Yokogawa sees automation turning into autonomy

Nov. 30, 2021

Process automation can't escape the impact of software, microprocessors, Internet networking and other types of digitalization, which are already transforming it into more autonomous applications. To help end users get ahead of and take advantage of this evolution, Yokogawa staged its Y Now 2021 online event starting on Nov. 1. Its theme was "realizing autonomous operations," and it featured a variety of technical sessions that are still viewable anytime as on-demand videos.  

"Yokogawa's traditional ability is measuring and connecting in the oil and gas and other processes, but these core competencies can add value across multiple other industries," says Kevin McMillen, president and CEO of Yokogawa North America. "This is why Yokogawa reorganized it business structure in April from a focus on conventional products and function to business segments based on industries, and how to help customers sustain their growth."

The three main industry-based segments, plus two add-ons, consist of:

  • Energy and sustainability, including oil and gas, petrochemicals, renewable energy, electric power, energy management systems (EMS) and energy storage;

  • Materials, including functional chemicals, biomat materials, pulp and paper, textiles., steel, non-ferrous metals, mining, mobility, electrical and electronics;

  • Life, including pharmaceuticals, healthcare, food and water;

  • Measuring instruments, including energy, information and communications, and healthcare; and

  • New businesses, including bio-related, aviation and others.

McMillen reports Yokogawa's realignment is based on its new Industrial Automation 2 Industrial Autonomy (IA2IA) approach that employs a system of systems to promotes effective connectivity among sites and users, and create value through overall optimization driven by integration, autonomy and digitalization.   

"The past seven or eight years has been an unprecedented time, with the emergence of cloud-and edge-computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and 4G and 5G wireless. We realized digital transformation is impacting our lives and societies, as well as our entire enterprises, how we operate our facilities, and where they're headed," says Tom Fiske, principal technology strategist at Yokogawa. "We're on the cusp of an IA2IA transformation, which began with semi-automation and automation,  continues with semi-autonomy and autonomous orchestration, and aspires to achieve autonomous, unmanned operations using a system of systems. For example, an autonomous system would not only identify cavitation, but could take action to prevent it. Similarly, autonomous orchestration could  schedule maintenance, while fully autonomy could monitor assets, identify needed repairs, 3D print parts, and have a robot install them."

Other sessions at Y Now 2021 were presented by:

  • Joseph Ting, VP of digital customer experience at Yokogawa, who showed how the Yokogawa Cloud platform's unlimited storage, networking and computing can enable process operations and maintenance on the edge compared to onsite systems;

  • Hiroaki Kanokogi, control center GM for Yokogawa Products, described how AI softare modules can enable autonomous plant operations by analyzing present states and problems, finding root causes and KPIs, exploring control methods, implementing procedures for efficiency improvements, and repeating the process; and

  • Penny Chen, senior principal technology strategist at Yokogawa, reported how robotic equipment can serve as the five senses of autonomous processes, and perform inspections and measurements, integrate with existing systems and manage fleets, and use robotic arm manipulations to scrape and paint, automate sampling, replace components, perform non-critical startup and shutdown jobs, and coordinate with other arms on more complex tasks.   

For more Y Now 2021 content and on-demand videos, visit www.ynowlive.com