Interview How Can Process Industry Succeed in Harnessing the Potentials of Digitalization?
“Field instruments supporting digital transformation” was the motto of the 2018 Namur Annual General Meeting with Endress+Hauser as its sponsor. PROCESS spoke with Matthias Altendorf, CEO of the Endress+Hauser Group.
PROCESS: Mr. Altendorf, digital transformation is changing both working environments and supply chains across company borders. How can the industry succeed in harnessing the potentials of digitalization across the plant’s entire life cycle even more efficiently?
Altendorf: On the one hand, this concerns the entire life cycle of a plant, or even a product. We can begin with the development of products and processes and incorporate analysis methods from the laboratory. We ensure a free flow of device data between CAD, procurement and asset management systems from the engineering, procurement and commissioning of the plant all the way to its operation and maintenance. This saves time, simplifies processes and prevents errors. On the other hand, it concerns the entire fulfillment process, which presents opportunities in raw material and warehouse logistics through intelligent inventory management. During operation, we are able to provide more data from the process to enable better decisions and optimized control strategies by measuring quality-relevant parameters using modern analysis and measurement engineering and by obtaining more information from the installed base. Digitalization allows us to tap into this field with our customers!
PROCESS: In reality, the process world is still very much shaped by 4…20 mA devices. What are the arguments that can help to convince users of the benefits of digital measurement instruments?
Altendorf: The Industrial Internet of Things is becoming more tangible. We are no longer merely speaking about visions and future scenarios; instead we see real applications while experiencing the benefits. For many customers, the decisive question is: Can I use the opportunities of digitalization in an existing plant? Nine out of ten field devices already have a digital interface, which enables seamless integration into IIoT solutions, for example through the Hart protocol or an interface device (or edge device, as we call it). Another crucial question is: How safe is the digital world? Our IIoT ecosystem has been certified and awarded four stars, the industry’s highest rating, by Eurocloud, an external provider. The high demands of the IT industry and their safety standards our digital interfaces such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet are brought to a very high level. This shows our customers that from this perspective, the integrity of their facility is in safe hands!
PROCESS: All suppliers are propagating web-based services as the latest trend. What is E+H offering in this regard and how does it benefit users in the process industry?
Altendorf: Our first app, the Endress+Hauser Analytics app, provides an overview of a facility’s installed base. This can be done very efficiently through our Scanner app, or fully automatically using an edge device. A digital twin is automatically established in the cloud. When it comes to our own instruments, we have direct access to all information in our device database, which contains instructions, parameters, device drivers and calibration certificates as well as the entire service history. The app identifies critical measuring points, notifies the user of outdated devices and provides optimization tips. This information can be accessed from both PCs and mobile devices at any point and from anywhere. There are further applications in the pipeline that involve monitoring the condition of the installed base and carrying out preventative maintenance, for example of pH sensors. With the Endress+Hauser Water Quality Smart System we provide an affordable, comprehensive package for the simple remote monitoring of water quality, be it in wastewater treatment plants or fish farms.
PROCESS: What developments is E+H introducing to the Namur NOA subject area?
Altendorf: We are heavily involved in the Namur discussions and the corresponding user organizations. From an internal point of view we are working on the Advanced Physical Layer in particular. With a bandwidth of 10 Mbit in the field — and in particular with 100 Mbit in the second expansion phase — we would have a data highway that paves the way for the NOA approach. We are incorporating plenty of manpower and all our expertise. We are also working on the subject of 5G and the associated potential to advance digitalization in field devices and process automation.