Cutting Ties – Anvil’s Work with Wireless Industrial Networks
A network of several hundred Wireless Access Points – connected by tens of thousands of feet of fiber optic cable – has now been successfully installed across a handful of refinery locations, completely revolutionizing the infrastructure of many of our client’s facilities.
“Clients wanted to stay on the cutting edge of technology, as well as utilize currently available devices and software,” Brandon Crane, Workgroup Lead for Control Systems, says.
Wireless infrastructure drastically increases digital visibility within facilities and many clients are adopting it for the operational flexibility and cost savings it provides. By integrating wireless technologies with existing wired networks to create a comprehensive, open-standard network, this technology is commonly adopted to improve workforce productivity and plant elasticity. These networks are often automated and are capable of self-organizing the data they collect, providing plant workers with comprehensive information at the touch of a finger.
“These projects also helped the technology manufacturer troubleshoot their design and products,” Brandon adds, indicating just how new this technology is across our industry.
“Industrial wireless networks are relatively new to most of our clients,” Ben Taylor, Resource Manager for Control Systems, affirms.
While the utilization of wireless access points has optimized the operations of our client’s facilities, it has also ensured competitive relevance.
“These clients sought a competitive advantage, and this technology ensures relevance into the future,” Brandon affirms. “Air-blown fiber optic infrastructure was also new to one of the sites and will provide years of useful network expansion capabilities for the client.”
Despite the challenges of adopting this new technology to an operating environment, these projects have come to be under-budget and on-schedule. The design of the network has also been improved over time.
Fiber optic Tube Distribution Units (TDU’s) mounted in front of an analyzer shack. These are used to tie tubes from one run to another to route fiber through the refinery.
“As new technology has become available, improvements have been made to the design,” Brandon says. “New access points, updated switches, more efficient fiber – they have all been updated. Anvil has also provided many optimization points during the early phases of these projects, including easier installation practices, and cutting scope where it may not have been a good use of money.”
Early in the development of these projects, the overall security of these wireless networks was an initial concern for our clients and team alike. However, these concerns were quickly addressed as the technology continued to be successful among early adopters.
“Security concerns for such networks have long been the major hurdle,” Ben explains, “but as wireless security has been proven over time, these networks are becoming more appealing – mostly for the potential cost savings over traditional hard-wired systems that can require thousands of feet of cable, conduit, and tray.”
As an organization of innovators, we look forward to implementing this new and exciting technology across further locations.