As we have discussed in past posts, valves are everywhere and are used in almost every industry. Having long maintained a major presence in homes, factories, and other industrial workplaces, valves will soon feel the influence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the adoption of smart manufacturing, something that could drastically change their usage in the next decade or so.
The Internet of Things (IoT) connects hundreds of millions of sensors (things) that can detect and manage pressure, level, flow, temperature, vibration, acoustics, and position for equipment operated in the industrial sector. Smart manufacturing makes use of these devices connected to the IoT to create fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet challenging demands.
From its potential to enhance significantly the efficiency of industrial practices, the widespread adoption of smart manufacturing has been given the powerful title of The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). In terms of valves, this means a connection with automatic valves and the IoT, so that they can be appropriately monitored and even controlled to manage the flow of liquids and gases in different piping systems.
As we are, as some believe, in the early stage of Industry 4.0, we should be seeing evidence of this already. In truth, some of the technology has been around for a while in some capacity. As we discussed in our post on valves and fittings in the nuclear industry, there are sensors that detect the status of valves in nuclear power plants, such as that for a pilot-operated relief valve. In the events of the Three Mile Island Accident, this type of valve was detected as closed, leading to the catastrophe.
According to a survey taken by dozens of industrial leaders, the single most important technological factor for future competitiveness is predictive data. As indicated in the report, analytics will become the critical factor essential to growth throughout the next decade, throughout which the number of devices connected to the IoT could jump from 5 billion to 25 billion. As data grows in importance for many industrial practices, it will become instrumental for the manufacturers of the different materials and equipment.
Valve manufacturers will likely have to embrace the importance of data and access to the real-time knowledge that comes from connection to the IoT. For example, not only can smart manufacturing sensors detect when there is an issue with the closure of a valve, they can prevent the problem from happening at all by identifying its root causes before they can evolve into a hazard or deficiency. In the case of a nuclear power plant, a smarter valve can prevent accidents long before any threats are posed onto the plant and its personnel.
However, this does not necessarily mean that the actual quality of the valves and the materials that comprise them will become insignificant. In fact, the survey also indicates that the production and quality of variety of metals and other materials are due to advance during the same period as more sensors are installed. Smart manufacturing will build off this improvement in quality and durability to enhance the usage of the valves and their performance.
Standards for valves used in many different industries are written and published by the Manufacturers Standardization Society (MSS) of the Valve and Fittings Industry, an ANSI-accredited standards-developing organization.
If you’d like to learn more about smart manufacturing and the related Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0), please read our past post: Smart Manufacturing – The Fourth Industrial Revolution?