01 October 2002
Achieving maintenance nirvana
Online distributed protection and monitoring take asset management to a new level
By Rick Schiltz
A lean workforce, tight profit margins, and increased competitive pressures have process manufacturers seeking new ways to produce more goods at higher quality and lower costs. Many companies are turning to asset management and predictive maintenance as a core business strategy for boosting equipment performance and improving productivity.
In the process industry, downtime can quickly erode profitability at an alarming rate-upward of $100,000 an hour in some applications. According to a 2001 ARC Advisory Group study, companies in nearly every process industry are increasingly relying on integrated condition monitoring strategies to improve process efficiency, reduce downtime, and enhance return on assets.
These companies recognize that equipment maintenance is quickly evolving beyond simple routine, preventive activities into a proactive strategy of asset optimization. This means knowing and achieving the full potential of plant floor equipment and performing maintenance only when it is warranted and at a time that minimizes the impact on the overall operation.
To achieve this "maintenance nirvana," companies need to be able to gather and distribute data across the enterprise in real time from all process systems, including maintenance.
IN PAST, TECHNOLOGY LIMITED
Until recently, the majority of condition monitoring was performed on a walkaround or ad hoc basis. In the past, companies couldn't justify the cost or lacked the sophisticated technology needed to efficiently gather critical machine operating data. Typically, this high level of protection was reserved for a privileged few-those machines deemed most critical to production.
Protection systems that companies did leverage were centrally located in a control room and operated independently from the control system. This required extensive wiring to the machines and used up valuable plant floor real estate. In addition, many systems were proprietary, so they did not easily integrate with existing operator interfaces or factory networks.
|Traditional centralized rack solution|
This approach not only was costly to implement and difficult to troubleshoot but also gave plant managers a limited view of overall equipment availability and performance (as shown above).
After years of capital equipment investments and plant optimization, many manufacturers can't afford major investments in new technology and are looking to supplement existing equipment and processes as a way to bolster their predictive maintenance efforts.
Today, new intelligent devices and standard communication networks are opening up access to process data from every corner of the plant. By leveraging existing networks to gather information, new distributed protection and condition monitoring solutions are providing manufacturers with never-before-imagined opportunities to monitor and protect the health of their plant assets.
This includes monitoring critical machinery in real time, as well as implementing corrective actions before a condition damages equipment.
EMBRACING MAINTENANCE'S FUTURE
In 2001, ARC Advisory Group forecast the future of asset management lies in developing a modular asset management solution that monitors different classes of assets and can expand as a company's needs grow. System modularity helps minimize obsolescence and capital outlay.
Open communication is key to maximizing asset management technology. While condition monitoring equipment suppliers are now providing products that communicate using open communication protocols, this has not historically been the case for condition monitoring and asset management solutions.
Developing industry standards by groups such as the OPC Foundation and the Machinery Information Management Open Systems Alliance, or MIMOSA, is giving maintenance, repairs, and operations applications open access to condition monitoring, diagnostic, and asset management information from intelligent instruments and control systems.
With these advancements, the elements are in place to enable greater access to machine data, resulting in more informed, more accurate decision making. As manufacturers look to more closely integrate real-time maintenance of all their plant assets, these open networks and software will play an ever-increasing role in connecting the disparate pieces of equipment found throughout a plant.
Fueled by market demand, technological advancements have led to a new approach to condition monitoring: online distributed protection and monitoring. Building on the principles of distributed I/O and integrated control, distributed protection and monitoring systems replace large, centralized control panels with smaller control systems and put them closer to the process and machinery being monitored.
|Distributed protection and monitoring architecture|
By using a facility's existing networking infrastructure, online distributed protection and monitoring requires significantly less wiring than traditional rack-based protection systems. Inherent in online distributed protection and monitoring systems is the scalability of the architecture. As shown at left, using more modular components manufacturers are able to connect more than one device to a wire and add machinery into the system as needed.
Because data analysis no longer occurs in a central control room, maintenance personnel can quickly view important trend information, such as vibration and lubrication analysis, directly from the operator's consoles or portable human-machine interface devices.
The information gathered allows operators to identify developing faults in the equipment and correct them before production is impacted or safety compromised. These systems also protect critical equipment by providing alarm status data in real time to master relays that shut down the equipment when necessary to prevent catastrophic damage.
Distributed protection and monitoring modules can also connect with condition monitoring software, such as Emonitor Odyssey/Enshare from Rockwell Automation. This allows storage of all online and surveillance data in a common database and lets users share it across enterprise asset management systems, as well as corporate and global information networks.
For a more detailed data analysis, online distributed protection and monitoring systems can transfer data to internal or third-party condition monitoring specialists via Ethernet or a company's wide-area network. For companies with limited capital and human resources, outsourcing this task offers a cost-effective option.
In addition, this type of remote monitoring transitions on-site maintenance engineers from a reactive to a preventive mode, freeing them to focus their attention on optimizing the manufacturing process rather than troubleshooting problems.
Unplanned downtime need not cost companies millions of dollars each year. The technology exists today to cost-effectively embrace a proactive strategy of predictive maintenance and asset optimization.
Progressive companies realize that capturing, analyzing, and effectively using machine condition information provides them with a strategic and competitive advantage, allowing them to maximize return on investment-and making maintenance nirvana a reality. IC
Behind the byline
Rick Schiltz, P.E., is vice president, capabilities and engineering, for Rockwell Automation's Integrated Condition Monitoring Solutions business in Milford, Ohio. Based in the Cincinnati area, he is responsible for all product development and launch initiatives for the business unit. You can reach him at (513) 576-6151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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