The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a business buzzword. But asking 10 people for a definition of IIoT will likely result in 10 different answers. Additionally, many may think IIoT refers to connecting people with machines, instead of a connected process. This concept goes beyond basic process management to informing and educating people on what is happening in a process.
Further, some people who mention machines often think of industrial applications, such as packaging or conveying equipment. Pumping systems and pumping applications are often left out of the discussion.
Pumping needs to not only be included in the discussion, but it also has the opportunity to lead it given the potential upsides of a fully connected pumping system. This connected system offers the opportunity to increase efficiency, reduce energy consumption and provide unique insight into a process. This also helps with maintenance scheduling and identifying possible issues before they become problems resulting in downtime.
Evolution, Not Revolution
The IIoT is an “evolution” and not a “revolution.” As with most evolving technologies, adoption curves are impacted by both the technology and operators’ willingness to change. The concept of personal connectivity is widespread—an example being the increasing social networking—but it will be dwarfed short term by connected devices (the Internet of Things), as shown in Figure 1. When the “Industrial” is added to the Internet of Things, it takes that same concept and applies it to an industrial process.
Over the years, pumping equipment has been getting “smarter,” but now there is the opportunity to connect each piece into a single process view. The benefit of this technology spans the entire design, implementation and ongoing monitoring of the pump system.
The concept of “smart pumping,” also referred to as an “intelligent pumping system,” combines the technology of each component—a sensor, variable frequency drive (VFD), programmable logic controller (PLC), human machine interface (HMI), etc.—into one smart system (see Figure 2).
Direct connectivity to sensors improves insight into the system’s pressure and flow in real time. By connecting those to the software that oversees the system, greater efficiency is possible through adjustments based on the readings.
In addition, this can monitor equipment output within a system to identify possible maintenance concerns. This allows users to better manage the equipment lifetime, schedule maintenance and reduce costly downtime. Increasing efficiency and managing equipment performance mean savings to the bottom line.
The IIoT benefits previously mentioned can be seen in many industries. One that is often unique to pumping, however, is connectivity to remote locations.
Pumping systems are frequently located in remote locations, which have made monitoring and managing a challenge and expensive. Whether in water/wastewater facilities, oil and gas upstream locations, or commercial buildings, the practicality of local monitoring has been limited.
By connecting remote pump stations and systems with a single monitoring system, multiple locations can be monitored from one location.
If those stations are part of a larger process, adjustments can be made from that single station that benefit the process as a whole—for example, increasing flow from one pump station to compensate for another, less productive station and ensure even supply.
Additionally, remote monitoring in some cases can be done wirelessly through a secure web server. By enabling this capability, a process status can be viewed on an iPad or a mobile phone should the process manager be on the road or unable to make it to a facility because of inclement weather or another reason.
Two upsides of connected solutions involve energy consumption and maintenance. Energy is a crucial consideration because pumps are the primary source of energy savings among motor-driven loads.
Maintenance, operations and downtime can account for close to 40 percent of the equipment’s total operation costs.
Along with energy consumption, there are several other pump system factors that can be measured or monitored in a smart system.
These other factors include the level, flow, pressure, temperature and vibration, among many others.
By having insight into these aspects of a pumping system, even greater efficiency can be gained.
A smart, connected pumping system—the IIoT in pumping—enables a significantly more efficient system by:
- Providing insight into individual aspects of a pumping system as well as into how those systems work together for greater overall process knowledge.
- Establishing preventive maintenance plans for systematic inspection to detect potential failures.
- Enabling condition-based maintenance by monitoring pumping system data for an accurate status and risk assessment.
- Deploying corrective maintenance measures as needed in response to an unanticipated problem or emergency.
Data availability and data visualization are two specific features in the current IIoT device evolution. With data availability, application data such as motor current or operating status of a control system can be collected and made available to a higher level system. Many devices in the industrial control environment, such as VFDs and PLCs, include data availability features standard.
On a recent lift station application, the pump packager’s approach involved a set of data points such as pressure and flow values made available on the standard package. The goal was to reduce customization requirements from project to project, while providing a set of data points that can be utilized by a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) or supervisory system. For projects deployed, this would allow the end user to tap into these data points if and when a SCADA or higher level data collection system is implemented.
The alternate to this would be for each control package to be modified to feed data points as required, a task that would increase the cost of integration in the system. The standardization of data and its availability reduce the complexity for system planning purposes, as well as providing cost benefits.
Data visualization is equally important for realizing the benefits of data availability and IIoT. VFDs and PLCs are increasingly embedding visualization editors in their software configuration tools. In some cases, this allows for vital figures and statistics of the device to be readily viewable. In many cases, some level of customizability is included to make that visualization suit the context of the application.
For example, if a system only requires tracking of VFD speed and current, all other data points can be left out of the visualization screen. This reduces clutter and improves the effectiveness of the data points to the operator.
VFD installers are usually not expected to be savvy programmers. With this in mind, customizing the browser-based dashboard of these newer VFD systems as a task performed with drag-and-drop function can be more convenient than developing Java script or HTML code.
The needs of an industrial control system user can be met by a simpler, graphical, front-end application to develop visualization screens as opposed to another type of programming environment.
This helps when an installer or end user has to be able to customize and pull up a browser-based application within minutes and with minimal programming knowledge. A visualization configuration environment can reduce the complexity and nuances of programming, graphics and data handling.
This drop-and-drag configuration style is much easier than that of previous low-level, exhaustive programming requirements. This means reduced engineering and configuration times, and therefore reduced cost for
The IIoT’s evolution has brought great benefits including new levels of connectivity, data availability and information sharing that allow industry professionals to better manage pumping systems.
By implementing newer IIoT-enabled devices into current pumping systems, industry has the opportunity to increase efficiency by reducing costs and unscheduled downtime.