Archive for category: Food and Beverage


    Replacing an EPSS at a hospital 

    Learning objectives:

    • Demonstrate how to avoid disruption to a fully operational hospital when implementing a new emergency power supply system.
    • Understand why the location of a new EPSS matters.

    An emergency power supply system (EPSS) is an important component of health care facility operations. It is the lifeline of every hospital. Replacement of these systems while keeping the hospital fully operational can be challenging, therefore critical steps must be taken to ensure that the transition from one system to the next is flawless.

    Regardless of the size of the facility,  an EPSS is required in every health care setting for the safety and security of patients, staff, and visitors. Having this standard in place helps health care facilities avoid patient evacuation when faced with a natural disaster that has caused the electrical system to unexpectedly shut down.

    However, even with mandatory laws such as NFPA 70: National Electrical Code 517-25 requiring the implementation of an EPSS, things can go terribly wrong; as was the case for a prominent hospital in New York City during Superstorm Sandy. When the hospital’s backup generators failed or proved inadequate, the hospital was forced to evacuate nearly 1,000 patients. This is a risk that most health care facilities do not want to take.

    Generator location 

    To provide enough power to a significantly sized hospital, the engineering team, along with the hospital’s facilities management staff and project manager, need to consider the locations of the generators and the paralleling switchgear. These systems should be moved from what might be a hazardous location.

    One consideration would be to locate the emergency electrical system on the 1st floor (or higher) of a powerhouse to avoid any potential hazardous flooding concerns. In any case, the generator, switchgear, and other required equipment need to be located above the local floodplain. In areas exposed to seismic activity, systems should not be located on rooftops or in basements in case of an earthquake or other natural disasters.

    Maintaining an N+1 system 

    Due to the critical nature of emergency power in hospitals, implementing a system with the highest amount of reliability is preferred, especially as the last line of defense securing the safety of its patients, staff, and visitors. Adding a generator equal in size to the largest existing generator provides the added reliability of an N+1 system, where N equals the actual electrical emergency load of the hospital and +1 doubles that actual electrical emergency load to provide added security in case of un unexpected shutdown.

    In larger hospitals, there typically is more than one emergency generator in place. For example, consider a major health care facility in Troy, Mich. To support a major expansion at the hospital, three existing 745, 900-, and 1,200-kW emergency generators were replaced with two larger 2,000-kW generators. The decision to move to larger generators also was a result of the NFPA 110: Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems Table 4.1 code requirements or the 10-second rule that states, “The life safety and critical branches shall be installed and connected to the alternative power source so that all functions supplied by these branches specified here shall be automatically restored to operation within 10 seconds after interruption of the normal source” (NEC 517.31).

    Typically, it is not recommended to design an emergency system that relies on synchronizing two or more generators together within 10 seconds or less. Good engineering practice recommends that the emergency system design takes into consideration the capacity of one generator, which shall exceed the life safety and critical emergency loads. The other emergency loads in the hospital shall be delayed until other generators are synchronized and connected to the emergency paralleling switchgear.

    Loads requiring emergency power other than the life safety and critical branches are permitted to be delayed based on NFPA 70. 517.34 (A) (B). Once the transfer is complete, the remaining generators are connected to the new emergency system. Then the remaining loads of the essential electrical system shall be transferred to the emergency paralleling switchgear.

    Staying fully operational during transition

    In most cases, implementation of a new EPSS is designed and completed in multiple phases to avoid disruption to the existing emergency system in the hospital. Any changes to the EPSS, including the replacement or modification of the existing emergency system, will introduce the possibility of losing the alternative power.

    Therefore, most of the work would need to be scheduled around the hospital staff and administrators working schedules, therefore requiring temporary reallocation of usable spaces within the hospital. A temporary generator might be the solution to be able to keep the availability of the alternative power source while the permanent emergency generators are being replaced. Special attention to the transfer switches’ control wires shall be considered to assure the availability of emergency power when any of the automatic transfer switches call for it.

    The bottom line in any health care environment is the safety and well-being of patients, staff, and visitors. Following these and other guidelines will assist the design and construction team in creating a smooth transition between an existing and new EPSS that will make any growing health care facility better equipped for handling an unexpected loss of power.

