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By Chemical Engineering |

Asset management means different things to different people, but in the chemical process industries (CPI) it’s all to do with making the most of expensive equipment. Asset management is frequently used as another term for maintenance, especially of the proactive kind where sensors and control systems are used to monitor the health of machinery. However, asset management also covers business processes such as maintenance agreements, and stand-alone tracking and identification systems for keeping tabs on mobile equipment. Reliability and traceability are the keywords here.


Building on fieldbus

Fieldbus technologies, with their ability to collect information on the health of instruments themselves as well as the variables they measure, are blurring the boundaries between asset management and process control. Last year, Emerson (St. Louis, Mo.) extended this functionality to process pumps with the launch of the CSI 9210 Machinery Health Transmitter. This Foundation Fieldbus device monitors the health of motor-driven pumps, which according to one survey make up 60 percent of the 2,500 machines on a typical process plant.

The CSI 9210 transmitter measures vibration, temperature, motor flux, and rotational speed. It then uses built-in intelligence to detect abnormal conditions such as cavitation, bearing degradation, excessive synchronous vibration, motor overload or overheating. If it detects a problem, it issues an alert and recommends any necessary action.

Similar functionality for turbines is provided by Emerson’s CSI 4500 Machinery Health Monitor (photos, above, right), launched last December. This uses a built-in hard disk to store up to 60 hours of continuous data from up to 32 channels, and can simultaneously display five different plots for every bearing in the machine. Users can view turbine status in real time, for instance during startups, and store information from unscheduled trips for later study.

The CSI 9210 transmitter and CSI 4500 Machinery Health Monitor complement other Emerson technologies including AMS Suite, an integrated family of diagnostic software applications for predictive maintenance, performance monitoring and economic optimization. The company’s Flowscanning valve diagnostic services, for instance, are said to detect control valve problems that are missed by traditional diagnostics, while significantly reducing the number of valves that are serviced unnecessarily.

Invensys Process Systems (Foxboro, Mass.) recently introduced a range of asset management solutions based on technology from Invensys companies including Avantis, Foxboro, SimSci-Esscor, Triconex and Wonderware. “In the past, asset availability was the domain of maintenance departments and asset utilization was the domain of operations,” said Mike Caliel, president of Invensys Process Systems. “However, maximum asset value requires a holistic approach that, unfortunately for users, is beyond the ‘comfort zone’ of most automation vendors. Invensys is arguably the only automation vendor that can deliver comprehensive asset performance management solutions that address both availability and utilization.”

An initial family of nine component- and system-level asset performance management solutions, or “monitors”, help users manage the performance of field devices, control loops and mechanical equipment. The pump monitor, for instance, uses diagnostic tools including an advanced method for measuring friction, shock, and dynamic load transfer between moving parts. High-frequency acoustic sensing technology filters out background levels of vibration and audible noise to provide a graphic representation of pump health. The result, says Invensys, is the virtual elimination of unplanned pump-related downtime.

Other monitors in the series cover instruments and control loops, valves, alarm management and safety instrumented systems (SIS). The alarm management monitor, based on Invensys’s previously-introduced alarm management services, improves plant safety and makes operators more productive by providing a set of tools to rationalize alarms, dramatically reduce “nuisance” alarms and virtually eliminate alarm floods. Its intelligent alarming capabilities can direct operators to the root cause of an alarm, helping them respond more quickly and effectively.

For process instruments, Yokogawa Corp. of America (Newnan, Ga.) released version 2.10 of its Plant Resource Manager (PRM) last August. PRM is Yokogawa’s value-added asset management software that integrates and manages maintenance information from field instruments, monitors online conditions, and records historical data. It enables users to remotely access devices that feature field communication capability — such as Foundation Fieldbus- and HART-enabled devices — and manage device parameters centrally.

For field-level management of HART devices, Yokogawa also launched the YHC4100 handheld communicator (photo, p. 17, lower left). The YHC4100 supports all HART devices at the Universal and Common Practice command levels (generic mode) plus over 200 devices at the Device Specific command level, can be updated via the internet, and ships with a free three-year subscription for Device Specific command level updates.


Tracking mobile assets

It’s difficult to make best use of your assets unless you know where they are. As a result, tracking systems based on technologies such as barcodes or radio-frequency identification (RFID), commonly used to identify containers for raw materials, work in progress or finished products, also find use for labeling items of mobile equipment and spare parts.

The Process Equipment Tracking (PET) system from AdvantaPure (Southampton, Pa.) uses RFID to identify and track equipment such as pumps, hoses, diaphragm valves, filters, and UV lamps (photo, above, right). Although it could be used in almost any process, PET is targeted at the pharmaceutical, biotech, food and fine chemical industries, where mobile batch equipment is commonly used and mis-identification carries big risks.

The RFID tags used by PET are safe for use with CIP and sterilization processes. They are attached to equipment items using a choice of methods: molded pouches, silicone fusible tape, lamination, or watchband-style cases. Tags are tracked wirelessly from a handheld reader, and the resulting data uploaded to a networked computer running dedicated lifecycle analysis software.

