Adages become adages by their very nature of being generally true. I was reminded of this again by a friend with a cleaning business who frequently gets asked what he uses to get windows so clean. His usual answer? “Soap and water. And a lot of practice.” I haven’t heard a more succinct demonstration of “It’s not what you do, but how you do it” in some time.
That same adage could be applied to so many thermal processes — and thermal processing equipment. The Industrial Internet of Things is pushing process control into the cloud, where real-time data can be accessed and managed from anywhere (provided you have access to the network). This is a positive advancement that comes with the essential caveat that network security is vital. In fact, to help you do that, in “Secure Remote Monitoring and Supervisory Control,” Bob McIlvride, the director of communications with Skkynet Cloud Systems Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, offers advice on process network security. Dealing with data protocols, machine-to-machine communications and alternatives to virtual private networks for industrial process controls are among the insights he offers.
But while Bob is absolutely right about what you need to do, let’s not overlook the “how you do it” part. If your sensors are poorly positioned or even disconnected, or if the signals are transmitted in an electrically noisy environment, the data transmitted may not reflect the conditions you seek to measure. Likewise, open circuits and neglected alerts can put you in the position of having some data about your process, but no good data. Overlook the fundamentals at your own peril. A well-designed process temperature control system paired with effective, secure remote access and savvy process control personnel yield an effective combination of technology and masterful management.
Avoiding pitfalls created by your own doing is also the focus of “How to Achieve Longer Heater Life” by Eric Zulkiewicz, a mechanical design engineer with Industrial Heater Corp., Cheshire, Conn. Who hasn’t been in the position of needing just a little more heat, whether it’s to speed up the production line or simply to reach the desired setpoint? Sometimes, the heater can meet those demands; other times, heater failure results. If you’d like some insights into when and why you get those results, turn to page 25.
Electric heaters are not the only systems from which processors seek just a bit more performance. Industrial combustion systems like ovens and furnaces often are used for much longer than the product lifecycle for which they were commissioned. Process parameters such as setpoint and dwell time may change, but the fuel-fired oven or furnace is put to use each shift in much the same way, to deliver heat to the new products heading down the line. And there’s nothing wrong with this unless the combustion system is completely neglected. Allow enough changes without a review of the combustion system, and you may be running the proverbial square peg in the round hole. Russ Chapman, president of Firebridge Inc., Burlington, Ontario, offers some insights on reviewing and retrofitting industrial ovens and furnaces in “Improve Your Combustion Equipment Performance.”