Importance of Going Wireless in Manufacturing Industry
Wireless technology is probably one of the fastest growing and most adopted form of technology which manufacturers from around the world are using today which is having a great positive impact across the value chain.
In today’s world, wireless connectivity is finding its application in almost all the manufacturing workflow. From prototyping to production as well as distribution and warehousing. It also solves the complex probable of integrating different departments within the manufacturing unit . There are immense opportunities when it comes to wireless technology and with each passing day the adoption is only expected to keep increasing especially with newer technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) and LPWAN (Low Power WAN) and we need professional companies who can offer such engineering wireless services. Having several advantages like utility in high-risk hazardous environments, cost-competitive deployment options and overall asset management and operational convenience would only lead to adoption of this technology over the coming years. Now let’s dig deep down and see why its important and also what challenges it brings along.
Current Challenges in Manufacturing Industries
Nowadays, wired networks still remain the most popular choice for networking. And this could be mainly because of two reasons:
1. Wired connections can easily provide the ability to deliver reliable, low latency data transfer without any redundancy.
2. When a machine which is fixed in a location within the manufacturing unit throughout its life cycle then it makes sense to have a pathway to connectivity through cables because of its static nature.
Importance of Wireless Connectivity
With wireless technology, it is not only possible to have the data parameters like temperature, vibration flow etc in real time but also avoids the need for cables. Moreover, newer sensors nowadays can be easily be retrofitted into existing digital as well as analog measurement devices.
Ease of Mobility Throughout the Plant
With wireless connectivity, the plant workers need not be in a specific location for monitoring the condition of the machines but can freely more around the manufacturing shop floor while retaining access to critical information close at hand through their smart devices. For example, workers can easily check the recent maintenance history, inspection check list on their mobile phones or tablets which can expedite the repair work, diagnostics and troubleshooting. Moreover, wireless connectivity can also provide access to remote locations that may have otherwise been inaccessible through traditional wired connectivity.
Improvement in Worker Safety
With improvement in wearable technology manufacturers are coming up with innovative devices which are fitted with smart sensors which connect wirelessly. This can be especially be important in a hazardous work environments where using wireless network can help to remotely monitor worker’s interaction with their physical environment. Moreover, health and safety officials can easily monitor worker’s exposure to safety risks like radiation, low oxygen, toxic gases and high heat.
Wearable tech is increasingly becoming the need of the hour than a luxury on the plant floor shop because of the safety features that it offers and increased productivity for the workers. Nowadays devices such as smart helmets can monitor important parameters like fatigue and heat stress vulnerability.
Making Important Decision Through Data
With increased focused on improving the productivity of the workspace, data is more important than ever before. Wireless technology helps to provide valuable data to the leadership team to help them make important decisions. It can also help to provide valuable insights into equipment performance, process inefficiencies and other potential risks when we have a smart connected environment using wireless sensors which enables real-time remote monitoring of equipment performance. Moreover, manufacturers can use this information to increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness also known as OEE which is a metric used to measure the manufacturing process efficiency.
Also, having real time data through wireless connectivity can give a huge boost to the maintenance aspect of the manufacturing plant. By having real time data, critical downtime can be avoided through Predictive maintenance programs and condition based maintenance programs. The overall maintenance of the plant can be made more sophisticated by having the data collected in a systematic way using a cloud based solution and with live dashboards. This can help to generate customized reports and can also give alert and notifications whenever a critical parameter goes beyond its acceptance value.
Challenges to Implement Wireless Technology
With every new project comes an equal challenge which needs to be taken care of and the same goes with wireless technology as well. Let’s explore some of the challenges which comes with the wireless technology.
Delays in Transmission
Reliable wireless solution is very important. For example, delays of 250ms are quite common if the transmitter needs to resend the data due to noise or interference and this can have a devastating effect on a machine which is running at a production rate of 250 parts-per-minute. Therefore its of great essence that we have a reliable and effective solution to keep the production moving without any failure or breakdown.
As we know most of the devices nowadays work on 2.4Ghz band which provides coverage over a long range. Many Wi-Fi based wireless solutions use 2.4 Ghz band for example microwaves, garage door openers etc and this is something which needs to be taken into account when considering a wireless solution and this can be a serious issue when multiple devices in an area try to operate on the same frequency could result in overcrowding resulting in system faults and critical downtimes.
This calls for the wireless devices to be smart enough to check which frequencies are being used and selects only those channels which are available in every transmission cycle. This feature is very important because not having so can heavily impact the performance and stability of a plant or a critical production machine.
Examples of Wireless Technology Implementation in Industries
There are uncountable benefits of wireless technology some could be measured like cost reduction, improved productivity and some are non measurable like reliability and risk management.
Most of the industries are taking benefits from wireless technology. Let’s explore some of them:
Factory Automation - Wireless technologies play an important role in processing plants and factories. Industries dealing in FMCG goods and services, pharmaceutical, packaging and material handling can benefit from wireless technologies.
Wireless technology provides high speed communication and the chance of miss communication decreases, also it is a great strategy to improve production quality as well as quantity.
Oil and Gas - With the increasing population demand is also increasing, which is being met through wireless technology. Automated technology plays a key role in making gas and oil extraction economical. Wireless technology also helps to connect remote areas like pump stations in remote areas. Not only the remote pump stations but the distribution chain has also gained large benefit from wireless technology.
Water and wastewater – Automation strategies have drastically reduced manpower costs. Wireless is an important strategy for every industry. Similar to oil and gas industry, water and wastewater usually require long range communication. With remote SCADA systems which are generally Ethernet based, operator interfaces at remote locations can easily support their operations. Remote video for security can also be implemented which can be easily supported using high speed Ethernet systems.
Electrical Substation: Substations are nowadays fully automated thanks to SCADA and wireless systems at play. Substation operation can be easily handled remotely from the load centers and can be operated dynamically with the change in demands during the day and night cycles. Wireless technology enabled long distance communication which helps the grid operators to act in real time to take care of the sudden change in power demands making sure that the grid is always functional and runs at an optimal performance. Wireless devices are also used to monitor the health of important assets like transformers.
By no doubt wireless technology is going to be the future and a stepping stone towards the adaption of more SMART and advanced manufacturing units. It will also help to implement and facilitate the transition to industry 4.0. With increase competition, demand for higher quality products and faster productivity the need for wireless technology is now more than ever.