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Smart Sensors and Control in the Age of Industry 4.0

Mike Jeffries | July 25, 2018


Plant engineers caught in the global transition to Industry 4.0, many of whom may be stuck with a patchwork of legacy equipment and obsolete systems, can make the technical case for investment in Industry 4.0 upgrades when ROI (return on investment) is the focus. From a predictive maintenance perspective, Industry 4.0 concepts can reduce downtime for maintenance with real-time condition monitoring and precision operations control and significantly extend machine life-cycles while reducing energy costs. That should get the attention of any reluctant CFO, but there are many more benefits that come when a company embraces the Industrial Internet of Things. (IIoT)

Related Blog: What is the Difference Between SCADA and DCS Systems?

Defining Industry 4.0

We shouldn't be surprised that the term "Industry 4.0" was coined by the German government with their national tradition of industrial efficiency. The four ages of development in the evolution of industry are marked by landmark transformations including:

1.0- The introduction of steam and water power.

2.0- Mass production and the assembly line

3.0- The introduction of factory automation

4.0- Cyber-physical technologies such as IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, which implement connectivity between data flow and industrial equipment to minimize downtime and provide the analytic capabilities to optimize production processes.

Practical Operation Applications For Industry 4.0

All manufacturers face the challenges of downtime and product defects. In Industry 4.0 "ruggedized" high-tech sensors, cloud or Ethernet-based computing, and the Industrial Internet all combine to detect, correct and prevent plant operation problems before they occur. Safety is enhanced with remote internet-enabled control over equipment located in places which may be hazardous to access by human operators. Real-time batch monitoring in production processes reduces takt time and enhances quality control.

Pumps, motors, and machinery can virtually call plant engineers on their smartphones for help when operational anomalies such as unusual motor noise or vibration are detected. Even more impressively that same smartphone can be used as a virtual control panel to correct the problem. Below we'll take a look at two cutting-edge Industry 4.0 innovations available from the industry-leading vendors at Mader Electric.

ABB Ability Smart Sensor Now Optimized For Pump Control

Smart sensors are a proven method for monitoring electric motors so it was a natural evolution for Mader supplier ABB to tailor their ABB Ability smart sensor to meet the specific needs of pumps.The adapted sensors now provide remote monitoring and readouts for pump speed, vibrations, unbalance, cavitation (formation of vapor bubbles in fluids), and clogging.

For plants with fluid distribution processes and especially for operators of wastewater facilities, this eliminates the need for time-consuming weekly inspections. The ABB Ability smart sensor is used in plants around the world for predictive maintenance and has racked up an impressive ROI record. Downtimes have been reduced by as much as 70%. Motor life-cycles are up by 30%, with a significant reduction in energy costs down 10%.


Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) kicked off the Industry 3.0 era of factory automation serving at stations on production lines wherever logical decisions are needed. Mader Electric's control and automation vendor IDEC is helping companies reap the benefits of IIoT with their new PLC innovation for Industry 4.0.

The IDEC Microsmart FC6A PLC is ready to meet the challenges of Industry 4.0 with the introduction of a new Web Page Editor function. IDEC's new HMI (Human Machine Interface) and Communication module allow more plant personnel to achieve precise, complex machine control without the need for HTML or JavaScript programming knowledge. PLC Status, Batch Monitor, Custom Monitor and LCD Monitor are all built in and customizable operation monitoring can be configured with the HTML editor. Screen graphics are user-friendly providing clear pictures of process status and machine operations.

The FC6A HMI module connects via Ethernet and serves as a virtual web server. Stored command and control web pages can be accessed by plant engineers and operators via any web browser on any Internet-connected device such as a remote PC, a tablet or a smartphone.

Mader Electric and Industry 4.0

At Mader Electric we've been keeping businesses running and up to speed since way back in the age of Industry 2.0. Our extensive experience with electric motors, factory automation, pumping system optimization, variable frequency drives, and PLC programming is all available to help your company reap the benefits of Industry 4.0, so don't hesitate to contact us.

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Topics: electrical control, motor and control expert, automated systems

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