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Valve World Expo 2016: Intelligent Factory

Digitalization is seizing hold of companies and is revolutionizing them. But this is just the beginning – its full potential will unfold in the Industry 4.0, the next and fourth industrial revolution. As a consequence, valves are increasingly fitted with digital actuators, providing users with increases in sales, higher efficiencies and savings. The pressure on valve, actuator and automation manufacturers to become part of the vision of an intelligent factory is growing.


Mechanics and electrics alone won’t be enough for companies to stay competitive in the long run. Intensive collection and analysis of data using data-centric services, IT solutions and software alone make further optimization of productivity possible. Those able to offer the industry components with added digital value can be more competitive.

Improving efficiency, saving costs
Digitalization offers a great outlook: according to a study by “PricewaterCoopers” and “Strategy&”, German companies see an average annual growth of 2.5 per cent due to digitalization and networking of their product and service portfolios. Furthermore, the 235 companies participating in the study see their efficiency improved by an average of 3.3 per cent annually and cost savings of 2.6 per cent. By 2020, the study claims that over 80 per cent of the value chain will show a high degree of digitalization.

Siemens also sees digitalization as a decisive lever for growth in the industry. It promises higher levels of productivity, efficiency and flexibility. A company’s entire value chain needs to be mapped digitally. Siemens has therefore made digitalization one of its key issues for the future. Valve, drive and automation manufacturers are also prioritizing data collection and analysis for their products. Digitalization here means remote control, automated processes and diagnostics.

Intelligent and digital actuators
The intelligent and digital actuator on the mechanical valve creates the digital know-how. “Here, electronic controls as well as integrated sensors play the main role”, explains Marcus Geigle, Senior Executive Strategic Business Unit Compression Technology at Hoerbiger Ventilwerke. During operation, position and torque of the drive are measured, as well as temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. “So-called value landscapes can be created hereby. Based on values, individual valves or a group of valves can be controlled, serviced or corrected – on site or through remote access”.

At Hoerbiger data is processed either in the service control center or the operations center inside or outside of the plant. One example of direct data handling at a valve is the security-related function of the smart partial stroke test, which the company has implemented in its “Trivax” product. “Next to the mechanical moveability, the torque can for example also be measured, allowing to check moveability of the valve. A classic application for an automated and digitalized valve drive,” states Marcus Geigle.

Exchanging information
The times are over when the position of a pneumatic globe valve could only be seen directly on the indicator. “Digitalization today makes the valve transparent through its electronic actuator, by continuously collecting data and utilizing it by intelligently assessing it,” emphasizes Peter Arzbach, Director of Product Management and Marketing at Samson AG. This makes it possible to evaluate data, allowing an analytic view of the valve. “In the future the data will be increasingly summarized with data from the environment. More detailed statements can be made, going beyond the simple assessment of the actual state of a valve, which in the end can be used to increase plant availability”.

User expectations for valves already are high. “On the one hand valves need to transmit information to the overall system,” explains Peter Arzbach. On the other hand, they must also be able to receive information from the system, as well as collect information themselves, in order “to create an added value”.

Digitalization of control valves
The digitalization of pneumatic valves is already under way, preparing the ground for the industry 4.0. However, there still is potential: “in the case of shut-off valves it will take a while until the current high level of digitalization of control valves has been reached,” believes Samson’s Peter Arzbach. They are still mostly being fitted classically, with magnetic valves and/ or limit switches.

In summary, the outlook is very good for manufacturers of valves with digital components. “Due to the continuing digitalization we hope for a clear rise in demand for what we offer, for efficient electrohydraulic valve drives,” explains Macus Geigle, from Hoerbiger. “Anyone who today wants to equip process plants, power plants or pipelines with advanced automated valves, will certainly increasingly opt for digitalized actuators”.

There hardly seem to be any limits for the switch to digital solutions. Compact electrohydraulic drives with a maximum of digitalization and an extremely wide area of application allow digitalization of nearly all applications. “The only prerequisite is a source of electricity,” states Marcus Geigle. “This can be achieved reliably through solar panels and battery boxes even in the furthest regions, such as sand or ice deserts and the open steppe. There is hardly any limit for the usage of actuators for digitalized valve automation”.

Hardly limits for digitalization
From a technical point of view there probably won’t be any challenges that can’t be solved with appropriate effort. “The limit as such lies in how companies accept it,” stresses Peter Arzbach. What data should be made transparent? Is the data safe enough? The companies need to answer these questions for themselves, “should they want to use digitalization it its fullest.”

The use – and the outlook – of digitalization is huge. It “allows control of valves around the clock,” explains Peter Arzbach. Directly measurable values such as set point, actual position and actuator pressure are continuously monitored and in future will be complemented with further data, such as the flow rate. The positioner can indicate possible faults in the valve to users. Messages such as “inner leakage” or “defect actuator spring” require no further interpretation by the user.

Together with the valve diagnostics integrated in a positioner, digitalization is able to increase plant availability, as possible faults can be discovered and repaired at an early stage. Peter Arzbach: “It is a future goal, to entirely avoid faults, which can be realized by approaches such as proactive maintenance management. Relevant information and assessment of a valve as an actor in a plant is here not only absolutely necessary, but also a substantial competitive advantage”.

The intelligent factory
Digitalization enables fast, targeted and open communication with automated valves and opens this node in the pipeline system for industry 4.0, i.e. for the intelligent factory. Marcus Geigle: “The digitalization of valve automation will therefore continue to progress. It is a prerequisite for the industry 4.0 and for intelligent and networked systems, which can be predefined to control and optimize themselves to a certain point”.
The real and virtual worlds are growing together – or with other words: information and communications technologies are merging together with industrial processes. This is reason enough for Siemens to intensively devote itself to industry 4.0. It is a development which leads towards digitalization being the decisive driver of growth in nearly all sectors of industry. “The digital factory isn’t a vision any longer,” comments Anton S. Huber, CEO of Siemens Digital Factory business.

Trend to individualized products
The industry 4.0 will allow to companies to meet the trend towards individualized products and increasingly short product life cycles. “The small lot sizes and increased variant diversity require technologies which can continuously adapt to changing requirements,” reports Festo. In the future, components in industrial plants therefore need to be able to coordinate themselves. Intelligent components will automatically organize and configure themselves. They will determine themselves what they require from a plant. This leads to an autonomous decision-making and control on site. As Festo states, what was once a fixed, centralized plant control will become a decentralized operation. This would for instance allow components to react independently to a critical situation.

The future has arrived
The basis for industry 4.0 is the exchange of data and information in real-time. Without digitalization, this would be impossible. The development of industry 4.0 and the resulting applications and automation demand a consistent integration into the digital realm. The future for modern valves has begun long ago…

Valve World Expo 2016 in Düsseldorf
At Valve World Expo, 10th Biennial Valve World Conference & Exhibition, exhibitors will showcase the latest machinery and equipment for the valve sector, including valves, valve components and parts, actuators and positioners as well as pumps, compressors, engineering services and software. The concurrently held Valve World Conference will feature workshops and specialist presentations on valve and fittings related topics as well as new trends and designs. The event will take place from November 29 – December 1, 2016 at the fairgrounds in Düsseldorf, Germany.