The importance of automation and digital processes

ifm efector is an automation, digital processes, and communication sensing technology manufacturer. It has a strong focus on the water and wastewater industry. National product and brand Manager Glenn Thornton explains their industrial focus.

ifm efector is an automation, digital processes, and communication sensing technology manufacturer. It has a strong focus on the water and wastewater industry. National product and brand manager Glenn Thornton explains their industrial focus.

ifm’s products range from factory effluent monitoring and control to automation within water authorities. It incorporates its solutions around customer needs by focusing on overall process efficiencies, productivity, quality, and reduced downtime.

The scope of automation reaches all industries at all levels. Everyone is surrounded by technology. It’s just there and expected to be a part of our daily lives, but what about our working lives? Some industries have taken the “digital” leap towards machines and processes connected to higher-level technology to improve production rates, efficiency, and quality of final products to market.

Regarding water and wastewater, the word “technology” requires deeper exploration and understanding. Automation, cloud connectivity, and visualisation of the process are synonymous with manufacturing. It is not often associated with the water and wastewater industry. That is despite there being some significant advances in this vital industry.

With automation entering the field over the years, process information is more readily available. It improves overall operational visibility, functionality, and efficiency. Advancement in automation and communications technologies has created new pathways for Australian companies to innovate and shape the future by bringing the best available technologies to accelerate critical and crucial changes.

The question is, how do you facilitate the transition from traditional to advanced operations? How do you take full advantage of potential positive opportunities arising from these new and emerging technologies?

What do digital processes mean to the water sector?

There is a newly coined phrase, “Digital Factory,” but it is the “Digital Process.” It includes everything from manufacturing to logistics, processing, mining through to wastewater control and municipal vehicles.

Digital technology phrases, Smart Factories, and Industry 4.0 are all about connectivity, visualisation of processes and decision-making in real-time. Digital technology is commonplace in domestic items connected to the internet. The term is the Internet of Things (IoT). The difference between domestic (IoT) to industrial devices is that they are designed to endure the extreme demands of the industry. As such, they are known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

To begin advancing your process is easier than you would think. Many enterprises start with a low-cost solution for a critical asset or process. They see what information is sent to their PC or smart device. With this, businesses then make decisions to improve the process. Sensor and solution technologies from ifm have proven that they help improve processes and reliability. The company’s intelligent monitoring solutions can assist in the control of most plant operations.

The concept is about processes connected with technology at a local level within a plant or factory or over the internet using cloud solutions.

With the rapid growth of digitalisation, a sensor with the standard “on-off” signal now has abundant data inbuilt. The sensors begin their journey into the “Smart Factory,” or Smart Process”. Producing goods, monitoring water processes, or irrigating a large farm is no longer a shot in the dark. A higher level of informed decision-making creates a sophisticated plant with optimised knowledge.

By starting small with a simple, low-cost system on a critical asset or process, customers will quickly learn what information is accessible. With this, they can make decisions on process improvements and process security.

What can ifm offer?

ifm efector customers have taken up the digitalisation of their processes. They are reaping enormous benefits with machinery that is not just automated at the plant level. That machinery is now connected to networks that give 24/7 global information. This opens the potential for small businesses and large corporations to improve efficiencies and reliability due to less downtime and greater machine availability. Customers have all reported higher machine uptime, improved quality assurance (QA) and reduced losses. Sensors and connected devices from ifm are no longer considered cost-prohibitive once the system cost is explained and the return on investment is proven.

Technical advancements in water/wastewater bring transparency. It integrates with processing that is fully connected and integrated with data-backed decision-making across any facility. These innovations and technology are not just for the manufacturing sector. They include mining, agriculture, water and wastewater, HVAC, commercial buildings, municipal vehicles, and road working machinery. The list is endless.

Maintenance programs with condition monitoring connected to cloud networks with data available and analysed 24 hours a day could be the difference between success and failure for plants and machinery.

By researching the available technologies, you will gain insights that present opportunities to critically re-evaluate your current processes and highlight how future problems can be tackled, improved, and resolved. Production and process improvements, inefficiencies and waste is reduced or removed altogether. By undertaking this change, clients then future-proof their business, bringing a higher level of product and brand security.

The cost and time of deploying technology continue to fall. These factors will no longer be a deciding factor in choosing technology. It will result from technological improvements, including remote access, communication and monitoring, that will drive change.

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