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Variable Speed Drives: digitising the industry
05 February 2020
By embedding new technologies into the control components of everyday processes and operations such as variable speed drives, businesses will benefit from a more responsive infrastructure and will be able to outperform the competition, asserts Martin Walder
Often organisations overlook the impact of incremental changes and what it is that they are trying to achieve. Understanding what benefits they seek is imperative before any initiative or change is kicked-off.
For several years now, the cost of variable speed drives has been justified by its ability to drive energy efficiency. However, these drives remain underutilised, with more than half of economic potential in the industry left untapped. Let’s also not forget that variable speed drives have much more potential beyond motor control. They can act as a critical component, connected through the IIoT, that can deliver business optimisation through enhanced energy and asset management and process optimisation.
The evolution of cost-effective technologies is bringing many new possibilities to the industrial scene. Low cost sensing and analytics when combined with variable speed drives can allow the optimisation of the process, the motor, energy usage and the up-time of the equipment.
The impact of VSD technology
It is evident when looking at the overall impact that VSD technology has on an organisation, that it is incredibly beneficial for business growth, profitability and savings.
VSD technology can offer cost savings of more than 40 per cent, with payback periods that are usually less than two years. What’s more, these devices have the potential to make energy savings and increase profitability in almost every sector of UK business, by simply offering:
- Tighter, more accurate control of the process driven from the motor
- Increased lifespan of plant and equipment through soft starting and reduced speed
- Improved Power Factor (as increased efficiency means more of the electrical current drawn is used to drive the motor's processes)
- Displacing fixed speed (DOL) motors & dampers with VSDs on HVAC systems in buildings.
Despite the major benefits minimal changes such as implementing VSD technology can make in an attempt to improve efficiency, being mindful of the risks of new and evolving technology – particularly with regard to cyber security is imperative. Industry-wide digitisation is an evolution of a few distinct market and technology changes – mobility, cloud and analytics. Yet, just because its grounding is deep-routed, does not mean it comes without vulnerabilities.
The IIoT is accelerating the need for cybersecurity in industrial control systems and industry stakeholders across all markets have their concerns. From fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2014, the number of cyber incidents involving industrial control systems rose from 140 incidents to 243 incidents, with an estimated £240-£320 billion cost attached each year.
Many existing OT networks in the industry have been created with a piecemeal approach that has evolved over time organically. Consequently, existing systems are not performing to an optimised scale and remain insecure when it comes to cyber threats. To mitigate this, networks must be assessed on a regular basis so that resolutions can be achieved with immediate effect.
When organisations are looking to expand, and add devices to their networks, under the IIoT framework, they will identify IoT ready devices with open connectivity and security built-in as standard such as the new Altivar Process drives with Achilles 2.0 certification. Only those organisations that ensure products optimise environments and remain secure, will get one step ahead of the competition. Failure to do this, will leave an organisation behind in a highly competitive market.
Embracing Industry 4.0
To survive in the current industrial environment, it is vital to embrace Industry 4.0. Acknowledging and adopting new technologies, particularly smart connected products and systems allows for more agile and intelligent infrastructure. Creating small changes within your business will deliver the best outcomes. Slowly integrating technological advances that are suitable for your business, allows you to change and adapt to this new era of industry which although may be more competitive, offers more opportunities for UK businesses to thrive.
Martin Walder is VP of Industry UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric
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