    Sam Awabdeh is vice president at Peter Basso Associates

    View the original article and related content on Consulting Specifying Engineer


    Lighting in government/military facilities

    The Consulting-Specifying Engineer 2017 Lighting and Lighting Controls Study indicated that 45% of engineers specify, design, or make product selections for government buildings and/or military facilities—and eight in 10 of these engineers are responsible for determining the requirements/writing specifications for these projects. Below are five lighting engineering and design findings as they relate to government/military facility projects:

    1. Revenue: The average firm earns $790,000 annually from lighting and lighting control products specified into new and existing government/military facilities, with 42% bringing in more than $1 million each year from these projects.

    2. Systems specified: The top three lights or lighting control products being specified into government/military facilities are LEDs (94%); lighting controls and/or addressable systems (78%); and any size T5, T8, or T12 (55%).

    3. Specifications: Engineers are most frequently issuing prescriptive lighting system specifications (77%) for government/military facility projects, followed by performance specifications (65%).

    4. Outlook: Eighteen percent of engineers are concerned about frequent 

      changes to codes and standards; the usage of controls, building automation, and addressable systems; and keeping up with new/changing technology for lighting design in regards to future government/military facility projects.

    5. Comparing products: Overall quality is most important when selecting a lighting product for a government/military facility; engineers are also looking at product energy efficiency, their previous experience with manufacturers, and superior service support.

    View more information at Amanda Pelliccione is the research director at CFE Media.

    View the original article and related content on Consulting Specifying Engineer


    Integrating teams for success

    Globalization of markets, social media, the Internet of Things, sustainability, and global politics all have a profound impact on an engineer’s daily life. The rate of change of every aspect of life also results in unprecedented volatility in an engineer’s work. Social media has created a new level of transparency to the internal workings of corporate entities. This transparency, combined with the pressure from the “instant gratification” generation to respond to any stimulus immediately and resolutely, pushes clients to move more quickly than before.   

    Sustainability, once commonly used as a buzzword for those seeking marketing material, is now considered good practice.  ASHRAE has continued to press for more energy efficiency through increasingly stringent requirements in ASHRAE 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings.  Subsequently, ASHRAE published Standard 189.1: Standard for the Design of High-Performance Green Buildings to up the ante even more.  In April 2017, the International Code Council (ICC) and ASHRAE announced that the 2018 iteration of the International Green Building Code will align ASHRAE’s 189.1 and the ICC’s International Green Construction Code into a single unified green building code. These codes and standards place increasingly stringent demands on all aspects of building design and construction as facilities become increasingly treated as homogeneous entities with multiple components and systems, rather than with a series of discreet and unrelated silos of equipment. 

    With virtual reality, networking, BIM coordination, and other available tools, the ability to present questions and obtain feedback from clients has reached a new high. These tools allow engineers to not only convey questions more clearly, but also to review options and determine paths forward more quickly. These tools help address the increased pace at which projects are now executed. 

    There is, however, one link that traditionally eludes a large percentage of projects. While code officials and clients push toward more integrated solutions and faster delivery, all too often, the architectural and engineering (AE) industry continues to operate under the same process. The architect meets with the clients, determines their goals (with a heavy emphasis on architecture), creates space plans, obtains client buy-in, and then engages the engineers to do their part. This results in either multiple revisions to an “approved” floor plan (or worse, increase in building footprint) or the popular “make it work” scenario. In today’s market of high-speed design and integrated buildings, engineers continue to design in silos.   

    Architectural/engineering team integration 

    Recently, an increasing number of projects are executed with a fully integrated AE team from programming through to completion. This should not be confused with an AE firm, as sitting under the same roof does not mean integral operation, nor should it be assumed that separate architects and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) cannot operate as an integrated team. This is about project approach and team chemistry. This is about making team members integral to the discussions and decisions, not resources to which tasks are assigned. 

    One of the most critical decision points early in a project is choosing the type of HVAC system. If involved during programming, engineering can inform architecture on optimum equipment room sizes and locations. Increasing efficiency requirements have rendered many rules for space allocation obsolete. Variable refrigerant flow systems don’t have the same space requirements as centralized air handling unit systems, which affects the program dramatically. Improvements in acoustics have made centrally located equipment rooms less objectionable, giving architects more flexibility in space layouts. Finally, as there are far fewer exceptions for economizers, understanding the options for economizer type, available exceptions, and architectural implications if an economizer is used can play a key role in building configuration.  

    Electrically, changing requirements in NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace has introduced options such as arc-resistant switchgear. The required accessories significantly impact mechanical and architectural design with blast panels and louvers. Transformers have increased in physical size, again, to improve efficiency. Code requirements relating to lighting design, lighting controls, and daylight require unprecedented coordination between the architect and electrical engineer, not only to clearly explain options to clients, but also to document the design for permitting. 

