Wireless weak in factory automation

Despite the requirements for real-time data, workforce mobility, remote access and operational flexibility, the adoption trends for wireless devices in factory automation are moderate at best, according to a study by Khadambari Shanbagaraman, a research analyst in the Industrial Automation & Process Control group at Frost & Sullivan.

01/01/2009


Despite the requirements for real-time data, workforce mobility, remote access and operational flexibility, the adoption trends for wireless devices in factory automation are moderate at best, according to a study by Khadambari Shanbagaraman, a research analyst in the Industrial Automation & Process Control group at Frost & Sullivan. The report “Wireless Devices in the Factory Automation %%MDASSML%% An Overview of Adoption Trends,” outlines key reasons and concerns for use of wireless devices in discrete industries in Europe.

Shanbagaraman said wireless devices are perceived as the next big technological wave in factory automation. But the lukewarm acceptance is “mainly because the wireless devices are not found to be robust enough by end users due to concerns such as reliability, security and interoperability.”

Wireless concerns

Reliability and security top the list of concerns regarding the adoption of wireless technology in factory automation. “End-users perceive that for a plant to operate round-the-clock, the current wireless technology does not provide the necessary robustness,” Shanbagaraman said in the report. “This is mainly because of the possibility of many technical issues such as signal mismatch, electromagnetic induction, data loss in transmission and other interference problems that are quite common in a factory automation environment.”

Other concerns include a perceived lack of return on investment, threat of jeopardizing current operations, high initial cost, battery life and standards. “End user conservatism...is restraining investments into wireless devices as the end users are less willing to implement the new technology without being assured of its potential benefits,” Shanbagaraman’s study said.

Reasons for adoption

To some extent, wireless is being adopted in Europe’s discrete industries. As with process industries, factory automation has a need for real-time data and workforce mobility. Wireless-enabled remote diagnostics and machine repair, reduced wiring and installation costs and previously inaccessible measurements are also key reasons factory automation end users adopt wireless technology, according to the study. “Wireless devices offer greater flexibility and cost-reduction in monitoring and alerting applications,” said Shanbagaraman. “Wireless devices also offer the possibility of measurements in areas that are difficult to access by cables such as moving or inaccessible parts.”

In Europe, adoption of wireless technology in factory automation has not met supplier expectations. The onus of addressing technical issues of wireless falls on the wireless device vendors. Education will help change users’ minds and help suppliers understand end users’ requirements. “Overall, the adoption of wireless in factory automation is expected to increase gradually as more and more end users realize the benefits of wireless technology,” Shanbagaraman said.

Process or discrete?

According to Shanbagaraman, current adoption levels are higher in discrete industries than process industries. However, in the long term, process industries are expected to adopt wireless more. “Process industries have applications where there is a need for wireless such as remote monitoring, and consequently the possibility of reducing cabling costs is higher here in comparison to factory automation where plant area may not be as large as process.”

Shanbagaraman also noted that adoption of wireless in process has not taken place in critical control applications. “End users are extremely cautious to use wireless for their critical process. Wireless is being adopted only in less critical monitoring and telemetry purposes as a starting point.”

The study implies that discrete automation industries in Europe are somewhat conservative toward the adoption of wireless technology. Although, “…process industries are equally conservative, but what needs to be understood is applications areas where wireless is being used (in most cases, current adoption is purely for monitoring and less critical controls),” Shanbagaraman said.

Fig. 1. The automotive industry has the highest adoption of wireless technology among the factory automation industries in Europe.





No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Leaders Under 40 program features outstanding young people who are making a difference in manufacturing. View the 2013 Leaders here.
The new control room: It's got all the bells and whistles - and alarms, too; Remote maintenance; Specifying VFDs
2014 forecast issue: To serve and to manufacture - Veterans will bring skill and discipline to the plant floor if we can find a way to get them there.
2013 Top Plant: Lincoln Electric Company, Cleveland, Ohio
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Bring focus to PLC programming: 5 things to avoid in putting your system together; Managing the DCS upgrade; PLM upgrade: a step-by-step approach
Balancing the bagging triangle; PID tuning improves process efficiency; Standardizing control room HMIs
Commissioning electrical systems in mission critical facilities; Anticipating the Smart Grid; Mitigating arc flash hazards in medium-voltage switchgear; Comparing generator sizing software

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.