With the onset of Industry 4.0, factory and production environments are adopting industrial networks to become more connected and intelligent. This is largely driven by the need for better performance, increased efficiency and improved productivity.
Adding intelligence to machines gives the opportunity to implement a predictive maintenance strategy – the ability to foresee issues and plan rather than react to maintenance needs. When utilized effectively, operators can minimize downtime and its associated costs.
Predictive maintenance is widely recognized as the ‘way to go’ in many sectors – not just industrial automation. A study by Accenture and GE found that predictive maintenance can generate a 30% reduction in maintenance costs and an up to 70% cut in production line downtime caused by equipment breakdowns.
Smarter manufacturing plants with a predictive maintenance approach can only be achieved by collecting significant amounts of sensor data, all of which needs to be in real time. For a production line to be versatile, there needs to be data to support decisions to allow for quick adjustments and re-balancing of lines.
IO-Link, a cost effective and powerful open communications protocol, enables simple, scalable, point-to-point communications between sensors or actuators and the controller.
Due to its simple point-to-point topology, IO-Link is faster and easier to install than other monitoring and control approaches, including Ethernet.
It allows for rapid troubleshooting at the commissioning stage that can be performed either locally or remotely. The detection and resolution of false sensor settings and other snagging issues are also much more straightforward to detect, isolate and resolve.
The major and ongoing benefits of utilizing IO-Link are evident during the regular working life of the installation. With multiple and easily extendable sensing points, IO-Link gives extensive, precision data points on the machine and then communicates that data in real-time allowing processes to be closely monitored.
The sensor detected excursions (beyond adjustable pre-set parameters) trigger alarms and can be quickly addressed before costly, unplanned interruptions to production or compromised quality of the products being made by the process becomes a risk.
In many cases, early sensor notification of issues can allow system operators to investigate, consider, plan and schedule the required corrective maintenance for a time when production throughput is either low or can be stopped. This could be overnight, or during a larger planned plant maintenance shutdown. Cost and disruption of unavoidable downtime are reduced and replacement components can be sourced and repairs carried out with utmost control and efficiency.
As many strive for a smart factory environment, it is important to have a dedicated communications infrastructure that maximizes ease of implementation and provides the versatility to adjust to changing needs and configurations.
IO-Link is inherently flexible with vendor neutrality so that modules and devices from different suppliers can be easily combined.
This allows for extensions or modifications such as adding more sensors and actuators to be done easily, giving enhanced diagnostics, monitoring and control.
Any necessary reconfiguration of production environments can be quickly and easily implemented versus other more complicated and vendor-tied industrial Ethernet approaches.
With the benefits of predictive maintenance well understood, many manufacturing organizations are keen to adopt the strategy and begin enjoying the business and continuity benefits. IO-Link is well positioned and equipped to deliver on these needs, and backed by its inherent robustness and vendor neutrality, become the industrial communications approach of choice for many sectors.
Article contributed by Patrick Berdal, EMEA product manager for control devices, Pneumatic Division Europe, Parker Hannifin Corporation.