Manufacturers recognize that wireless can offer cost reductions," said Harry Forbes, principal author of ARCs Wireless Technology in Process Manufacturing. "More importantly, they see wireless technologies as an enabler of entirely new business processes that will not only be less expensive, but will be safer, more reliable, and far more transparent than their current manufacturing practices.
Visibility and Asset Management to Drive Growth
The desire for new and improved business processes extends across all types of manufacturing. A major factor favoring greater deployment of wireless technologies in manufacturing is the ability of wireless applications to enable new and better ways of operating manufacturing plants, and process manufacturing stands to feel the greatest impact. Field operations within a process plant are a classic case of the need for more information that can only be delivered wirelessly. Historically, process manufacturing has not been able to use wireless on a broad scale, but new sensor networking and WLAN developments will soon change this, presenting a huge opportunity for manufacturers who can use wireless to gain visibility into hidden processes, assets, and activities. These now represent invisible assets still not well integrated into the enterprise.
Wireless technology offers a more cost-effective means of monitoring plant equipment and production processes, and enables real-time decision mak-ing to optimize production or to head off maintenance issues before they interrupt production. Literally millions of field devices are installed at great cost in process manufacturing facilities. However, because most are not digitally enabled, their ability to share process and maintenance infor-mation is extremely limited. This presents a huge opportunity for wireless technology, which can be used to enable these stranded assets to the benefit of operations, maintenance and business systems across the enterprise.
Wireless LAN, Sensors Are Moving into Manufacturing
The industrial wireless market is not new by any means. Wireless has been a part of SCADA systems in oil, gas, and electric power for decades. The major trend in the market, however, is growth through incorporation of new wireless technologies. These technologies have their roots in the IT, telecom, consumer, and military markets. Manufacturing is adopting them in cases where the value of wireless information is apparent, but the market is far from saturated.
Wireless LAN technology has been mainly deployed at indoor facilities, but these will expand to encompass entire plants. Furthermore, new wireless sensor technologies will reduce the cost of information dramatically as they are developed and deployed in manufacturing. For more information on this study, go to: www.arcweb.com/res/wireless.