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  • Readying plant managers for IoT integration

Factory workers in bottling plant

Most plant managers are familiar with tough transitions. Over the years, lean manufacturing, quality controls, and new government regulations have all played a role in placing high stress on the plant manager. Now, the latest wave of change, the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), is challenging plant operations personnel with the explosive growth of smart devices. Variable speed drives, PLCs, and control systems are now engineered to communicate in digital formats over an Ethernet connection. There are ways to embrace these new waves of change without doubling anxiety levels. Under current circumstances, caution and information are a plant manager’s best allies. Schneider Electric, experts in the domain of plant automation, can help.

If your organisation’s plants are getting wired with smart sensors, sophisticated monitoring software, and predictive analysis tools, opportunities do indeed exist for higher levels of productivity and efficiency. The new mode of operation leverages Big Data and analytics to put business information into the right context so that operational insight improves. The new ‘smart facility’ also enables the more efficient delivery of service and maintenance actions from supporting vendors and partners. The goal is a safe and secure operation that protects people, plant, equipment, and the environment.

However, connecting manufacturing equipment to the Internet also opens the door to new risks. Unanticipated downtime driven by cyber attacks is a new possibility. The manufacturing operation needs to be made more resilient to downtime of any kind since operational data will often need to be accessed remotely, 24 hours a day. It is more important than ever to make sure the power distribution network is secured with a viable backup plan.
This is true not only for plants, but also for utilities and any type of wired systems that support the operation. If the power goes out, productivity is lost.
One approach to addressing this dilemma is to seek out expert advice on how to capitalise on IoT developments. A good place to start is by hardening the plant’s power network in the event of unanticipated interruptions. Schneider Electric thought leadership is available for industrial organisations seeking to plan for the IoT future with confidence.

Check out Schneider Electric Director of Global Marketing Strategy for Secure Power Systems Steve Mooney’s blogs, ‘The Internet of Things: Simplifying the Reliability Equation’ and ‘Achieving Business Success with the Internet of Things Means Getting IT and OT to Work Together’ for some early guidance.
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