What does digitalisation do for the process control industry? What is the best way to exploit the opportunities afforded by system connectivity and data exchange? Endress+Hauser, a leading global supplier of process and laboratory instrumentation, has developed a digital strategy that generates real added value from the virtual world for its customers.

Today, a private life without access to the internet is hard to imagine. In contrast, industrial companies have been relatively cautious when it comes to connecting business and production processes, particularly in the area of process control.

Digital communications capability

Although roughly 90% of the Endress+Hauser instruments installed around the world feature a fieldbus interface such as HART, Profibus, Foundation Fieldbus, Modbus, RS485, EtherNet/IP or Profinet, only 3% actually utilise this digital communications capability.

But change is on the horizon, and Endress+Hauser wants to be in on the ground floor to help current and future customers tap into this potential, and at the same time position itself as a leading provider in the industrial internet of things (IIoT) environment.

This digitalisation strategy is being pursued at several levels: in the measurement technology products, by using the data that is available in the field instruments and in the interaction with customers.

At the first level – measurement instrument connectivity – Endress+Hauser is actively developing the technology required for connectivity and data exchange. The current Proline 300/500 series of products is a good example.

These flowmeters feature not only diverse signal outputs and fieldbus protocols, but also an integrated WiFi server.

Apart from various process parameters – in this case mass flow, volume flow, density, concentrations, viscosity and temperature – these interfaces make it possible to monitor and retrieve a wide range of other sensor and process data as well.

This additional data, which provides information regarding the status of field instruments and processes, is the centerpiece of the digitalisation approach because it opens up new opportunities in the area of maintenance and process optimisation.

Or in more concrete terms, an opportunity for predictive maintenance, which offers measurable benefits in the form of higher system availability and efficiency. 

Netilion Analytics: Bringing order to the installed base 

Before added value can be generated from the data, it first has to be available in a consistent form, which is not often the case today. Many companies own field instruments from different generations and manufacturers, for which detailed information is sometimes lacking.

This can cause problems down the road if spare parts for obsolete instruments are unavailable, which then triggers a hectic procurement mission.

This is where Endress+Hauser’s 'Netilion Analytics' digital application steps in. This tool helps capture the data from the entire installed base of field instruments and forwards it to a password-protected cloud.

After that, it is compared to the Endress+Hauser database, which is then updated with missing data. The database contains not only detailed information about Endress+Hauser’s own field instruments, but in some cases also about competitor instruments, albeit with less detail.

'Digital twins'

The application creates 'digital twins' of the field instruments, which are visible by authorised persons from any type of end device. All that is required is an internet browser.

The data can be captured in the field in one of two ways: either by scanning the type plate with a special app, or fully automatically through an interface module installed in the fieldbus network: the so-called edge device.

The online data brings more benefits than just the convenient access and time saved, however. Thanks to gathered information from the field, Endress+Hauser experts provide users with additional maintenance information.

Endress+Hauser thus hopes that more and more customers will place their trust in the new digital service and take advantage of the potential it boasts to optimise their processes. See:  https://eh.digital/2W08OKg