Building Bridges to the Digital World
Since the turn of the millennium, the trend for global growth has continued apace. New production companies in China and India are strengthening the presence in the growing markets in Asia. Gas analysis and bioprocess engineering have now been added to the portfolio. In 2016, the competence centers for flow rate measurement technology in Reinach, Switzerland and for temperature measurement technology in Nesselwang, Germany and the Raman analyzer production facilities of Kaiser Optical Systems in the USA were all expanded. Together with partner Rockwell Automation, Endress+Hauser opened the first joint test center in Europe.
Today, Endress+Hauser has 14,000 employees who generate an impressive turnover of € 2.4 billion. Day-to-day work has long been dominated by topics like the Industrial Internet of Things — or IIoT for short — and digitalization across the board. “We started the preliminary work for Industry 4.0 more than 20 years ago with our digital fieldbus technology and the capture of all sensor-specific production data. For four or five years now this topic has been increasingly at the center of our focus,” is how Benedikt Schumann, Product Manager for Industry 4.0 at Endress+Hauser, describes the development. Here, it is particularly about the optimization of all non-productive steps relating to all aspects of the production process, i.e. the management of field devices or the introduction of intelligent maintenance routines.
Maintenance, for example, has long been seen as the least controllable cost item, so the aim is to make it more accurate, faster and better in future. Talking about current practices, Schumann explains: “Everyone knows the situation: when a critical error triggers the error message F105, for example, but you first have to study the documentation to find out what exactly this means in terms of the fault that lies behind it. With our online services, users now have access to all of the key information at all times. You not only get to see the error message, but the system also provides concrete suggestions straight away about what to do to remedy the problem.”
With this, Endress+Hauser is promising faster access to all the equipment data, with the asset management system holding data records for 30 million installed field devices. Dietrich is proud that “our rigorous approach of digitally capturing every field device for 20 years has paid off.” Alongside this static data, a whole range of algorithms have been developed to gain access to information not only about the sensor, but also about the process.
The best example is Heartbeat Technology that is being rolled out step-by-step by Endress+Hauser for all its measuring instruments. It supplies the so-called HBSI (Heartbeat Sensor Integrity) value, which can be used, for example, to detect corrosion and deposits. In this way, it is possible to identify difficult measurement points and optimize the maintenance concept accordingly.
Dietrich is certain that “by providing device-specific trend parameters via Heartbeat Technology, we have made a major breakthrough for predictive maintenance.” And, in the process, the technology has long outgrown its time in pilot plants. For example, in a plant manufacturing tar, the user will know exactly thanks to Heartbeat that the pipe is set to clog in 22 days and three hours and that it needs to be cleaned. In the past, the plant was shut down as a precautionary measure every 14 days.
The calibration of pH probes is also made easier thanks to Heartbeat, and it provides early reports of build-up on magnetic-inductive flowmeters — all measures that enable predictive maintenance.
Correct Distribution of Information
The data is bundled and presented by the online service Analytics. Once the plant has been captured, all information is listed — such as which devices are installed, when they were manufactured and whether they are possibly no longer manufactured by Endress+Hauser. In addition, it is also possible to define the properties of measurement points so that particularly risky measurement points can be specified, for example. “All of these pieces of information are available via a dashboard so that users can keep a clear overview of all the installed equipment,” explains Industry 4.0 expert Schumann.
At present, equipment data for over 30 million different measuring instruments is available in the Endress+Hauser database. In this way, it is possible to automatically create a digital twin with all the relevant documents, certificates and lifecycle information in the online service. The field devices also have the required connectivity so that — as well as the measurement values — the diagnostic and monitoring data can also be transmitted to the cloud at the same time. Every field device with a digital output can be integrated in the online services, and communications between sensor and cloud are customer-specific. For example, as per the NOA concept (Namur Open Architecture), the second channel can be implemented via gateways between the fieldbuses, but also via integrated WLAN or Bluetooth modules or via WirelessHart adapters.
Edge devices enable the connection to the cloud. The edge device forms the interface between the OT landscape and the IT landscape, where further processing of the data takes place with the aid of online services. As a result, it is possible to automatically capture digital field devices, for example. This method of access has been certified via audit (by the EuroCloud organization) and thus fulfills the security requirements of the process industry. All information and recommended actions can of course also be fed back into the standard workflows via the cloud interfaces.
The Analytics app generates an overview of the installed set of field devices and is supplemented by further apps. The Scanner app helps to capture measuring devices without installing an edge device. The Health app offers services for device diagnostics so that critical failures can be responded to as quickly as possible. The Library app enables integrated and traceable saving of documents for a measuring point, e.g. commissioning reports or calibration reports. The SmartBlue app was developed for mobile operation of field devices in areas that are difficult to access and in areas that are at increased risk of explosion. With this app landscape, users always have access to all data and recommended actions in real time both for commissioning and for maintenance.
There is a brand-new cooperation with SAP, with whom Endress+Hauser hopes to combine the strengths of a field device manufacturer with those of an ERP provider to build a bridge from the field devices all the way to the SAP system. “This will allow maintenance routines and workflows to be adapted and automatically integrated,” believes Schumann.
The declared goal is to become a technological pioneer for Industry 4.0 together with partners. There is certainly no shortage of ideas, whether that relates to augmented reality concepts or new business models. “There will be customers who are no longer interested in the sensors, who just care about the analysis supplied on a dashboard,” is how Schumann explains how the technology will pan out in the future. And whatever the technology of tomorrow will look like, for sales veteran Kathmann, the most valuable asset of Endress+Hauser is the trust its customers place in the company's knowledge.
“The world is becoming more complex, so from the point of view of automation technology we need to design it so that it is simpler for our customers.” The aspiration of the “People for Process Automation” is to find the best solutions for this in each and every situation.
* The author is a freelancer at PROCESS.