    While some may view changing MEP requirements a headache, if an integrated design approach is used, it makes the process run more smoothly. Through programming, architects and engineers can work out a space program and floor plan that is viable from the day it is approved. By using BIM tools, engineers can locate equipment while checking site lines to ensure it is not visible from certain locations within a facility. But most importantly, by working as an integrated AE team from start to finish, architects and engineers can provide the owner with a facility where the infrastructure melds into the design, becoming as integrated into the final product as the people and data it contains.   

    John Gross is the principal /mechanical engineering director at Page in Houston. With 13 years of experience in data center, green building, and large chiller plant design and commissioning, Gross is Page’s lead direct digital controls and forensic analysis engineer. 

    View the original article and related content on Consulting Specifying Engineer


    Three keys to food and beverage manufacturing compliance

    In the U.S., federal law states food manufacturers, not the Food and Drug Administration, are responsible for ensuring that products are safe, sanitary and properly labelled. However, pathogens or contaminants can make their way into the products from any step of the supply chain.

    According to a PwC report, hundreds of companies have recalled products over the past five years, and the cost of these recalls ranged from $10 million to $30 million each.

    In the food and beverage industry, there are three key areas each organization must monitor to remain compliant: employee training, processes and procedures and sequencing and scheduling.

    1. Employee training

    Training and certifications are central to compliance as employee records are one of the first things an auditor will ask to see. There are a vast number of training courses in the food and beverage industry, each one having a direct effect on which jobs employees can carry out. For example, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) to identify and mitigate against hazards during manufacturing, or Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance (FSPCA) preventive controls for human and animal food.

    During production, skill-based workforce scheduling is critical to putting the right person with the right skills on the right job to meet regulatory standards. Whole production operations can be threatened if there aren’t any employees on the factory floor with quality assurance skills. Additionally, time-sensitive jobs can be held up with staffing resource issues, potentially jeopardizing food safety. An enterprise application for food manufacturing must therefore encompass not only production and supply chain functions, but skills and training credentials too. Supporting ERP solutions should, at the very least, allow organizations to keep track of employee skills and certifications as well as management training.

    Solutions with resource management capabilities can model processing schedules based on certifications and skills prior to production. This prevents an employee from being scheduled to work on a particular job if they do not have the right qualifications. This enables manufacturers to ensure they are covered from both an availability and a training standpoint, thus maximizing efficiency and minimizing compliance risk.

    Because of the visibility to information the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution provides, lot codes can be traced back in a matter of minutes to show auditors that the correct staff were assigned to a job or project. With this level of visibility into staff training, there is the added value of manufacturers realizing where there may be skill shortages within the organization, providing the platform for decision-makers to invest in training programs or recruitment to fill the gap.

    2. Processes and procedures

    In compliance terms, the first thing a manufacturer must do is set out a declaration of what it wants to achieve. This involves clearly documenting its processes and procedures to reflect industry recommendations.

    This process is complicated by the ‘alphabet soup’ of compliance certifications and regulatory bodies in the food and beverage industry, including the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Processes and the HACCP management Safe Quality Food, and many others. At their core, these various regulations and guidance share similar requirements, but no two are the same. Just because a process meets one set of requirements doesn’t mean it will meet another.

    Many manufacturers still use paper-based records for processes and procedures. With ingredients part of international supply chains, drilling down into a recipe to find a faulty batch of ingredients that entered a product can take a significant amount of time. It’s generally mandated that to ensure compliance, manufacturers must keep five years’ worth of records—that’s a lot of paper for even a moderate-sized facility.

    In this instance, a distribution of what could be 100,000 products becomes a logistical nightmare. Due to the lack of clarity provided by paper-based process management, a much larger safety net must be cast, making a recall even more wide-spread and expensive than necessary. An auditor will ask this to be done live, taking a large amount of time and staff to provide an answer. That delay can send up a red flag to an auditor and expose a manufacturer to additional risk.

    Organizations can benefit from better compliance by implementing ERP software that encompasses and provides visibility into the entire product lifecycle. If this ERP product also includes traceability initiatives, manufacturers can realize substantial efficiencies as lot codes are issued right from the raw material receiving process and are automatically updated by the system as soon as the material moves through each stage of the supply chain.

