Beyond security: Using video for process control

While video helps with plant security, it can also support critical process controls

Sometimes a technology becomes "type cast" in industrial environments, suggesting that it can only be used for specific purposes. Industrial video is one example, generally considered useful for industrial surveillance, but it has many capabilities to assist in actual process control applications when used creatively.

Nitta Gelatin USA Inc. has taken advantage of the newest video camera and control technology to improve its processing and quality control procedures. The video control system, which resides on dedicated workstations, allows remote monitoring of manufacturing processes and viewing of alarm-activated live video, in addition to traditional video surveillance of the facility's periphery. The networked system can be controlled and monitored from a command center in the facility or even from the company's regional headquarters in Canada.

In traditional video process monitoring applications, camera images are provided to image processing software which compares images to pre-defined parameters. If there is an aberration in the data or tolerances are not within prescribed specifications, the software program normally alerts an operator or may even shut down the production line.

The procedure in place at the Nitta plant in Fayetteville, NC, goes beyond typical deployments in terms of its functionality. Most significantly, the cameras deployed are not board-type or typical industrial cameras commonly used in process monitoring applications. They are IP-based Panasonic i-Pro video surveillance cameras. The images can be viewed by management in real time while simultaneously being routed to the process automation software application. When an alarm mode on the camera is activated due to any process aberrations, the camera control software automatically "pushes" video to the control room over the network.

The system was designed and installed by Cross Automation of Belmont, NC, a Panasonic Security Systems authorized dealer with support from CBX Electronics, Altamonte Springs, FL. The design was based on the customer's request to be able to view and monitor live images both locally and from the company's headquarters in Toronto, Canada. Mike Godsey, technology manager, e-data solutions at Cross Automation, explains that the parameters of their initial request were not so unusual but finding the right camera and control package was more of a challenge.

"Nitta headquarters asked us to install a few different cameras that they had been evaluating for the project, but none of them proved to be adequate for the job," observes Godsey. "Either the picture quality was not there or the feature set was not sufficient or the price was just too prohibitive. We proposed testing Panasonic i-Pro video surveillance cameras, and they turned out to be just what the customer needed.

"There are a lot of critical areas to monitor within the plant. The majority of control processes are centralized in one control room, and senior level operators need to see everything that's going on in the facility in order to keep the manufacturing process running efficiently. The i-Pro cameras exceeded their requirements in terms of quality, performance and price."

Godsey further explained that in addition to a camera, the project design also required a camera control package that would automatically push video to the control room for live monitoring if an alarm was activated, whether from a process monitoring camera or from a surveillance camera. They selected Panasonic's WV-ASM100 management and control software because it accommodates alarm-based push video and its intuitive operation.

"One of the most critical features of the system is its ability to isolate alarms and bring up a dedicated view of the problem while everything else is going on," adds Godsey. "The alarm notification feature in the WV-ASM100 software provides this capability, which is an absolute requirement for this application."

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