Sharing Solutions To Help An Industry
With the plethora of products and information available in the industrial market today, it’s hard to make sense of it all. You can see this first hand by picking up an Automation World trade magazine and looking at the ads within it. There are thousands of products, all of which typically list the standards they adhere to and every one of their features; it’s hard to make sense of how they’d work together to solve a problem or drive improvements, even for experienced industry professionals.
Now, having previously been an automation engineer where we integrated many components together to make water/wastewater plants run better, I know all of these products if viewed/used independently don’t make a solution, but rather solve one off problems. In order to form a solution from these products and actually drive operational improvements, many disciplines and experience are needed to understand the complexities and combinations where their use would be optimal. If they are all integrated together in a way that better controls assets or an entire process within a utility; this would drive real efficiency improvements.
An example would be to use PID controlled chemical pumps to inject the optimum amount of chlorine gas for disinfection based on plant flow instead of just pumping at a constant speed based on a flow switch being tripped. To do this, it would take a number of devices & technologies to which are made by different hardware & software vendors. By looking at automation technology as part of a solution vs. implementation of one off components, utilities can easily realize greater operational savings including energy, chemical and labor.
It’s amazing that after over 30+ years of this type of technology being available on the market, the industrial market has stayed in a world where pieces and parts are sold by features and functions, and largely not real proven solutions. Imagine a world where a water utility in Geneva, Switzerland saved 15% of its energy bill by blower efficiency and it could share that with a water utility in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. so it could do the same.
They don’t compete with each other so there is no issue with them keeping that knowledge to themselves. But the solution that one utility has implemented, if shared, can help the entire industry and drive that cost savings, so perhaps we can fix those hundreds of miles of bad pipes! Or eliminate that planned rate increase! Vendors are not going to do this primarily because no one vendor sells all the components!
It’s about time that we, as a collective community, start sharing real solutions…because an idea— especially one that’s proven and aligned with a good business case—makes it not about the money. It’s just about knowing about it.