Wireless has its place in maintenance and asset management

July 6, 2007
For maintenance and condition-monitoring, wireless technology offers much more than just reducing or eliminating costs. However, wireless also requires an integrated infrastructure approach rather than independent, proprietary point solutions.

Wireless is making important maintenance and asset management technologies and techniques more powerful and cost-effective. For maintenance and condition-monitoring, wireless technology offers much more than just reducing or eliminating costs. However, wireless also requires an integrated infrastructure approach rather than independent, proprietary point solutions.

“While wireless networking technology offers tremendous potential for providing incremental performance improvements in today’s industrial enterprises, it clearly is not for the faint of heart,” says Cory Welch, practice director, Enterprise Network and Security Services at Invensys Process Systems.

“Not only must users deal with the issues, they also have to deal with the fact that the appropriate expertise is not always available in depth within their own organizations.”

Vendors including Invensys and Honeywell are recognizing and addressing this issue.

Invensys (www.invensys.com) recently introduced seven new wireless-enabled enterprise solutions and expanded implementation and support capabilities. These solutions can be deployed at both  plant and enterprise levels to improve overall industrial asset performance management.

“Since introducing Invensys’ comprehensive managed network approach to industrial wireless technology back in 2005, we’ve been working closely with our customers to define and implement the specific applications where wireless technology can provide the most value,” says Hesh Kagan, strategic technology director at Invensys Process Systems. “When doing so, we’ve been careful to consider not just the initial cost savings, but also the potentially higher support costs of wireless versus wired networks, and how these support costs can be minimized through proper up front engineering and long-term network monitoring and optimization services.”

Meanwhile, Honeywell (www.honeywell.com/ps/wire less) launched its OneWireless universal industrial wireless mesh network solution. It is said to help improve plant safety, reliability and efficiency with a scalable wireless infrastructure that supports wireless-enabled devices in strategic locations throughout a facility.

“The key to enhancing plant value is taking critical process information and making it readily available throughout the facility,” says Jack Bolick, Honeywell Process Solutions president. “OneWireless integrates process information into plant systems and applications.”

Invensys looked for the most-needed and highest-return applications and put together technology, partners and implementation/support services to address each of the seven solutions with an IT-infrastructure approach. Mobile Workforce, for example, gives field employees roaming access to real-time control systems, enterprise applications, documents and other information via wireless handheld devices and hardened Mil Spec and NEMA 4-rated tablet PCs. The Condition Monitoring solution offers a wireless connection to remote sensors to provide incremental measurements like tank levels, temperatures, pH, vibration, etc. for a richer real-time data base to support model-based predictive maintenance strategies.

Scalable to 30,000 devices, Honeywell’s OneWireless supports existing XYR 5000 wireless transmitters and a new line of XYR 6000 transmitters. It also supports wired transmitters, mobile worker devices and standard Wi-Fi and Ethernet clients. An open, standards-based infrastructure lets manufacturers take advantage of new applications as they become available.

Honeywell has implemented field trials of OneWireless at multiple sites, including Nucor Steel Tuscaloosa Inc. in Alabama where the OneWireless network is configured with wireless temperature and pressure sensors to improve efficiency of several steel-manufacturing processes. The pressure sensors, for example, enable operators to measure air filtration system performance and schedule maintenance only as needed.

Nucor also uses the technology in its bag house, a building that filters air from steelmaking to eliminate potentially harmful substances. The differential-pressure transmitters monitor the bags to determine when they need cleaning.

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