Monitor Machines for Healthy Assets

Jan. 1, 2006
New techniques and technologies for monitoring assets,& for using the information, show large financial returns.

“My project has reduced downtime from 18 percent to 4 percent, increased production by more than 10 percent and reduced waste sent to the landfill by a factor of five times.”

Wouldn’t it be great to go to a management meeting and be able to cite just one of those metrics? Kim Murphy, technical manager at the Midland, Mich., Cabot Corp. plant was able to say that and more after his asset management project was up and running.

Cabot is a manufacturer of fine chemical particles, dispersions and compounds. This plant produces hydrophilic fumed silica (SiO2). This is a severe, corrosive manufacturing environment that is hard on process instrumentation.

According to Murphy, the asset management solution that provided those business benefits was the result of an evolution of the control system during the construction and commissioning of the plant. The plant was built and completed in 1999, and was going through commissioning when he arrived in 2000. A local business partner of Austin, Texas-based Emerson Process Management was doing the instrumentation and control system checkouts.

Says Murphy, “They came in and said we can be faster and more efficient if we install the Asset Management Suite (AMS) from Emerson. It sounded like a good idea, so we approved it. They built a database as they went, so when they turned the plant over for operation, we had a working asset management system. We found out that it was very good at telling us about the health and status of our instruments, especially with multivariable transmitters.”

Baseline signatures obtained on all valves help locate problems that could not be found with traditional troubleshooting methods. As a result, “bad” valves are identified before they can affect process performance, and equally important, valves with no apparent problems are spared expensive teardowns during scheduled outages.

Additional advantages include the ability to update device configurations and troubleshoot those devices from the warmth and comfort of the operator control room, notes Murphy, rather than climbing up to the instrument in often inclement weather to perform those duties. Further, when the technician does go out to check the instrument or valve, he already has an idea about the problem and can be prepared to fix it in one trip. This is valuable, because the plant has only one full-time instrumentation technician.

“We just use one little part of the total Asset Management product,” Murphy points out. “I worked with the instrumentation techs to find out everything this suite could do, and we’ve gradually begun to use more. Because we’re a small staff, we get inundated with ‘firefighting’ and can’t implement all the tools. When we were in training, we talked with others about what they were doing with their systems. And we’ve seen presentations at the Emerson Users Conference. So as we get time, we think we can gain even more benefits by implementing more of the features.”

Big savings

Another company that found a way to accrue many business benefits through application of an asset management program is the Vitamin E Production Unit of Cargill Health and Food Technologies, in Eddyville, Iowa. The plant realized a 20 percent reduction on scrubber load, and documented hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings over four years through decreased process variability and improved reliability.

States Wade Howarth, automation manager, “It was not that we had a problem. We were looking for something preventative to manage our instrumentation assets. We considered a few vendors for this and essentially rated each solution on a number of criteria, such as cost of implementation (additional infrastructure) and online functionality, as well as interfacing with calibration devices. Emerson’s AMS appeared to be the leader in these categories at the time of the decision. The decision was made at a local plant automation level. The plant already had the resources to manage the required infrastructure locally.”

During the first years of plant operation in the late 1990s, schedule-based preventive maintenance was supported by reactive maintenance. Nothing was done to seek out potential problems, and when a piece of production equipment failed, it was repaired as quickly as possible to prevent further downtime. However, preventive maintenance costs were excessive, and too many unexpected stoppages were reducing productivity and costing money.

Emerson’s AMS Suite was installed in 2001 to monitor the performance of the field instrumentation and control valves, and to gather diagnostic data generated by those smart devices. The plant’s asset manager now relies on this information to predict maintenance needs and reduce or eliminate maintenance on plant assets not requiring attention. He also closely monitors the health and status of 30 critical control points identified as essential to the safety and quality of the Vitamin E product.

By continuously checking on these critical points for baseline and calibration certification using procedures traceable through the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the plant has been able to change a quality control procedure from fully analytical to a process instrumentation-based system. “The reduction of in-process testing saved us enormous amounts in analytical testing time and dollars,” according to Howarth.

Many potentially serious problems are simply avoided because the asset manager systematically checks every instrument on the network every day, looking for warning signs that indicate an impending failure. When he catches a transmitter before it gets too far out of calibration or expires, he is helping to maintain the reliability of the production system. Unexpected plant shutdowns are avoided, along with the substantial costs associated with lost production.

Adds Howarth, “We grew the installation from a small system to more than 2,000 devices currently. Critical to success was to have a dedicated resource to manage the system. Simply purchasing a software package will not drive results, but integrating it into your daily work processes is what creates the results.”

Sometimes it is easier to give an example of something than to define it. That can appear to be the case with asset management. Often, what one person refers to as an asset is different from another’s interpretation.

Peter Martin, a vice president at Invensys Process Management, in Foxboro, Mass., says, “Discussions with teams of managers, engineers, operators and maintenance personnel in a number of industrial operations made it very clear that the semantics associated with plant assets and the management of those assets is not very clear, and that the words used are often not well-defined. This lack of clarity can confuse issues and hide important relationships.”

Martin finds that plant floor personnel often refer to asset management as equipment maintenance, while business managers use the exact same phrase to mean the deployment of any of a broad range of available assets to meet critical business objectives.

Make it broad

He argues for a broad definition of asset management. A definition should encompass all resources, either tangible or intangible used in the production of the products in an industrial plant, including plant equipment, energy, raw materials, products, humans, automation systems, advanced automation software and information systems.

Martin further identifies two groupings of assets—primary and supporting. Primary assets are the basic assets required to produce the plant’s products. These include the raw materials, products and physical equipment, as well as energy. The physical equipment in process manufacturing environments includes the vessels, piping, instruments, valves and pumps, but not the automation equipment.

