STAYING COMPETITIVE in any industry, particularly the gases business, is a constant challenge as costs increase and companies look for ways to do more with less.

It’s not uncommon today to assign one person the responsibilities that two or more people had previously, which translates into the reality that this person must be able to gather information more quickly and efficiently.

In many instances, tools and methods used in the past are no longer effective. Fortunately, advancements in technology can offer assistance to those wanting to be ahead of the curve.

One of the areas that technology helps with today is process control, which has many layers and can be many things.

This could involve changing run-time parameters, monitoring operations, or scheduling maintenance or replenishment of materials.

Remote monitoring, of course, is nothing new.

Early monitoring was limited to systems that communicated over dedicated wires. Though many such systems are still in existence, there are some limitations to them. Some require specialised hardware, and the distance from a process to the monitoring point is limited.

There are more choices available today, with technology that allows for placing higher levels of intelligence into products at affordable prices.

The design and configuration of the electronics necessary will vary, depending on whether RF, Cellular, or Internet is selected as the means for transporting the information.

Manufacturers of gas pressure and flow control equipment looking for ways to improve monitoring capabilities now offer devices in which their equipment utilises the new technology. In some cases, these companies embed intelligence into their product so they need only plug it in.

A case in point is an internal web server that contains the intelligence to access the gas process it is designed for, and the software to display such data through the Internet and onto a PC.

The intelligence resides in the web server device, not on the PC and therefore no special software is required to talk to the device – it can be simultaneously accessed from a number of different locations.

What do people do with the information
they receive?

Some gas processes are capable of running unattended and only need to communicate when they have a problem or when material needs to be replenished.

Viewing a process remotely using a web server eliminates the need for a person to physically inspect the process, saving both time and resources.

An example of such remote monitoring using a web server, is the process or using a gas changeover system – a system which generally supplies two or more independent sources of gas to a process.

When the gas from one of the sources is depleted, a changeover switches to one of the other gas sources so that gas to the process is not interrupted.

Most systems generate an alarm condition when this occurs, that is visible on the switchover itself. Viewing the switchover status through the web server eliminates the need to observe the condition physically.

Additionally, remote monitoring through a web server offers several choices for notification about gas supply. Direct notification via the web server status screen on a user’s monitor is one way. Another is automatic e-mail notification.

Choices in e-mail allow selection of specific conditions for notification, while optimum use of this feature is vendor notification to replenish the depleted gas, resulting in faster response time and avoiding downtime.

Additionally, remote monitoring enables the on-site serviceman to use input from other outside resources.

The Internet has linked us all together in ways we never conceived even five years ago.

Information of all kinds is now at our fingertips – connecting processes to the Internet through web servers is merely the next logical step.