Building automation delivers safe, smooth elevator operation
Ethernet switch technology is providing advanced solutions for elevator control, remote monitoring and communications with control centers. Compliance with the IEC 62443-4-2 industrial automation control systems standard will ensure devices will also be secure on the networks of the future.
ELEVATORS HAVE BEEN AROUND in some form or other for over 2000 years, although the modern elevator has only been in use for about 150 years. Due to the huge volume of people who use elevators around the world every day, it is unsurprising that passengers insist on safety precautions and smooth operations for this important mode of transport.
In fact, an industry-leading elevator manufacturer estimates it carries the equivalent of the world′s population in their elevators every five days. So, delivering a safe and smooth elevator experience is the most critical goal in the elevator industry.
Challenges building elevators
Elevators are not just a convenient way to travel between floors but are essential to ensure that buildings function properly. All elevators must be checked onsite, usually twice per year, and ideally maintenance staff would only have to make site visits at the pre-scheduled times. Elevator builders have noted that there are three main pain points that they often experience when performing elevator maintenance.
The first is that there is a shortage of elevator service engineers globally and they often have many elevators to maintain. Therefore, the engineers can′t be onsite all the time and often have to travel long distances to reach their site.
The second problem that elevator builders typically experience is that when an engineer has to make a site visit, they often won′t be aware of what the problem is until they have arrived onsite at the location. This situation typically arises because the necessary infrastructure isn′t in place to support remote monitoring of the components within the elevator. Without this infrastructure, operators in the control room cannot identify what the problem is.
The third problem arises when an engineer arrives at a site and doesn′t have the correct device or tools. Also, most engineers have a mechanical engineering background and aren′t very familiar with networking so may not be equipped to fix the problem that has arisen. When one of these situations arises, another engineer will have to be deployed to go and fix the problem, which would increase the overall downtime.
Ethernet-based smart switch technology is providing solutions for elevator control and remote monitoring. By providing solutions which can be monitored on HMI/SCADA systems, configuration and operation of systems is easy and flexible while also providing reliable communications with building control centers.
Elevator builders′ expectations
When elevators are being retrofitted or newly built for buildings with only a few floors, the key requirement is often to keep downtime to a minimum. Elevator builders frequently note that one of the most successful solutions for minimizing downtime is to deploy components that allow quick problem identification, and the ability to fix the problem with the least amount of effort.
Remote monitoring is a good way to achieve this goal since it allows operators in the control room to quickly identify the root cause of the problem and dispatch personnel to the site. The result is reduced downtime allowing both the elevator builder and the end-user to save time and money.
Another difficulty that frequently arises in the elevator industry is that components often require people with different skills and experience to conduct checks and perform maintenance. As elevator engineers or maintenance staff members typically have mechanical expertise, they are often unaware how to solve networking issues that have arisen. When an engineer is deployed for a site visit, they will often follow an SOP and fix the component based on the SOP, as opposed to utilizing specific training or experience.
Therefore, it is important that SOPs are easy to follow to allow the engineers to complete their tasks as quickly and accurately as possible. Finally, as elevators have long system life cycles, using a flexible network with reliable components is going to ensure that the elevator can still be used for many years to come. For example, as trends such as the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0 continue to be embraced, more companies are undergoing digitization, which allows them to collect more information to analyze and utilize now or in the future.
For most new or modernized low- and mid-rise deployments, there are components available that meet the functional demands of these deployments such as reliability and interoperability that enables asset owners to lower the total cost of ownership.
Elevator builders want components that allow quick problem identification, and to fix the problem effortlessly.
Flexible installation, limited spaces
One of the key features for elevator deployments or retrofits is that components can fit into almost any control cabinet. However, it is not only the size of the control cabinet that restricts the type of component that can be deployed.
Cabinets often have devices installed inside that don′t support flexible mounting. This means that these devices have to be installed in a specific place in the cabinet or extra wiring will be required, which can be challenging to achieve and incurs additional expense. If new components need to be added at a later date, components that support flexible mounting have a much better chance of being able to fit inside the cabinet.
Unified data communication
Another feature that assists elevator operators is to increase interoperability between all of the components that are found within elevators. Furthermore, if the integration of all the components can be automated, and no complicated settings need to be configured, this will ensure smoother operations. If a component supports all of the protocols that are used by all of the different components within the control cabinet, then architects know they can use that component on any new deployments or retrofits. This provides elevator designers with financial benefits.
For example, they now only need to purchase one component for full interoperability, and they can also bulk buy allowing them to enjoy economies of scale. In addition, they don′t need to keep spare stock, which can simplify the stock management as well as reduce the risk that they will purchase a product and not deploy it in the future.
EMI resistance for smooth ride
As almost every control cabinet has a lot of electronic devices, the components must be able to withstand high EMI to ensure smooth, reliable operations.
As the trend of digitization continues, ensuring that each component on a network is secure is going to prove more important in order to prevent against cyberattacks. As an example, compliance with the IEC 62443-4-2 industrial automation and control systems standard will help future proof the components by ensuring that the devices are going to be secure on the networks of the future.
The elevator market is truly global. With each deployment, engineers must consider different factors and overcome different challenges, but they are also presented with many opportunities to enhance efficiency.
For most elevator retrofits, or new buildings with only a few floors, interoperability and features that minimize downtime are two of the most important factors. In addition, deploying components that simplify processes for those who may have limited experience working with the components are going to ensure that elevators remain operational as close to 24/7, 365 days of the year as possible.
In the trend of digitization, Ethernet switches are the dispensable key components for elevator control. New smart switch technology can be monitored on HMI/SCADA systems, while keeping the configuration and operation easy and flexible.
Application story by Moxa.