Lafarge Plasterboard can now monitor critical field instruments remotely from the plant control room following the introduction of FieldKey wireless adapters from ABB. “We would previously have had to physically go to each instrument and pull off the information onto a laptop,” said electrical technician Matthew Pepper. “Now we can interrogate instruments remotely, which is especially helpful where access is an issue.”

Lafarge’s Bristol factory took part in a successful trial of prototype wireless adapters from ABB early last year, and has now followed up with the installation of several commercial FieldKey units. These are used to check the performance of critical instruments, and are moved around the site to monitor any instruments that engineers suspect may be experiencing a problem.

“We’re using the adapters to check that there are no system faults on the instruments, check calibrations and make fine-tuning adjustments,” said Pepper. “We’re not currently looking to use them for process control on our existing production operations but we’ll be considering them in any new installations in future.”

FieldKey adapters are quick and easy to fit to any instruments equipped with 4-20mA HART communications. On the Lafarge site they are used with equipment from at least three different manufacturers. The small adapters have a rotating antenna, enabling them to be fitted into tight spaces if necessary. They also use energy harvesting, taking power from the 4-20mA loop, so they don’t need batteries. With no need for hardwiring to the network, each FieldKey can be installed in under three minutes, eliminating the need for a plant shutdown The FieldKeys transmit the data from the instruments to a Wireless gateway which has an Ethernet port. In the case of Lafarge, the FieldKey adapters are integrated with the company’s existing PACTware asset management system.


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