Delivering Insights for Smarter Manufacturing
Manufacturing plants typically consist of linked unit operations that are connected through a network of material, energy, and information streams. Because the unit operations are interlinked, it creates the potential for savings through material recycle, energy integration and overall feed optimisation. However, because subsystems are often controlled independently, the potential efficiency gains are lost.
Spiro Control is a UK IoT SME specialising in advanced analytics and control solutions that help manufacturers in the process industries to optimise their production processes, increase plant productivity, and improve the effectiveness of machinery. They have built an edge device which captures sensor data and feeds it to embedded data analytics and control tools. Their solution includes advanced analytic tools that make use of machine learning to deliver insight into the root cause of operational issues and how they can be corrected. There is also a predictive side to the technology that helps to identify problems in a process early on.
In manufacturing, this type of technology is a crucial component of Industry 4.0 and IIoT. As the network of intelligent devices and sensors, and correspondingly the volume of data increase, it becomes increasingly expensive, difficult, and insecure to bring all raw data to a central location. It is better to deal with the data out at the edge, which reduces bandwidth and latency and accelerates decision-making.
Their technology makes it possible to support a growing network of intelligent devices and sensors generating exponential volumes of data.
Progress so far
Spiro Control was launched in 2012. The initial focus was on applying their significant experience in industrial process control and success in leading large scale Advanced Process Control projects, particularly in ethylene production and gas processing. During the first years, they were focused on delivering turn-key projects, helping refining and petrochemical producers to improve the efficiency of their operations. To date Spiro Control has delivered cumulative audited benefits of over $23 million.
In 2015 a team was put in place to exploit opportunities to bridge the gap between theoretical solutions that work well under laboratory conditions and what is achieved in real world industrial applications. Model Predictive Control solution was released in 2017, with additional analytics applications released later this year. They received an Innovate UK grant in June 2017 to further develop the technology.
They are currently working to establish the business case. For example, they expect an ethylene plant can increase operating capacity by 2-4% through plant-wide optimisation compared to localised unit optimisation, with a financial benefit of £ 2-6 million per year.
Spiro Control has the ambition to apply their innovation to a wide range of areas, many of which can have a major environmental impact. One such application is energy demand management; electrical generators and consumers can make considerable savings by using the IIoT to balance load demand on a network with the available generated power. The dynamics of the power network as a whole are the result of interactions between the individual components; the generators produce power that is injected into the network on the one side, while the loads consume power from the network on the other. If we consider each power plant, load, and station as a subsystem, it is a typical distributed system, whose subsystems interact with each other and whose control can be coordinated through the IIoT.
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Spiro Control recently attended a Digital Catapult event Industry 4.0 Hack & Pitch. See the video interview below:
The convergence of a set of technologies such as sensor technology, big data and data analytics, coupled with increased capabilities in data storage, networking, computational power and artificial intelligence have resulted in various innovations in industrial systems. Increasingly, digitalisation is a high priority for manufacturers as we gear up for the fourth industrial revolution.
4IR has the power to reshape production, consumption, transportation and delivery systems across every industry and service imaginable. IoT solutions like this one from Spiro Control can connect and manage elements in a production environment, giving valuable data insights to allow for greater efficiency, less downtime and leaner manufacturing.