Compared with traditional logbooks used to track equipment items, PET is faster, more secure and less prone to errors, says the company. Monitoring usage and cleaning cycles helps to ensure timely maintenance or replacement before parts begin to fail, yet means that under-utilized equipment is not needlessly replaced.

Barcodes are less of a novelty than RFID systems, but that doesn’t mean there are no new developments in this field. One example, aimed at rubber compounders but applicable to other processes, is the Lomel labeling system from Paragon Data Systems Inc. (Cleveland, Ohio). This allows bags of low-volume ingredients to be added straight to the batch, without the need to open them first. The trick lies in bags and printable labels made from ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) copolymer film (photo, above, left), which dissolves completely at a temperature of around 165°F without contaminating the rubber. The mixer operator can pick up a bag of pigment or other ingredient, scan its barcode, and place the unopened bag straight into the mixer. The result, says Larry Laurenzi, president of Paragon Data Systems, is less waste and fewer opportunities for error. The company supplies a wide range of scanners and other data collection equipment, including RFID systems.

And for non-mobile assets up to the scale of complete plants, spatial information systems such as those available from Intergraph (Huntsville, Ala.) can play an important part in locating individual equipment items and recording life-cycle information, as well as in plant design. In one recent example, Intergraph signed a five-year, multimillion-dollar alliance with Siemens Power Generation (Erlangen, Germany), which is standardizing worldwide on Intergraph’s SmartPlant Enterprise technology.


Partnerships for maintenance

Of course, not all the monitoring services that are useful in keeping plant and equipment healthy justify the installation of permanent equipment. That’s where specialist instruments and third-party services come in, such as the condition-based maintenance services available from Rockwell Automation (Milwaukee, Wisc.). Last year, Rockwell Automation formed a partnership with specialist service provider Predictive Service Corporation (PSCorp; Cleveland, Ohio) to add infrared thermography to its existing vibration monitoring and oil analysis services.

By non-invasively measuring temperatures and rates of temperature change in equipment such as pumps, motors, bearings, pulleys, fans, gears, drives and conveyors, infrared thermography can highlight problems, predict equipment failure and plan corrective action before costly damage occurs. “While no single condition-monitoring technology can provide a complete picture of an asset’s health, infrared technology is a valuable tool in an organization’s strategy to combat downtime,” said Ralph DeLisio, business manager, Integrated Condition Monitoring, Rockwell Automation.

Other equipment with applications in asset management includes the Environmental Condition Monitor (ECM) from Rohrback Cosasco Systems, Inc. (Santa Fe Springs, Calif.), which detects environmental conditions that may be harmful to sensitive equipment such as electronic instruments. It uses replaceable thin-film sensors to measure the corrosion rates of copper and silver, and to assign these to the relevant ISA environmental classification (G1 through GX), as well as temperature and humidity. Applications include cleanrooms, control rooms, laboratories and general plant use.

Also on the subject of humidity, Dickson Co. (Addison, Ill.) has published a free guide on how to carry out effective temperature and humidity surveys in warehouses and production facilities. The guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to create and maintain effective facility mapping programs, including practical advice on determining critical mapping points and appropriate sampling rates, choosing a datalogger, analyzing the data and acting on the results. Dickson claims to have the world’s largest selection of temperature, humidity and pressure recorders and dataloggers.

The drive towards outsourcing also leads to wide-ranging deals such as the $10-million contract recently won by Honeywell (Morris Township, N.J.) to provide maintenance services to four sites in Algeria operated by state oil company Sonatrach (Algiers, Algeria). The five-year contract follows a similar $60-million deal with Sonatrach downstream subsidiary Naftec (Algiers) in 2004. Honeywell onsite services for control and instrumentation systems include software and hardware maintenance and upgrades as well as asset management.

Other maintenance services are much less ambitious, typically covering the products of a single vendor. Water-powered chemical dosing equipment manufacturer Dosatron (Clearwater, Fla.), for instance, has introduced a simple web-based preventive maintenance reminder service for its customers. Visitors to the company’s website can register all their Dosatron products and select the maintenance options that best suit their needs, after which they will receive a timely reminder whenever a particular device requires service.

Fan manufacturer Robinson Industries, Inc. (Zelienople, Pa.) has launched a new service program designed to keep industrial air-moving equipment up and running. Robinson’s Preventive Service Program is a scheduled maintenance plan that minimizes potential breakdowns and extends the operating life of equipment. The program is designed to identify and forecast potential equipment problems before they happen, reducing the likelihood of emergency equipment repairs and downtime. Robinson field service engineers perform onsite diagnostic inspections to identify potential problems such as wear, corrosion, component damage and material buildup. They recommend repairs and maintenance practices that should help prolong the life of fan equipment. The engineers also survey current spare parts inventory and recommend additional parts to have on hand, such as bearings, spare rotors, shaft seals and consumables.

Charles Butcher


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