If Machines Could Talk

How Does the Automation Industry Deal with Downtime Caused by Technology or Alarm Management Failure?

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Katherine BonfanteBy Katherine Bonfante, Managing Editor, Digital Media

I’ve been wondering what automation machines and their components would tell us if they could talk. We demand so much of technology and we build in features that make our machines behave as everything but what they were initially designed for. Today’s technology must feel exhausted, don’t you think?

Machines today multitask all the time. For example phones take pictures, send email, keep our calendars, behave as calculators, GPS systems, voice recorders, video cameras and—oh yeah—make phone calls. Yet, we don’t hear these devices complain. We just see them behave obediently as we want them to, and we hope the gadget doesn’t shut down before our processes are completed. However, sooner or later our constant demands push the technology to the edge and our automated devices simply shut down.

How does the automation industry deal with downtime caused by technology or alarm management failure? I searched ControlGlobal.com and found “Preventing Unplanned Downtime through Alarm Management” from Siemens. The paper lists five of EEMUA’s best practices steps for avoiding unplanned downtime.

Matrikon also has a white paper that can help you reduce plant production downtime due to machine maintenance failure. “Condition-Based Maintenance” describes how the use of real-time equipment data reduces downtime by prioritizing and optimizing maintenance resources. The data collected helps interface operators determine the equipment health and only informs the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) when maintenance is actually necessary.

Automated components and applications humanize technological devices. Behind all the wires, sensors, controllers, connectors, drives, analyzers and software integration applications, the machines do speak to us. We need to train our machine operators better and have them communicate with technology more efficiently. Understanding automated devices is easier than ever. They display English phrases on their digital screens. Next time you are at the plant floor or in front of your computer analyzing the data automated machines gather for you, take the time listen to the machines. Listening and interpreting their messages can save you costly industry downtime.

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