There might still be some debate on how and when WirelessHART devices should be used for process control applications, but its use for monitoring applications is now widely accepted. So, it should be no surprise that the range of equipment condition and performance monitoring devices has grown dramatically over the last few years. Users who understand the value these devices bring are looking for creative ways to use them in all sorts of applications throughout their facilities.
If you’re looking for some useful suggestions, take a look at Brian Joe’s article in Chemical Processing July 2018: Combine Wireless with Analytics to Improve Efficiency. He shines some light on an area of chemical processing plants which doesn’t get as much attention as it should.
Most plants consist of a collection of process units, many custom designed for the particular service, with supporting subsystems, often purchased as modules or skids. Here, let’s focus on such subsystems. In many instances, they are left out of an evaluation entirely or considered secondarily. However, these subsystems frequently provide significant opportunities.
Brian divides subsystems into two classes for purposes of his analysis. Active systems have some degree of built-in automation, while passive systems have to be controlled and monitored externally. It might be reasonable to expect an active skid to do some of its own monitoring, but such isn’t necessarily the case.
Quite possibly neither the DCS nor the plant’s maintenance department gets any substantial amount of diagnostic data from the skid. Presumably, the skid, at a minimum, does send an alarm to the control room if it can’t do its job because a pump has failed or one of the chemicals has become depleted. That may be the extent of its condition monitoring and reporting capabilities, though. Some skid builders can build in more-sophisticated monitoring capable of sending more-granular information, such as the level of the chemical containers, the condition of the pumps and so forth. However, this adds expense and usually won’t be done unless the customer specifically requests such capability.
So while passive systems always need some degree of external monitoring, don’t be surprised when active systems need help, even if they seem highly sophisticated.
In both situations, getting the kind of detail necessary to make useful evaluations will require adding instrumentation if more data are needed, and then analyzing the data from existing and new instruments to create actionable information.
Brian takes a deeper dive into a couple of examples, so read the whole article to get lots of pointers. In some cases, it may be possible to find ways to get more from the instrumentation already installed, but most of the time it will be necessary to add instrumentation, and WirelessHART makes this much easier. Of course, as Brian points out, data needs analysis, and there are new mechanisms to handle that part of the process, with Plantweb Insight apps a prime example. These apps borrow ideas from smartphone apps to make analysis intuitive and easy to set up.
Apps like these are dedicated to a specific type of plant asset or subsystem and perform the appropriate analytics for that equipment. So, for example, an app to monitor the health of steam traps using data from acoustic monitors differs markedly from one designed for watching multiple functions on a motor/centrifugal pump skid. A user might not realize the extent of the difference because the dashboards can have a very similar look and feel, even though the internal functions have little commonality.
New WirelessHART monitoring devices work hand-in-hand with Plantweb Insight analysis apps to close the loop and create user value. You can find more information like this and meet with other people looking at the same kinds of situations in the Emerson Exchange365 community. It’s a place where you can communicate and exchange information with experts and peers in all sorts of industries around the world. Look for the Wireless Group and other specialty areas for suggestions and answers.
Posted by Deanna Johnson, Director Integrated Marketing Communications for Machine Automation Solutions
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