Driving autonomous and sustainable operations: The power of software-defined industrial automation

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

In the dynamic landscape of industrial process plants, staying competitive means meeting industry standards and continually pushing boundaries to innovate and adapt. Industry is the most energy-consuming and CO2-emitting end-use sector. It accounts for 38% of total energy consumption and 47% of CO2 emissions (including emissions from electricity and heat).

Operations manager reviewing recent data from autonomous operation
Supervisor doing paperwork while using laptop in warehouse

With a growing global focus on sustainability and efficiency, industrial plants must accelerate energy transition and reduce production costs by shifting towards more autonomous operations. This is where open, software-defined automation that enables edge computing and modularization becomes pivotal.

In 2022, industry spent $146 billion to connect and control operating technologies to pursue Industry 4.0 automation and control goals. Yet, closed, proprietary system architectures remain problematic. Plants with these solutions lack vendor flexibility. And industrial automation users are increasingly reluctant to spend money to overcome complex system compatibility issues.

However, open solutions create access to modern technologies that can enable new forms of operation, increase system availability, and help attract digital natives to the workforce.

From optimizing operations to minimizing downtime and reducing carbon footprint, plant managers and operators must evolve their control systems. Embracing autonomous operations powered by advanced technologies offers a cost-effective, swift transformative solution.

A new era of virtual autonomous control

Software-defined virtual controllers are a technological step change in the IT/OT space. They simplify operations, add flexibility, enable autonomy, and open a new era of plant control.

While redundant controls typically provide availability, hardware-agnostic, virtual control systems offer much more. EcoStruxure Automation Expert uses universal automation runtime, which helps users amplify control outcomes to enable high availability.

Unlike traditional redundant physical controllers that provide a means to achieve required plant availability, hardware-agnostic, software-defined controllers, and open automation will enable users to:

  • Decouple applications from hardware
  • Select their physical platforms of choice
  • Enable autonomous automation

The system itself will be capable to take its own actions, like automatically onboarding new devices. It can improve operation continuity by selecting available physical platforms at a given time and moving control and compute applications where needed (including software-defined controllers).

The variety of physical platforms can range from small to powerful edge control and computing devices. These platforms can be combined with the principles of open automation to support I/O subsystems from different vendors that fit the purpose of each process’s needs.

Platforms could then expand to on-premise data centers and eventually to the cloud, where control execution engines can transcend physical limitations.

AI will enable autonomous automation

Virtual controllers offer an easier way to introduce edge computing capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). By and large, this helps achieve better control and operation metrics across networked assets. This integration enhances decision-making processes and augments operational efficiency, setting the stage for autonomous automation systems.

Open, software-defined automation fosters a culture of innovation by empowering industries to experiment and iterate faster with fewer constraints. Software-defined automation controllers offer a simplified approach to autonomous control. Additionally, they have the potential to eliminate the need for physical controllers entirely.

By embracing advanced technologies and virtual control, businesses can challenge traditional industrial automation norms. This way, companies can leverage them to drive energy transitions, advanced control strategies, and continuous improvement.

Accelerating energy transitions — virtually

By integrating intelligence into operations and control, industries can automate efficiency and align sustainability goals with operational goals. As a result, this enables faster responses to demand changes and other market pressures. This approach accelerates process optimization and permits smoother scalability as projects transition from demonstration to commercial stages.

The transition towards autonomous operations and software-defined automation supports goals for environmental sustainability. Virtual controllers and modularization strategies enable industries to minimize carbon emissions, optimize maintenance schedules, and enhance system availability. As industries embrace these technologies, the need for physical controllers will eventually abate. This paves the way for secure and reliable autonomous operations.

Converging autonomous operations, software-defined automation, and accelerated energy transitions represent a paradigm shift in industrial plant management. By harnessing the power of virtual controllers, modularization, and advanced technologies, industries can overcome traditional challenges. Autonomous operations position businesses at the forefront of innovation.

As we navigate towards a more sustainable and efficient future, the path to success lies in embracing autonomy and driving continuous evolution in industrial operations. Discover how EcoStruxure Automation Expert can add flexibility and agility to your operations.

Tags: ,

Add a comment

All fields are required.