Industry 4.0 eases interactions between humans and technology by providing information at all industrial plant levels. Persons or tools can access process sensors or final element information (such as measured value or configuration settings, etc.) from any part of the world if authorized to do so. Among other things, this allows device- and system-performance optimization though delivery of remote services for maintenance and upgrades or repair from a remote location via the “cloud.”
This concept assumes that “smart devices” will communicate with neighboring devices to optimize their own performance based on information about surrounding conditions, e.g., a flow transmitter autonomously compensates its measured value with data from connected pressure or temperature sensors.
The benefit? Faster and cheaper optimization than is possible with the current conventional approach because the location of the expert knowledge team doesn’t matter anymore; travel costs and time no longer come into play. Industry 4.0 goes even further. For example, a process operator wishing to optimize the settings for a proportional-integral-derivative controller may use a web-based tuning tool to analyze the current process conditions and dynamics and to provide the optimal tuning algorithm for the valve positioner configuration settings.
Supporters of Industry 4.0 believe inherent optimization features will increase the income of a medium-size process plant by several million dollars per year. In addition, Industry 4.0 should boost production flexibility, enabling a facility to rapidly adapt its operations to market changes. For instance, a plant control system could autonomously adjust output based on fluctuating utility prices, thereby optimizing the costs of production.