Business drivers addressed

Business drivers addressed by advances in process automation

Process automation is one of the most dynamic sectors of industry in terms of product development and legislation. Modern suppliers are keeping pace with these developments and in some cases looking years ahead, giving buyers the ability to ‘future proof’ their systems.


Like many areas of industry, process automation is reaping the rewards of faster than normal innovation streams, as new products and processes are introduced to not only establish the very latest technology on the market, but to also leverage and exploit the measurable advances in control technology and data capabilities, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0.


There are many reasons that manufacturers choose to partly or fully automate process systems, all of which are approached with the target of producing a net positive effect on the final product, the factory or, indeed, the environment. Top of the list are flexibility and agility. Modern process control systems – driven by contemporary logic controllers and dedicated process controllers – give manufacturers the ability to use the same fabrication suites for multiple products; with recipes and formats stored within these advanced process automation controllers, or indeed on central factory servers linked with modern communication to the shop floor. Coupled to this flexibility, manufacturers are also enjoying the agility they now have to adapt to ever-changing market demands almost instantaneously, as costly and time-intensive changeovers are virtually eliminated.


Quality is another major facet of the process automation revolution. Accuracy, repeatability and traceability are vital in modern, heavily legislated industries such as pharmaceutical and healthcare. By removing manual processes, companies cannot only provide greater accuracy – for processes such as dosing and mixing – but they can also virtually eliminate human error in what can be very mundane, repetitive processes. The same is true for data capture in terms of the operator removal, with modern data collection and collation solutions replacing operators sitting at the lineside with a clipboard.


This data capture capability also gives managers and plant controllers the ability to optimise their processes and machines far more effectively. By examining and interrogating both real time and historical data, operators can not only more easily identify issues and bottle necks, but also sweet spots in production and using this information they can further optimise processes while they are actually in operation.


By optimising processes and machines, outputs are higher and production costs per unit are lower, leading to greater nett revenue. This, in turn, effects all manner of financial and performance metrics, the most obvious being overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). If operators can make more, make it faster, with fewer rejects and less downtime then pretty much every performance related graph is showing an upward slope.


Sustainability is another major milestone that many companies are publicly broadcasting. ISO 14000 has just about as much impact these days as ISO 9001, with sustainability targets getting ever tougher, either through self-set targets, or indeed, through national and international legislation. Process automation may not sound like the most obvious solution – and it certainly doesn’t work in isolation – but it can offer incredible savings in time, energy and raw materials and, by removing what is often the weak link in many process (the operator) the risks of leaks, unwarranted venting and spills can be significantly reduced – the result being increased environmental credentials, even if these aren’t immediately apparent due to nothing happening being a positive result.


Leading product suppliers are well aware of all of these business drivers and, depending on the products they manufacture and where they can have the biggest impact, they are creating solutions that address at least some of the demands. With advances in modern communication protocols, especially in relation to use of standard architectures such as Ethernet, end users are not restricted to a single supplier and instead can build systems that deploy the best that multiple companies can offer. It is for this reason that a company such as RS is in such an incredibly strong position in its ability to cater for a huge variety of needs, through the provision of products and components from many of the world’s leading suppliers.


As a leading supplier to the process industry, RS Components has established multiple strategic partnerships with many of the leading worldwide technology vendors. As a result, it is constantly exposed to the very latest advances from companies such as ABB, Siemens, Schneider Electric, Phoenix Contact, SMC and Omron. From a basic flow sensor up to the most advanced programmable logic controller, RS Components arguably offers one of the most comprehensive product offerings on the market for process engineers.


One example of the fruits of a strategic partnership is the relationship it has with Schneider Electric, the result of which means that RS can offer the Magelis HMI controller starter kit, which is ideal for small machines and simple processes, at an incredibly competitive price.


Visit RS Automation Page for the latest automation product available with RS offer.