Enable A Mobile Workforce
In an era when an aging workforce and loss of experience are among the most pressing business problems process manufacturers face, wireless technology can empower next-generation plant workers, just as cell phones and PDAs have empowered the mobile business person today.
Even during normal operations, it’s not uncommon for a large plant to have hundreds of people working throughout the plant, often far from their control rooms, maintenance shops or offices. The new wave of wireless tools are dramatically improving their productivity by providing instant access to information they otherwise would have had to cover considerable distance to get, or take valuable time from other plant personnel to find out.
For example, although technology has enabled operators to perform many of their control and monitoring duties from the comfort and safety of the control room, there are still times when they have to go out into the field. Some companies routinely have their operators make rounds to see firsthand how the plant is running. By providing remote access to control and asset-management systems, a rugged, wireless PC can greatly enhance operators’ efficiency, as they will be able to immediately relate what they see to what is happening to the process and take quick corrective action.
When operators are in the field, there may be no one in the control room watching for alarms. But with wireless access points throughout the plant, operators can use these PCs or similar tools to access critical process information, historical data, graphics and other key functions that normally reside in the control room or elsewhere in the plant.
Improve Business and Process Management
Wireless applications, such as personnel and asset locating, as well as wireless video surveillance for security and safety, have changed the way offices, hospitals, warehouses and retail stores operate. These applications can also address business needs such as improving safety and security inside process environments.
Many plants already are using wireless technologies to improve security. Wireless closed-circuit television cameras and RFID-equipped access badges enable intelligent security monitoring and control from restricting access to specific areas based on levels of security, to tracking attempts to violate security protocols and helping security managers identify potential vulnerabilities.
Wireless location technologies allow you to find and track inventory and valuable assets—even workers—moving inside and outside the plant quickly. Time spent looking for assets can be reduced dramatically, which can have significant benefits during major turnarounds, emergencies and new construction projects. Being able to locate each worker quickly also offers safety and productivity benefits.
Return to Wireless Now Home Page
Wireless Implementation Starts with Education
In order to begin to take full advantage of the promise of wireless, a basic understanding of how wireless works—and how it can be used to improve plant, process and project performance—is needed. And Emerson Process Management’s online PlantWeb University is a great place to start.
PlantWeb University features a broad range of online engineering and business training and now includes a new 21-course wireless curriculum encompassing an introduction to wireless technology, how wireless can help you solve common problems and access information that was previously out of economic and technical reach, as well as practical advice on implementing wireless solutions.
“The new PlantWeb University courses will help users understand the basics of wireless technology, what it can do for them and how they can put it to work in their own operations,” says Jane Lansing, vice president, marketing, for Emerson Process Management. Join 60,000 other registered learners at www.PlantWebUniversity.com.
Start Anywhere, Start Today
Emerson Process Management’s approach, called Smart Wireless, is neither a top-down nor a bottom-up model. You can begin at the plant level and work down to the field, or at the field and work up. Start anywhere based on what your highest priority needs are. You’re not required to invest in an expensive wireless infrastructure throughout your facility to try out a simple monitoring application. The company’s gateways, devices, access points and software use wireless communication standards and have gone through rigorous coexistence testing. This ensures that wherever you start in the architecture, you can seamlessly and easily expand later as your budget and confidence in the technology evolve.
For example, would additional process measurements help you improve product quality or reduce energy usage? Build a self-organizing sensor network at the field level starting with just a single gateway. Need to provide mobile access to plant information? Set up plant-level wireless access points so workers can get the information they need wherever they are. Are both types of applications important? Implement both at once, using the plant-through-field strength of the unified Smart Wireless architecture.
In short, flexibility and scalability mean you can start wherever it makes sense for you—without investing in more infrastructure than you need. The products and knowledge are in place and the value clear for starting wireless now. By picking an application—even a small one—you’ll join early movers enjoying the satisfaction of application improvements they could only imagine before wireless. And you’ll gain confidence and knowledge in the use of wireless, a technology set to make broad inroads industry-wide because of the significant improvements in efficiency and performance it delivers.