventions.”

Endress+Hauser offers an additional bundled solution for remotely monitoring the levels in portable or remotely located plastic tanks with wireless technology. The solution comes with the new battery-operated, radar-based Micropilot FWR30 level instrument, which transmits the measurement results via an integrated mobile wireless interface. The data is displayed and monitored with the Netilion Value cloud-based monitoring system.

“With the FWR30, we have finally created a process engineering solution based totally on IIoT technology,” says Grether.

On the path to predictive maintenance

Additional new applications will also be available for conventional process plants. The Netilion Predict app, which is currently under development, is engineered to continuously analyse process and instrument parameters to optimize calibration and maintenance intervals and increase plant availability. “Our goal is to be able to tell the plant operator, in plain language, how much longer the measurement point is expected to operate reliably,” adds Grether.

Technical development is also progressing. “We plan to expand the communications capability of the field instruments,” concludes Grether. “In order to cover the wide range of common fieldbus standards, further data interfaces will be added to the field instruments and a new adapter will make HART devices Bluetooth capable. Further sensors are being planned, modelled after the Micropilot FWR30, which will be ‘Netilion-ready’ straight from the factory – in other words, capable of sending data direct to the Netilion cloud without the need for separate interface modules.”


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