Why Remote Access is Popular in Continuous Processing

July 9, 2021
Find out in this Take Five video why the use of remote access tends to be higher in the processing industries than in discrete manufacturing and where processing companies tend to use the technology most.
Remote Access

Quick hits:

  • See the top 5 technology areas targeted for the most investment across discrete manufacturing, batch manufacturing, and continuous processing.
  • How remote access technology helps increase worker safety and operations efficiency.
  • Learn about developing business trends influencing the use of remote access and monitoring applications.

Related to this episode:

Honeywell Process Solutions: Complete Solutions for Water & Wastewater Process Automation. Visit their website for more information. →
Listen to the story here:
Read the transcript below:

I’m David Greenfield, Director of Content at Automation World and thanks for joining me for this Take Five with Automation World episode where I’ll be explaining why remote access technology is so popular in the process industries.

Now, I should begin by noting that we first noticed the popularity of remote access in the processing industries, as compared to the discrete manufacturing industries, while conducting research into automation technology spending trends for 2021. Two articles we’ve published so far from this research look at trends for the discrete and batch manufacturing industries. The report on our findings for the continuous process industries will be featured in our August 2021 issue and online as well. I should also note here that PMMI has created a report on adoption of remote access technologies among CPG manufacturers and the OEMs that serve this market. 

So, while reviewing the results from the Automation World research, we noticed that remote access technologies ranked among the top five for expected spending in the continuous processing industries. But it didn’t rank that highly for discrete manufacturers.

Considering that a number of the same technologies ranked in the top 5 across all verticals…for example, data acquisition and analytics, cybersecurity software, and IoT platform software, we were curious as to why remote access would rank so highly among continuous processors compared to the discrete manufacturing industries.

Josh Eastburn, director of technical marketing at Opto 22, suggests the reason for this is largely due to continuous process operations often being in hazardous, restricted, or remote areas. He pointed to the petrochemical industry as a perfect example of this.

And Jesse Hill, process industry manager at Beckhoff Automation, said, “In upstream and midstream oil-and-gas applications, the control systems are often in remote locations that are difficult to access. And this can also be the case in downstream oil and gas and other large processing plants. So, even though the location of the assets may be within the confines of the plant itself, the system that needs monitoring and access may be hundreds of meters or even miles away.”

Michael Risse, vice president and chief marketing officer at Seeq, pointed out that production assets in continuous processing tend to lend themselves to constant monitoring more so than in discrete industries. He explained that: time series data—the basis for monitoring—is often limited to short bursts, such as a weld, a dip tank, or a seal in discrete manufacturing because operations there are more about assembly than long-running processes. This scenario changes, of course, when a discrete manufacturer puts sensors on a device. At that point, telemetry from the sensors is 100% time series data.

Now, despite the differences in remote monitoring use between discrete manufacturers and continuous processors, discrete manufacturing plants still have a need for remote access and monitoring. Aaron Crews, director for modernization solutions and consulting at Emerson said: increased use of remote access in discrete manufacturing was a trend we saw rapidly increase when the global pandemic limited the number of people that could be in a facility at any given time. He added that, because discrete manufacturing industries are more likely to be located close to population centers, having expert personnel arrive onsite is often less complicated and costly than in continuous processing.

And there are specific business trends influencing the increased use of remote monitoring too. For example, many companies are re-evaluating who should handle asset monitoring.

To show how this is playing out, Risse cited a supplier of turbines and steam traps that offers a monitoring system to its customers. He also noted a processing industry customer that has an internal remote monitoring and best practices center for monitoring assets on behalf of the company’s plants.

Kevin Finnan, an industry consultant at Yokogawa, also noted this trend saying, “Among Yokogawa’s customers, those most rapidly deploying remote access were those who had already been working on integrated operations or remote operations centers. These customers operate many facilities and are consolidating their subject matter expertise, maintenance support, and other disciplines in key remote locations.”

So, I hope you enjoyed this Take Five with Automation World episode and remember to keep watching this space for new episodes each week to help keep you on top of what’s happening in the world of industrial automation.