Mobility For the Workforce

Oct. 1, 2008
Imagine 600 additional very smart sensors roaming your plant daily watching for anomalies and instantly reporting them into the manufacturing database.

From there, the new information is available for action by the appropriate team member. Steve Garbrecht, of Wonderware, posed this possibility to me recently.

A plant employee who normally does not use a computer or see a human-machine interface (HMI) screen spots a leak on a pump in a back part of the plant. Instead of walking past and saying something to the effect of, “that’s someone else’s job,” the team member pulls out a small, wireless device and enters “leaky pump at location X.” This information is transmitted directly to the plant manufacturing database and pops up on the screen as a potential action item. The maintenance manager or supervisor notes the problem and sends a technician to investigate.

Garbrecht calls humans “very smart sensors.” They can see, smell, hear, and touch things and situations that just can’t be sensed in traditional manufacturing ways. Everyone in a plant can be empowered by small, inexpensive wireless devices. This is just one example of how a mobile, connected workforce can impact the operations of your plant.

Too often when the term "wireless" pops up, it is in relation to the perceived politics of the ISA100 wireless sensor network standards development effort or something related to other wireless sensor networks. But the power of wireless devices extends far beyond that. Connecting the entire workforce is another powerful and game-changing technology.

Check out an archived Webcast on wireless technologies and an overview of the WirelessHart standard at
www.automationworld.com/webcast-4036.

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