    Manufacturers running a variety of point solutions for supply chain management and manufacturing, or those running poorly-designed ERP products, can face logistical problems when identifying the source of a contaminant or quality problem. This data visibility provided by the ERP solution gives organizations the downstream capability to identify materials at the bottom of the manufacturing process, as well as upstream traceability to view every touch point in the manufacturing and distribution process. What used to take days with paper-based documents becomes minutes with this level of traceability.

    3. Sequencing and scheduling

    The sequencing of batches is critical if manufacturers are to reduce the potential for allergen contamination. To reduce this risk, manufacturers need to establish the correct sequences for each batch across each machine so that types of products are grouped in order of potential contamination—from non-allergen, to milk, to peanuts. However, lean scheduling efficiency also needs to be factored in. For example, two different sequences may yield the same product, but based on the clean-out time between ingredients, the time taken to complete the sequences could differ substantially.

    Incorrect machine scheduling can be dangerous, especially without the required clean-out processes—an example of this being a product that runs after a recipe including peanuts. If that product is labelled as allergen-free and the clean-out wasn’t performed properly, the potential exists to introduce peanut residue into that product.

    An ERP system for food and beverage organizations should tell the production planner exactly how much time is required for a specific process, including cleaning during batch changeover and maintenance, depending on the order of the production schedule. This enables planners to define the labor pool, tools and work orders required to properly execute an equipment clean-out or schedule maintenance. Planners can accurately assess how long it will take to run the processes and safely manufacture the final product.

    This opens up better opportunities for food safety standards because the maintenance and workforce scheduling aligns the right engineers and staff with the right machine at the right time. Equipment remains well maintained and operated by the correct staff—saving the organization time, money and, crucially, helping them remain compliant.

    In the complex regulatory environment of the food and beverage industry, it is crucial to consider how your ERP system can work for your organization to ensure ongoing compliance. With no two compliance certifications or factory requirements identical, supporting systems need to provide a comprehensive and flexible tool set to allow you to mitigate risk and streamline compliance efforts.

    Mike Lorbiecki is vice president of sales for process manufacturing for IFS North America.

    View the original article and related content on Plant Engineering


    How to prevent a dust explosion at your food processing plant

    Dust explosions have been linked to numerous fatal accidents in the United States. Between 1980 and 2012, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigated more than 280 combustible dust incidents that was responsible for killing 141 people and injuring 767 others.

    Food manufacturing plants are among the most susceptible to these incidents, especially plants in the baking segment that use a lot of flour and sugar. It can be difficult to protect a facility and employees when risk factors aren’t always obvious. 

    How does dust explode?

    Combustible dust is a risk factor for manufacturing plants that occupy the food product segments, such as: Confectionary Bakery Cookie and cracker Snack food Blends/mixes Cereal Spices.

    According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a room with at least 5% of its surface area covered with more than 1/32-in presents an explosion hazard. That thin layer of dust in a closed room is enough to trigger an explosion if the dust becomes airborne and ignited.

    Potential ignition sources include:

    • Sparks from electrical or mechanical processes
    • Open flames
    • Electrostatic discharge (ESD).

    Just because a work area looks clean, doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe. Combustible dust can accumulate inside equipment, and it can settle in hidden spaces like air ducts. [subhead]

    The 5 elements of a dust explosion

    Five elements are necessary to trigger a dust explosion. This combination is often referred to as the dust explosion pentagon. The first three elements are those needed for a fire, and the second two elements must be present for an explosion:

    • Combustible dust (fuel)
    • Ignition source (heat)
    • Oxygen in air (oxidizer)
    • Dispersion of dust particles in sufficient quantity and concentration
    • Confinement of the dust cloud.

    Dust explosions are particularly dangerous because they often trigger a domino effect. An initial dust explosion in processing equipment may shake loose accumulated dust or damage a containment system (such as a duct, vessel, or collector). This causes more dust to become airborne and could trigger secondary explosions if ignited. These secondary explosions are often more destructive, due to the increased quantity and concentration of flammable dust.

    Preventing a combustible dust explosion

    These explosions are a major risk for employees and the structural safety of a facility. That being said, how can explosions be avoided? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the NFPA recommend several steps to maintain work environments that are not conducive to dust explosions. 

    Dust Control

    First, ensure the travel and amount of dust in facility is controlled by:

    • Implementing a program for hazardous dust inspection, testing, housekeeping, and control
    • Using proper filters and collection systems
    • Minimizing the escape of dust from equipment and ventilation systems
    • Using surfaces that are easy to clean and don’t easily accumulate dust
    • Inspecting for dust residue in hidden and open areas regularly
    • Using cleaning methods that don’t generate dust clouds if ignition sources are present
    • Using specialized vacuum cleaners approved for dust collection
    • Locating relief valves away from dust deposits.

