Industry is currently undergoing a significant transformation due to the increasing adoption of automation. Ongoing technological advancements have led to the development of more efficient systems and processes, and the role of communications has been one of the key drivers of this revolution.
This article looks at how communications have played a crucial role in industrial automation and how they have contributed to improving efficiency, productivity, quality, and safety in this environment.
Goals of industrial automation
The main goal of industrial automation is to improve efficiency, productivity, quality, and safety in industrial operations. By automating certain tasks, organizations can reduce the risk of human error, speed up their production processes, free up valuable resources and minimize downtime.
Main challenges of industrial automation
Among the challenges of industrial automation are:
- System complexity
- Implementation costs
- Cultural change and training
- Ethical issues
- Employment issues.
Overcoming these challenges requires investment in technology, employee training, and fostering a culture of collaboration between employees and solution providers. And of course, organizations must be able to manage change effectively.
Role of communications
Industrial automation uses technologies and systems that control and operate industrial processes autonomously or semi-autonomously. Communications play an essential role here as they enable all the different elements to connect and communicate with each other.
One of the most important aspects of communications in industrial automation is the ability to transmit data in real time. Automated systems rely on gathering data to make decisions and adjust process parameters. With communication networks, real-time data can be collected and transmitted between sensors and devices throughout a plant. Process variables can thus be accurately and constantly monitored, which in turn facilitates decision making and can be used for optimizing the systems.
Besides sending data, industrial communications implementations are also critical for SCADA control and remote monitoring. Thanks to communication networks, operators can monitor and control processes from a central point. This not only allows for greater flexibility and efficiency, but also improves safety by reducing the need for workers to be exposed to potentially hazardous settings.
Communications have also played an important role in terms of integrating industrial automation equipment and systems. Communications devices have various communications interfaces commonly used in industrial installations, such as serial ports or digital inputs and outputs. They are interoperable with a wide range of industrial protocols (MODBUS RTU, IEC 101-104, DNP3, and more) where, in turn, wireless communications systems such as cellular interfaces (5G/4G), Wi-Fi or GPS are used to monitor the movement of machines throughout industrial plants.
Communications in industrial automation: use cases
A common use case for a router in industrial automation is to establish communication between moving machines (e.g., programmable logic controllers or PLCs) in an industrial plant. The router acts as a central connection point transferring data and commands between machines and other devices on the network.
The router enables the machines to communicate efficiently and reliably with one another – whether to coordinate tasks, exchange control information or send and receive motion commands. The router can also provide direct connectivity to other systems and devices, such as monitoring and control systems, sensors, actuators, or other machines in different areas of the plant.
Another use case is using LoRaWAN sensor technology in industrial automation to remotely monitor and control environmental variables. In this case, sensors equipped with LoRaWAN technology are placed in different areas of an industrial plant to collect data on a range of variables, such as temperature, humidity, pressure, air quality or gas levels, among others. These sensors transmit data wirelessly on a LoRaWAN network, which provides long-range coverage and excellent signal penetration capabilities.
This environmental data can be used to monitor operating conditions and ensure quality and safety parameters are complied with. In addition, LoRaWAN technology can control devices remotely, so that environmental conditions can be adjusted in real time to optimize industrial processes and improve energy efficiency.
Telecommunications improve performance
As we have seen in this blog post, industrial automation has radically improved the way the sector operates, and once again telecommunications are the order of the day in more and more scenarios.
Teldat is present in this technological evolution, developing compliant equipment capable of adapting to new use cases while also working on developing new technologies to meet future needs.