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Sensors, PLCs, and Distributed Control Systems: The IoT Hardware Implementation in Manufacturing

Every successful implementation of Industry 4.0 depends primarily on effective and seamless data management. This requires efficient handling of a deluge of data, which has to be accurately collected, stored, prioritized, grouped, analyzed, and ultimately transformed into actionable insights. Smart factories contain many thousand sensors and industrial control systems throughout the value chain that can rein in this data deluge, reporting on various aspects of the assets, from vibrations to humidity, the temperature to pressure and more. These sensors and control systems form the critical IoT hardware backbone of all IoT implementations across the manufacturing ecosystem.

Why are IoT sensors suddenly gaining popularity in manufacturing?

IIoT cannot exist without smart sensors, which are the IoT hardware key to gathering the information. In addition, automation of industrial system is completely reliant on such sensors for reliable, consistent, and accurate data capture, analytics, and insights. Thus, the growth of new IoT sensor-driven technologies, reduced pricing, easy implementation, and increased awareness are contributing to IoT sensors becoming the hero of the manufacturing landscape’s march toward Industry 4.0.

 

Smart sensors, including radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, serve the following purposes:

  • Identify items, locate them and determine their environmental conditions
  • Keep track of physical parameters, log data for historical records, and manage quality
  • Use as triggers for alarms or process management
  • Bring more connectivity and analytics to the supply chain
  • Embed in products, which can help improve the manufacturing process
  • Permeate the manufacturing process to monitor, control, and improve operations
  • Add to logistics to streamline product delivery protocols

 

Types of industrial control systems

Successful automation of any plant requires the most effective industrial control systems platform. There are many factors involved in selecting the control system that is best aligned with your business needs. This decision directly impacts production, reliability, and efficiency. There are several types of ICSs, the most common of which are distributed control systems (DCS) and programmable logic controllers (PLC), though a certain level of technological convergence between PLCs and DCSs are used today to ensure critical systems are well managed.

 

DCS has always been important to the safety and quality of production processes, but in today’s scenario, it functions ever more effectively as the core of IIoT solutions architecture. DCS uses geographically distributed control loops throughout a factory, machine, or control area. It allows each section of a machine to have its own dedicated controller that runs the operation. The modern DCS aids in plant-wide automation strategies provides data visibility for optimization and facilitates flexibility, as well as scalability.

PLCs are a type of IoT hardware that are the control components of an overall system. Machine sensors connect to each other through the PLCs automate and control the production line. PLCs also have the ability to communicate with each other, which facilitates larger control networks that provide visibility into overall operations. PLCs have adapted to the growing needs of the manufacturing industry and they are now part of almost every plant. In addition, they are precise, easy-to-use, reliable, proven to work well, and can survive harsh conditions.

Any successful IoT application needs things which can react to, communicate with, and process data. Machine sensors connected to smart devices, in conjunction with the PLCs and DSCs, make up the nervous system of IoT technology, driving intelligent business decisions and serving as the backbone of Industry 4.0.

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