    By managing dust collection, the available "fuel" for potential explosions is minimized. 

    Ignition control

    Even if some dust is present, an explosion can’t be triggered without something to ignite it. Ignition sources can be controlled within a plant by:

    • Using appropriate electrical equipment and wiring methods
    • Controlling static electricity, including bonding of equipment to ground Controlling smoking, open flames, and sparks
    • Controlling mechanical sparks and friction
    • Using separator devices to remove foreign materials capable of igniting combustibles from process materials
    • Separating heated surfaces and systems from dusts
    • Utilizing the proper type of industrial trucks
    • Properly using cartridge-activated tools
    • Maintaining all above equipment adequately.

    There are so many variables that can contribute to a dust explosion – the size of the dust particles, how they’re dispersed, the ventilation system, physical barriers, and the size of work areas. Therefore, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule of thumb to measure whether there is too much accumulation or if a plant is truly at its safest.

    A tailored hazard analysis is the best way to ensure a facility is as safe as possible. When it comes to the safety of workers and the future of a business, cutting corners is not an option. 

    – Scott Fisher is the vice president of sales at Stellar. This article originally appeared on the Stellar Food for Thought blog. Stellar is a CFE Media content partner.

    View the original article and related content on Plant Engineering


    In the IIoT age, automation simplifies work

    Modern automation initiatives are gaining traction across the globe. Following three previous revolutions—the development of the steam engine, mass production on the conveyor belt, and the dawn of computers-the term ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ might have some believing the manufacturing world is changing overnight. Although tempting to characterize an influx of technology as revolutionary, the long history of manufacturing shows us that the nature of all change is evolutionary.

    A logical next phase, digital automation technologies ushered in an era of unprecedented machine intelligence. Advancements in sensors, networking and the use of new communication systems created a surge of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives aimed at producing goods with improved flexibility, speed and efficiency. The rate of adoption for automation technologies has been extraordinary, with nearly every factory now automated, and projections show the global robotics industry expanding to over $226 billion by 2021.

    Many companies already use machine intelligence to expand the efficiency and performance of operations. A recent survey (Business Insider) found that over 80% of executives agree that successful adoption of IoT technologies will be critical for future success. Another study (Quest Technomarketing, Germany) reports that half of all mechanical engineers already rely on modular, intelligent machines. The number of these machines will increase twice as quickly as generic machine production over the next few years-with modular, intelligent machines slated to reach an 80% market share within three years.

    All of these trends are boosting demand for intelligent motion control-along with the need to manage complexity. Let’s look at some successful strategies for implementing automation technologies.

    Think in terms of individualization

    One of the most important drivers of IoT-enabled and digital motor drive technology is the trend toward product customization. There is growing need to streamline and conserve resources, along with a steadily growing world population and trends toward flexible packaging and individualization of demand.

    For example, some automakers no longer offer as wide a range of models. Buyers can select a special detail or combination of details that may only be produced for one car. The trend toward increased individualization is obvious in other industries as well. In years past, a supermarket might stock two carton sizes of milk available in full fat or skim versions. Today’s shoppers can choose between many different carton sizes and various qualities from normal pasteurized milk to raw, organic, rice and soy milks.

    Do we drive more cars or drink more milk as a result? Not necessarily. Batch sizes are shrinking all the time, yet variances are increasing for the same quantity produced. You can easily find many other examples of shrinking production runs. Greater variety may not mean more consumption necessarily, yet can translate into more sales of a manufacturer’s brands.

    As production quantities decrease, the goal is to contain costs without compromising on quality. Representing a shift from high-volume and limited variability manufacturing, many industries are already experiencing rising demand for lower volume mixed production runs. Automated factories will see more temporary production lines requiring reconfiguration for increasingly diverse products. That means manufacturers increasingly must adapt to mix demand and ever-changing product portfolios, which translates into more rapid changeover of products or packaging sizes.

    Therefore, they need to think about how best to produce more variety at a reasonable cost. Obviously, a separate machine for every packaging or product variation drives up cost. Rather, machines must be capable of doing more. Intelligent and connected machines are more flexible and better equipped to manufacture customized products with the highest degree of productivity, quality and resource efficiency in small and large series production quantities.

