Think Smart: Why Better Technology Won't Save a Broken System

Posted by  Richard Ludlam 30-Jan-2018 04:09:00

Marketing Manager at ERIKS UK and keen follower of trends and innovations in the industrial world built from time at Fenner, FPT, WYKO and now ERIKS

Man with an IdeaWe’re lucky enough to live in an age that offers a gadget or gizmo for nearly every application we can imagine. That isn’t to say, however, that a smart device will make a poorly-designed system more efficient, any more than a smart phone will make Joe Public the next Albert Einstein. When it comes to improving your flow control system, we at ERIKS prefer to take a more holistic approach.

When a company decides to equip its rather antiquated and clunky system with the latest bells and whistles, we’re reminded of the rather botched restoration of the Jesus Christ fresco that was undertaken in a church near Zaragoza five years ago. Yes, you’ve filled in a few gaps and the paint certainly looks newer, but is it art?

Smart technology may look like it gives an old system a breath of fresh air, but if the equipment behind it is not up to scratch, then you might as well have not invested in it at all. Smart technology only works at its full potential with smart systems, so before you invest in the latest Industry 4.0 related piece of kit, there are a few things you should consider.

Have you got “The Right Stuff”?

At ERIKS, we believe that understanding your systems, your needs and your ambitions is the best way to build an effective flow control system capable of harnessing the power of big data, smart solutions and Industry 4.0. This starts with looking at your equipment and breaking it down to its parts to see what is working, and what isn’t.

Each part of the equipment has a job to do, so when you choose a part, you shouldn’t leave it up to chance. There’s a lot of choice out there on the market, and you will need to look at both your requirements and your options in order to make the most informed decision possible.

Actuator valves, for example, are a key controlling mechanism for flow systems. Many options exist on the market, but it’s not just a case of choosing between a manual or an automatic valve. For example, what kind of valve closure element will you need? What are your trim requirements? Do you need a specific kind of material? You may not have the expertise at hand to answer these questions, but we do.

Keeping things flowing

Movement is at the heart of every flow control system, and unexpected blockages can cause some rather unwelcome problems for your production line. At best, blockages can stop your equipment from working at its most effective. At worst, they can lead to critical system failures that may require an unquantifiable amount of downtime to fix.

Auditing your equipment is one of the best ways to keep on top of any potential issues and schedule downtime that will cause minimum disruption to production. A steam trap survey, for example, can help you to identify areas of leakage or condensate build-up, both of which would lead to the slow deterioration of your system’s efficiency and performance.

Audits don’t just identify blockages – they look at every aspect of your system to make sure that every part is working as it should. They are also an effective way of better understanding your system and identifying areas that could be improved.

Asset management and condition monitoring

Industry has been getting particularly excited about condition monitoring over the past few years. It’s easy to understand why: at its most sophisticated, it has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of downtime needed for repairs and maintenance, eliminates expensive damage to equipment, and focuses resource where it is needed.

In order to achieve the level of oversight and control without such systems, you would need extra staff, maintenance engineers on hand 24/7, and giant warehouses or storerooms in which to keep every possible part. With condition monitoring, it is possible to maintain equipment simply by harnessing the power of big data.

Manufacturers are now able to spot patterns, receive advance warnings of equipment failures and analyse discrepancies in output, all from a single screen. In fact, with the right know-how, it’s possible to identify a problem right down to the nuts and bolts.

Industry 4.0 will enhance these capabilities further, by allowing manufacturers to share device data with OEMs and maintenance engineers. Depending on the complexity of the problem, this may mean that an OEM can identify a problem and propose a solution without even having to visit the site.

The idea of using data is still an unnerving concept for some. You only have to read our recent report on the UK’s readiness for Industry 4.0 to see that many senior managers regard data sharing and collaboration with trepidation. ERIKS provides a trusted partner that knows and understands your equipment from the inside-out, and uses industry expertise to analyse data, monitor performance and propose solutions to help unexpected downtime become a thing of the past.

Reducing your total cost of ownership

A flow control system made from the right parts, with the right amount of knowledge, data and insight behind it, will be the true beneficiary of smart technology. By working with ERIKS from commission through to installation and operation, you can benefit from an extensive network of products and expertise to help get your systems ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This will, in turn, significantly improve your total cost of ownership through more efficient, more reliable and more productive engineered solutions. This was what smart technology was made for.


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Topics: News, Best Practice, TCO, Flow Control

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