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Let’s get digital, digital, I wanna get digital…

David Sear - 15 October 2015

Plant engineers are talking up the possibilities for smart technology

About the author

Mr David Sear
David Sear is Online Editor. He is contributing to articles, interviews and reports to KCI’s magazines and websites. David also works on videos for KCI Television.
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With excuses to Olivia Newton-John, but every time someone starts talking about digital technology, the refrain from her popular song “Physical” in the early eighties pops into my mind. So I’d just like to tell you why that particular song has been going round and round my head (and annoying my room-mates) quite a lot this month.

Well, I’ve recently been on quite a number of visits to process plants in various parts of Europe. Where, it seems, practically every engineer is talking about the need for further digitalisation.

Now digitalisation is of course a fairly broad concept. To one valve engineer, it means adding electronic tags to valves. “Just look at the size of this facility and imagine you are an operator on the top of that tower, looking at a leaky valve. Wouldn’t you like to know what medium is inside the pipe? Or when the valve was last maintained? Who the last operator was who adjusted the packing? What the manufacturer’s recommendations are for torqueing the packing follower? Or even whether the valve has been modified since installation? Well, of course he can see all that if he notes the number, climbs down the tower and drags out the log books. But wouldn’t it be so much more efficient if he could scan an electronic tag and access the data straightaway?”

Another valve engineer thought it high time that manufacturers develop more extensive smart systems that can be applied to automated on/off valves. It seems that whilst control valves can be fitted out with sophisticated diagnostics options, the humble on/off valve has to make do with far more primitive technology.

During a subsequent interview another engineer also touched on digitalisation, this time within the framework of Industry 4.0. He believes that so-called Smart Plants have the future, and says that having access to real-time data is the key to ensuring efficient and safe plant operation.

So now you understand why my colleagues have to put up with my false singing voice. But don’t worry – all future updates on these topics will be for your eyes and not ears in future issues of Valve World magazine.

PS: Of course, if you want to share your thoughts on electronic valve tags, smart systems for automated valves or other digital devices then I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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