    Don’t invite complexity

    Machine builders and manufacturers shoulder a great deal of responsibility when it comes to automation technology implementation. Advanced automation technologies can provide tremendous opportunities; they can also add layers of complexity in the form of kinematic programming and control systems and integration into the network, Internet- and cloud-based platforms.

    Everything stands and falls on efficient and effective production planning as production runs decrease. While plant-based controlled production planning might be up to the job, the complexity involved would be practically impossible to manage at that level.

    System boundaries may blur between a machine and other machines upstream and downstream. Logically speaking, it only makes sense to have machine intelligence and communication with other machines involved in the application. Compounding the complexity, most plants still operate with at least some legacy systems.

    Another challenging factor is an aging workforce and lack of experienced employees-and high competition for candidates who possess technical skills. Machines must not be endlessly complex for the human operators. Protracted machine design and commissioning, programming demands or steep learning curves do not support faster pace and leaner operations needed to compete in a digital world.

    Focus on simplicity

    So what should be the focus when it comes to specifying motion control? Go back to basics. By definition, automation innovation should make jobs easier. Simplifying complex technologies requires modularity of motion control concepts and standardization of functional units from the motor to the shaft. Better machines require drive control solutions that overcome the challenges of product individualization and the complexities of digital technologies.

    Robots must be more easily programmed to perform a wide range of tasks to support flexible manufacturing, including product design variability. Machine designs must accommodate product variants and easy changeovers. Machines with self-optimization and the right motor and inverter systems can make automation more efficient by expediting machine commissioning, programming and maintenance diagnostics.

    Modularity makes it possible to add or remove machine drive modules in the production process or quickly retool machines using modular programming. For machine builders it is nothing short of a paradigm change. Their first priority used to be perfecting a machine to manufacture products with the greatest possible efficiency to the highest possible standard. Now they can offer customers optimal flexibility and the agility, without sacrificing quality. On the plant floor, modularity means different packaging sizes, materials and even contents can be processed, packed and palletized on a single machine. Modular and standardized machine drives and software engineering tools are already helping make complex production requirements and IIoT-enabled technologies more manageable.

    Built on parameterized programming technology, smart motor drives expedite machine kinematic programming from concept to deployment. Parameterization allows easier commissioning than traditional programming. Replacing complex programming with uniform machine-configuration software tools significantly reduces engineering time and technical requirements and eliminates redundancies that drive up costs.

    Frequency inverters with advanced functionality actively support connectivity for new and legacy machines. Bringing a smart drive online no longer requires special training, thanks to modular motion control components and engineering tools. So, machine builders can focus on what they know best-elements unique to their projects-the differentiators that make their products more competitive.

    Fast track connectivity

    Digital connectivity is driving equipment monitoring and asset management strategies to improve performance, uptime and machine operating life. Agile and scalable drive technologies enable efficient data flow, visibility and control, with secure data transmission for real-time decision-making, diagnostics, maintenance and predictive analytics.

    Wherever machines are moving things, and wherever components are monitoring, controlling and driving machines, this is where you can find connected drive and automation technology. While engineering tools are needed, one ought not require an advanced degree to commission and operate a machine.

    Simplifying otherwise complex operations is the main challenge that intelligent drive systems can overcome. The modular concept is also migrating into software. High-quality, adaptive software will become a key driver of innovation and engineering productivity. Machine module functions no longer require traditional programming; they can be programmed simply by adjusting parameters.

    Motion-centric automation solutions incorporate ergonomics and user-friendly, multi-touch, HMI operating systems for process visualization and easier integration to support network and IIoT-enabled connectivity and control.

    In terms of advanced control, data aggregation, monitoring and diagnostics, cloud-based applications make it possible to perform complex functions remotely that were once only accessible at the plant level.

    Set IIoT in motion

    Speed, flexibility, productivity and efficiency remain cornerstones of manufacturing production, packaging and logistics. Yet the dynamics in global markets are changing, reflecting new supply chain models with more variation and shorter production cycles requiring greater agility to reduce machine development time and turnkey system integration.

    The design and engineering of machines has always been characterized by a high degree of customer centricity, requiring the translation of manufacturing needs into technical solutions. That’s where scalable and easily configurable modular motion control and drive components and software designed to address a wider range of application requirements can make the greatest impact.

