rogrammable logic controllers were first introduced to the manufacturing ecosystem in the 60s and the 70s. These automated controllers allowed operators to monitor plants and machines remotely, and keep them running efficiently 24/7.
However, legacy PLCs have given way to web-based logic controllers that leverage the benefits of smart technology, such as smartphones, to make manufacturing more efficient.
Hard-to-access devices are easier to monitor
Modern, web-based logic controllers now interface with smartphones or other smart devices. Operators can access key data on a machine or a plant from anywhere. This allows manufacturers to run a consolidated monitoring model where one operator is monitoring several plants or several areas of a facility at once. Thus, reducing the number of operators required.
The cost-saving can directly be used to hire more experienced operators and engineers and make talent acquisition a lot easier.
Predictive maintenance becomes possible
With the consolidation of the monitoring environment, experienced operators can compare data from different plants to analyze the efficiency of machines. Historical data can be pruned to see events that have triggered a failure in the past : operators can be proactive with maintenance of machines. Predictive maintenance can reduce the downtime in a facility and directly improve the efficiency.
Better human-machine interaction to reduce maintenance costs
Operator-level diagnostics can easily be built into remote logic controllers. These diagnostic tools can automatically diagnose problems with a machine and give a graphical, step-by-step guide to the operators for bringing the machine back online.
In effect, the operator or the engineer can fix the fault a lot quicker. This higher reactivity reduces the Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and increases the return on assets (ROA).
Machine-aided recovery also reduces the risk of human errors in diagnosis, errors that can sometimes prove costly.
Furthermore, legacy PLCs rely on ladder logic and complex electrical diagrams that only electricians and control engineers might understand. Modern logic controllers, on the other hand, use flow diagrams. The graphical representation of logic is more easily understood across knowledge levels, making inter-departmental communication a lot easier.