Supporting assets are those assets that are deployed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the primary assets. The supporting assets include automation systems, information systems and human assets.

“Effective plant asset management must encompass all asset sets,” concludes Martin. “In fact, many supporting assets are significantly underutilized.”

Make data meaningful

Amit Ajmeri, consultant on fieldbus technology and asset management at Yokogawa Corp., in Houston, contends that management requires an asset management system to achieve operational excellence.

“A plant asset management (PAM) system is a must to maximize the capability of field devices and convert data into information,” states Ajmeri. “PAM with additional logic capability can help to convert device diagnostics data into loop or unit diagnostics information. With better availability, throughput and quality of products with reduced maintenance cost will achieve the target of reducing total cost of ownership and achieving operational excellence.”

Ajmeri says that the PAM system must have these capabilities in order to succeed:

• Remote centralized workstation for all plant assets

• Condition-based maintenance

• Time-based and predictive maintenance

• Maintenance alert/alarm management

• Security management and audit trail

• Documentation management

• Interface with other diagnostic tools

• Maintenance history

• Interface with computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and other engineering tools.

“Such complete PAM systems have provided average improvements of 20 percent to 25 percent reduction in downtime and even larger reductions in maintenance expenditures,” says Ajmeri.

Stephen Rahr, vice president, Service Processes, for The ABB Group’s Process Automation Business, in Phoenix, concurs. “In our business, anything inside the customers’ fences related to the production of their products constitutes their assets. Asset management is a method to extract the most value from their assets. Our job is to align with the customers and help them increase output.”

Adds Bruce Reierson, ABB business development manager for asset optimization, “We evaluate all operating assets, including traditional control systems and information technology networks.”

ABB offers a service to assist customers in beginning an asset management system. Asset effectiveness consultants work with customers to perform a business analysis and identify which are the critical assets and which are supporting assets. Then they identify pro-cess bottlenecks. This leads to development of a business case for implementing a thorough asset management process.

Emerson’s Rusty Ekness, marketing director for the AMS Suite, adds, “The biggest challenge is to get people to make effective work processes in order to get the most out of asset management products. Organizations must be willing to make changes.”

Discrete needs

An example of discrete manufacturing asset management yielding benefits can be seen at Nissan North America, which manufactures at its Smyrna, Tenn., and Canton, Miss., plants using Proficy Plant Applications from GE Fanuc Automation, of Charlottesville, Va.

Nissan’s assembly plant in Canton covers 3.5 million square feet, represents an investment of $1.4 billion, and is designed to produce 400,000 vehicles per year at full capacity.

Nissan required just two-and-a-half years to go from conception to production at the Canton plant. By using the “Nissan Production Way,” the plant’s engineers can take advantage of their expertise in sequenced and simultaneous manufacturing. The team uses Proficy Tracker and Cimplicity software from GE Fanuc as the heart of its production management control system (PMCS). The PMCS is a critical component of Nissan’s integrated manufacturing strategy that requires a collaborative effort with the company’s supply chain, providing a foundation for a just-in-time environment.

The system tracks more than 1.2 million input/output (I/O) points, while tracing and routing vehicles and parts through the manufacturing process. It also notifies suppliers when to deliver commodities to production, and provides a Web-based interface for system analysts in the plant. A team from GE Fanuc designed the tightly integrated system. As a result of the system, Nissan has been able to increase line speeds, handle varying model mixes and decrease equipment downtime.

“The most important aspect of the technology is that Nissan can achieve flexible manufacturing,” explains Rich Breuning, automotive marketing manager for GE Fanuc Automation. “The team can constantly change routing rules, refining processes to restore sequence and minimize costs.”

The plant’s PMCS consists of four levels: system, site, cell and floor. The system level comprises the storage area network (SAN), plant-wide system security and policy, system installation management and system development management. The SAN provides a flexible, networked storage infrastructure for 16 PMCS servers at Canton.

The site level is the main interface layer between the Nissan enterprise-wide scheduling and inventory systems, or Business Host, and the Canton manufacturing systems. The site-level automation relays production schedules from the Business Host to the manufacturing systems—keeping the Nissan enterprise and Canton production always in synch.

The Canton cell-level components include production data and process equipment integration, plant-wide production tracking, plant-wide vehicle routing control, a real-time user interface, production equipment data logging, production data aggregation and centralization, and local equipment and process control. These cell components make sure that the plant meets its daily achievement numbers and give production analysts the ability to keep production fluid.

The plant’s floor-level components and peripherals include production data collection, production data error proofing (so-called “Poka Yoke”), inventory system integration, floor console user interfaces, floor equipment data logging, device and equipment installation and integration, and vision system installation and integration. The floor components collect data for warranty, recall, defect and hold management.

Motor management

Todd Stauffer, manager of product marketing for Siemens Energy and Automation, in Spring House, Pa., agrees with the assessment that asset management encompasses all resources, whether tangible or intangible, that are used in production in a plant. “Although some would contend that asset management is limited to valves and transmitters, Siemens extends the scope of devices to motors, pumps or anything used in final control. You can even take it to the equipment level—for example, the performance of heat exchangers.”

What Stauffer considers a “killer app” for asset management is management of a motor control center (MCC). An MCC is a method of collecting a large number of motor control devices such as starters and drives into one large cabinet with a common power source and backplane. In the past, it has been difficult to obtain information from an MCC and port it to a controller. “With Profibus [networking],” states Stauffer, “information can be brought directly into the distributed control system (DCS) via built-in function blocks. So motor control can be added to the operator interface with no more strategy than configuring a PID (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) loop. Users get all the relevant motor information and use it for preventative and predictive maintenance.

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