    IIoT technologies have proliferated not only in large companies but also in small and mid-sized companies. There is no lack of on-ramps, so the choice ultimately comes down to leading or lagging behind competitors. Harnessing technology to simplify complexity is the direction the industry has been headed for many years. The goal now is to continue systematically down this path. The IoT framework supports this trend and stands to act as a stimulus to all segments of industry.

    -Doug Burns is director of sales and marketing for Lenze Americas.

    View the original article and related content on Plant Engineering


    The future of the digital plant

    It is all about connectivity. Now more than ever the industrial plant model has become heavily reliant upon the connectivity possibilities between equipment and the automation that it can provide. The future digital plant revolves around the idea of connecting machines to work faster, more efficiently and in collaboration with one another.

    There are a few new components of the digital plant that have helped to launch this new idea of an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) that encompasses where the future plant is headed. It is important to understand the Internet of Things (IoT) before looking at the way it is integrated into the industrial plant model.

    Internet of Things

    The Internet of Things (IoT) can be defined as the way that physical components are connected and networked together through the use of an Internet connection. The components that are connected together over the use of wired or wireless Internet connections are then able to utilize software that is specifically written for the products.

    Typically, the IoT concerns consumer products like wearable technology and smart home devices. These devices are created with a distinct purpose in mind. For example, a "smart" thermostat is made and programmed with a purpose that has already been established by the manufacturer, and the consumer sees the need for the connectivity within his or her home. All of the programming has been completed with products that operate within the IoT, and it is done with the end consumer in mind. After these devices are purchased, there is nothing left for the consumer to do except install and power it. The IoT is focused on the convenience it provides consumers.

    Machine-to-machine communication

    The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is focused heavily on improving plant efficiency and productivity. Machines that are connected together in the Industrial Internet of Things are able to collect large amounts of data and provide an analysis of the output so that changes can be made to ensure the machines are working more efficiently and are more easily monitored. While the primary driving point of the IoT is that it allows consumers to connect things, the IIoT allows plants to connect machinery in order to provide data that is more accurate and useful when optimizing system output. This is critical because adoption of the IIoT is becoming more readily available due to the affordability of processors and sensors that help to facilitate, capture and access information in real time.

    Through the structured connectivity within the IIoT, machines are able to communicate with one another and even work together. For the last 20 years, automation manufacturers have had the ability to connect controllers to each other which effectively means machines are talking to each other. This concept of machines sharing information and working together is commonly referred to as Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication. With M2M communication, sensors can be added to machines so that they are then able to send alerts when machines are not running optimally. For example, if a motor is taking more torque than it should, a connected M2M plant will be alerted to the issue and implement the proper protocol. Where the IoT typically connects machines to objects or people, the IIoT allows machines to communicate on a more precise and productive manner.

    Benefits of the IIoT and M2M

    The IIoT has provided the production business benefits that have not been previously available. One of the most prominent benefits that the Internet of Things provides is the ability to improve the efficiency of the plant production. The IIoT has improved operational efficiency through predictive maintenance.

    Plants that had previously taken a less stringent maintenance schedule are now able to prevent large maintenance problems because the machines within the IIoT are connected and providing constant, real-time feedback on production. The more connectivity between machines that a plant implements, the more it will save thanks to scheduled and predictive maintenance-certainly as compared to a "run until it fails" maintenance model.

    The IIoT has also changed the way that we look at information. The technology within plant manufacturing has not significantly changed, but the fact that the machines are able to connect with one another and provide larger amounts of data is where the IIoT and M2M allows the manufacturing world to make advancements. Companies are now able to take the large amounts of data that M2M communication provides and analyze it. After analyzing the data, engineers can make the necessary changes to the production line and machinery in order to optimize the efficiency and output of the system as a whole.

    Another benefit with the IIoT is that the machines involved in the production process do not come with a preprogrammed set of instructions or software. This allows engineers to take the components of the plant and program them to the individual needs of the plant. The effort that needs to go into the installation and programming of the systems may be more than that of the components that fall within the consumer IoT, but the final product that the IIoT provides is significantly more precise and customized to the end user (e.g., the manufacturing plant).

    Looking ahead

    The IIoT has helped to pave the way for Industrie 4.0, which refers to the next wave of the industrial revolution. Industrie 4.0 has allowed companies to conceptualize and even implement systems that are then used in a factory that is completely run through connectivity and considered to be "lights out".

