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3M Facility Reduces Costs, Improves Reliability with Plantweb Technologies

Helicopter view of a plant.A 3M manufacturing facility in Alabama is realizing significant energy cost savings and improving the reliability of its pumps and steam traps after implementing innovative wireless technologies that continuously monitor asset health and provide plant personnel with critical information to prevent shutdowns. By implementing these technologies at its Decatur facility, 3M is overcoming operational challenges and reducing manual rounds, having already saved over $100,000 in excessive energy costs through real-time monitoring of its steam traps. 


As part of a larger initiative to reduce energy costs and improve reliability in its Decatur chemical manufacturing plant at its Decatur site, 3M implemented two innovative monitoring solutions: PlantwebTM Insight for steam traps and PlantwebTM Insight for pumps. Using these applications, which collect and analyze asset data using pre-engineered algorithms, plant personnel can remotely monitor the health of key assets in real time, identifying known issues and receiving alerts that help them prevent bigger problems before they happen. Both applications are part of Emerson’s PlantwebTM digital ecosystem. 


In addition to their powerful monitoring capabilities, these wireless technologies are scalable, nonintrusive and can be installed without disrupting a manufacturing process, says John Hillencamp, senior sales engineer at Emerson. This enables manufacturers to easily integrate these solutions with existing wireless infrastructures and cost-effectively expand measurement points as they realize a return on investment. 


Tasked with achieving more efficient energy usage, 3M utilized the monitoring technologies for its steam traps. Steam traps are one of the most overlooked parts of any steam system, Hillencamp says, noting that even in a healthy plant, 20 percent of steam traps are typically failing at any given time. This represents a significant a source of energy waste – and drives up operational costs, he adds. Despite their high failure rate, steam traps often go unchecked due to inconsistent and infrequent manual audits. In fact, Hillencamp notes, most traps are only visually checked every 1-3 years during manual routes. This leaves operators blind to any issues that may have developed. 


Given the potential impact of a steam trap failure, personnel at the 3M Decatur facility sought enhanced insight into their steam trap operations. Using Plantweb Insight for steam traps on five problematic steam traps located in the facility’s boiler house, 3M personnel experienced nearly instantaneous results. The application immediately alerted them to four failed traps, which represented a possible $100,000 in energy costs if not repaired. 3M is now in the process of expanding its steam trap monitoring to 85 more traps, and other 3M sites are in the process of implementing similar monitoring using Plantweb Insight for steam traps. 


In addition to paying closer attention to their steam traps, personnel at the 3M facility also have begun monitoring their pumps – another class of assets with the potential to bring production to halt or cause safety incidents if failures occur. And with pumps, failures can occur in many ways, including seal failures, strainer plugging, vibration and cavitation, Hillencamp explains. As with steam traps, the majority of essential pumps at most plants are manually monitored, meaning maintenance takes place infrequently – or only after a problem has impacted operations. With Plantweb Insight for pumps, that’s not the case. 


By using the application for two chiller water pumps in their facility, 3M personnel are now receiving reliable, consistent and holistic data on the health of these pumps, in real time. These continuous measurements are eliminating the need for manual rounds while enabling personnel to remotely view the condition of the pumps on an intuitive dashboard. 


The health reports generated by the application enable personnel to quickly identify any pumps that are in a warning state or critical condition so that they can take corrective action. What’s more, using the data, 3M personnel can improve maintenance schedules by implementing preventative strategies to avoid pump failures, altogether. And because the technology is scalable, 3M was able to implement a phased approach to its pump monitoring – beginning with vibration and then extending to flow before, ultimately, incorporating discharge pressure, suction pressure and strainer monitoring.

Learn how Plantweb Insight can deliver fast ROI: