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Better plant management with IIoT

Sustainability Matters

March 31, 2020

IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is an acronym that has been thrown around our industry for around 20 years. Ever since the first internet-connected device (a modified Coke vending machine at Carnegie Mellon University in 1982) was explored, inventory management optimisation was one clear benefit of these interconnected devices.

Many plant managers are intrigued by the IIoT concept but are either unsure how it can bring value to them or are reluctant to implement this technology and be the ‘first cab off the rank’ when technology suppliers are still working out which solutions are best implemented utilising this technological philosophy.

There is no longer any need to wait, because the technology has now matured and is ready to bring value to your operation.

A good example is, there are often many tanks storing various chemicals and other liquids for use onsite, such as antifoam, dust suppression, anti-scalant, fuels, oils and lubes, frothers and collectors, pH modifiers and disinfecting agents amongst many others. These tanks are often located in remote locations, which causes challenges for level measurement and inventory control, especially when there is not just one tank, but several tanks that are widely scattered. Tanks can go missing, become forgotten about or even get lost. Not only that, but they can be hard to find around a large site. The level of the tank needs to be checked manually by an operator, a basic yet time-consuming task.

In 85% of all production plants, however, level measurement is highly complex or very time-consuming and cost-intensive. For this reason, missing stocks are often only registered when the tank has already run empty and the production process has stagnated.

Ideally, a self-powered solution for remote level measurement, combined with geolocation tooling, would be utilised to track your tank assets and provide up-to-date inventory management information. The system could be tied to a cloud inventory monitoring solution to send automated alerts to suppliers so that operations onsite would not even have to monitor or interact with the tanks, confident that they will always be supplied with important consumables 24/7.

The return on investment for implementing such a solution is in the order of months, rather than years. The freeing up of time spent manually tracing and monitoring levels site wide, the reduction of risk exposure due to fewer interactions in the field/pit, plus seamless communication with suppliers means that implementing such a solution should be one of the biggest cost savings measures in the financial year.

One such device that is able to be the cornerstone of an IIoT inventory monitoring solution is the Micropilot FWR30. The Micropilot FWR30, combined with digital services, is claimed to be the world’s first wireless 80 GHz IIoT radar sensor. It has been developed to provide the information needed to manage inventory in remote and mobile applications and is designed to provide continuous simplicity — in purchase, installation and usage. The smart level transmitter unifies high-end technology in a cost-effective sensor. Its simplicity and extensive features save time, ensure continuity and optimise logistics and storage processes.

The IIoT radar sensor delivers facts where previously only assumptions were possible. It combines a reliable measurement, using 80 GHz radar technology, and provides access to information on asset and inventory status from anywhere at any time. The cloud-based solution also delivers information on the container location, ambient temperature and measured value history as well as battery and connectivity status. Additionally, this Eurostar cloud service adheres to a high level of security and data privacy requirements, essential in an era where data is the new gold in the resources industry and cybersecurity is a high priority.

The Micropilot FWR30 with Netilion cloud services is designed to simplify the process — from procurement to operations. The wireless and battery-powered sensor is mounted on any plastic tank in a few simple steps by the user. Commissioning is done by pressing a single button, without the need for sensor calibration. By scanning the QR code in the Netilion web app, the system can be used immediately. The plug-and-play solution is also designed to fit perfectly on stackable tanks without affecting their handling. This improves durability and ensures that the sensors are not very likely to get damaged during operations.

Different types of digital services enable a flexible and best-practice support package, depending on the requirements of each application. Everything can be accessed with a simple value view app: Netilion Value up to Netilion Inventory and SupplyCare Hosting, which are full-blown inventory monitoring cloud solutions. The good news is that, because these are cloud-based software solutions, these platforms can be easily accessed using any type of device like a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.

Netilion Value is a digital service for value monitoring. It provides a dashboard, values, historical data and notification using a straightforward user interface. Smart sensors can be integrated and connected in a few clicks. Netilion Inventory offers a simplified monitoring service to support basic inventory management applications. It comes with add-ons like a basic forecast and an easy overview on the status of tanks, silos and containers. SupplyCare Hosting is an inventory management solution that helps to reduce inventory costs and increase productivity. SupplyCare will help optimise the supply chain with individual IT solutions for inventory management and the integration of data into company processes and ERP systems.

The combination of utilising cloud-based solutions with an advanced and cost-effective IIoT device for inventory management is now available to be implemented into your site today, bringing you immediate benefits from day 1. With a strong return on investment, IIoT devices and associated cloud infrastructure are ready to be deployed in any industrial environment now as we can classify the technology as mature.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Kalyakan

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