    Industrie 4.0 is where automation and industrial trends are headed. By adding sensors to specific areas of already highly connected factories, the information is available in real-time and also, in some instances, self-correcting. There are a handful of companies that have implemented these strategies and seen the benefits of a lights-out factory, but the concept is far from perfected. Companies are investing heavily in research that will indicate how to make lights-out factories more accessible and affordable.

    While there are not many lights-out factories currently in operation, the IoT will allow for further research to be done and advancements to be made towards creating factories that will optimize the connectivity options that are available.

    -Corey Foster is application engineering manager for Valin Corporation.

    View the original article and related content on Plant Engineering


    Agricultural industry needs to become more vertical and automated

    To meet rising food demands from a growing global population, over 250 million acres of arable land will be needed—about 20% more land than all of Brazil.

    Alternatively, agricultural production will need to be more productive and more sustainable using present acreage. Meeting future needs requires investment in alternative practices such as urban and vertical farming, as well as existing indoor and covered methods.

    Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, said in an interview in The Times in 2013, "There will be a new vertical agriculture revolution, because right now we use up a third of the usable land of the world to produce food, which is very inefficient. Instead we will grow food in a computerized vertical factory building (which is a more efficient use of real estate) controlled by artificial intelligence, which recycles all of the nutrients so there’s no environmental impact at all."

    Fully automated regional vertical farms for leafy greens and other commodity crops has long been a vision of the future. Capital costs and other vagaries have prevented such development to date, but lower costs for technology and automation, plus higher costs for labor, land, and other resources, are making Kurzweil’s predictions come true.

    There are dozens of vertical farms around the world today and more being built. Spread, a Japanese factory farmer with a large facility near Kyoto that serves the two metropolitan areas of Kyoto and Osaka, is nearing completion of a fully automated 52,000-sq-ft facility where 98% of water will be recycled. Also, seeding, watering, applying fertilizer, and harvesting will all be automated—no earth; just shelves on top of shelves from floor to ceiling. They predict 30,000 heads of lettuce can be harvested and delivered daily throughout the year.

    Propelling this indoor and vertical farming movement are three influential trends: the steady global movement toward precision farming, the availability of economical automation and robotics, and the growing labor shortage as the drivers of the movement.

    Vertical farming

    Food grown year-round in buildings near urban centers provides many advantages including being close to the point of consumption to reduce both distribution costs and spoilage. Outdoor farming is vulnerable to pests and disease, which in turn means intensive use of pesticides and herbicides causing problems with runoff and food safety. Vertical farms protect crops from weather and pests and reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides. Hydroponic and aeroponic water methods save massive amounts of water compared to outdoor farming.

    Consequently, as these farms become more prevalent, they could provide a major role for the agriculture (ag) industry to produce a wide range of commercial crops with major savings in space and water use. In the case of Spread, they are able to grow lettuce indoors using less than 1% of the water that California Central Valley growers use to grow the same product.

    Agriculture accounts for around 70% of water used in the world today, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As population and climate change progress, food needs will grow, which means a more efficient use of water must happen. Vertical farms reduce water usage through recirculating hydroponics, evaporative cooling, control of in- and out-airflow, and other methods.

    Greenhouse and wholesale nurseries

    Greenhouse technology is ideal to protect plants from adverse climatic conditions, insects, and disease and to nurse, propagate, and grow plants to usable and/or harvestable size. Greenhouses can be framed or inflated structures covered with glass, transparent, or translucent material. Greenhouse yields are often 10-15% greater that outdoor yields, and consistency and quality tend to be greater. The growing season is also longer.

    Similar to vertical farms, greenhouses have high up-front costs and operating expenses, and crop selection must not require pollination. Whether plants are grown in the field or indoors, nurseries transplant, graft, or germinate plants to create seedlings for resale. Their processes are quite complex on two levels:

    1. The technical aspects of growing plants require management of the environment, plant nutrition, propagation, transplanting, irrigation, and pest and disease control. 
    2. The business aspects of managing production, labor, customers, distribution, and other activities associated with a business.

    Many nurseries use automation and some level of robotics and this will continue to grow as agriculture becomes more vertical. 

    Frank Tobe is the owner and publisher of The Robot Report. After selling his business and retiring from 25-plus years in computer direct marketing and materials, consulting to the Democratic National Committee, as well as major presidential, senatorial, congressional, mayoral campaigns and initiatives all across the U.S., Canada and internationally, he has energetically pursued a new career in researching and investing in robotics. This article originally appeared on The Robot Report. The Robot Report is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Brana Webb, production coordinator, CFE Media,

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    View the original article and related content on Control Engineering