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The fieldbus as an asset - expertblog

01 December 2015

It's half past three in the morning, you are ready to take the car to go to southern France for a leisurely three weeks of summer holidays on the Mediterranean. You have been looking forward to it for days, no weeks. You are well prepared for the journey; you have packed enough food and drinks and you have got your car thoroughly checked and serviced.

When everything is packed, you step into the car and you leave. In the city it is still nice and quiet, you drive onto the highway, setup the cruise control and set back and relax. This goes well for a while until... traffic jam! The highway is closed because it was decided to remove a bridge from the highway on a Saturday morning and to replace it by a new one. The redirection around the closed highway costs you two hours of unexpected extra travel time and a lot of stress. Well, that is definitely not what you wanted to happen on the first day of your well-deserved holiday!


Focus on field devices and actuators
Let's project this holiday story as an analogy on industrial automation. Here, digital fieldbuses represent the highways of modern automation. They connect the field devices and actuators with each other and with control systems, so that the products we need every day can be produced in a reliable, cost- and energy-efficient way and preferably also without any interruption.

Sensors and actuators* represent the first connection between the production process and the outside world. These devices are available in all shapes and sizes, in order to make them optimally suitable for application in every kind of process. They are an important asset for production companies. Failure of a field device or actuator may lead to an interruption in the continuity of the production process and thus to downtime!
*An actuator is a device that can influence its environment, a device that takes action, such as a valve.

Maximizing availability and reliability
Getting back to the analogy; the car that is used as means of transport can be compared with a field device in the industry. Failure of the car means that the holiday plans are disrupted, which definitely has its effect on the rest of the holiday. To reduce the risk of failure, the car is thoroughly checked and serviced in advance, maximizing its availability and reliability.
In the industry, similar methods are used in order to reduce the risk of downtime. Plant Asset Management, which aims to maximize the availability and reliability of equipment, is being used for this purpose increasingly.
In practice, Plant Asset Management means to the industry the disclosing of diagnostic information from field devices and actuators. This enables the prediction of downtime and scheduling of maintenance activities.
In the analogy, the reliability of the car was maximized, but the highway was taken for granted, which eventually emerged in two hours of unexpected extra travel time and a lot of stress. It sounds obvious to many of us to check the traffic information (the diagnostic information of the highway) before you leave, but miraculously this is not always the case in the industry...

There are solutions available for doing this. In my next blog I will be explaining some.

About Niels Donkers

I'm Niels Donkers, hardware developer at PROCENTEC, a company that focusses all its services and products on industrial data communication. I combine my field experience with an electrical engineering background, and through innovative and customer-oriented thinking my goal is to always find the right solution. A solution that also fits within the industry-accepted standards and concepts, such as Plant Asset Management.