December 2008

Web Exclusive

Straight to the point

Tracking, reporting instrument and control data saves time, money

Fast forward

  • Workers must access, manage, and report on instrument and control data.
  • Access to quality data contributes to safe working conditions.
  • New application allows for shared information across systems.
By Jody Damron and Laura Somak

In order to manage plant operations in a safe, cost-effective, and productive manner, a key factor is to ensure plant personnel are able to access, manage, and report on instrument and control (I&C) data.

This requires an environment where appropriate software tools, processes, standards, and governance measures are in place to help enable effective plant operations. Access to quality data with a user-friendly system that facilitates recording, maintaining, and standardizing data helps contribute to: safe working conditions, minimized plant equipment down time (planned and unplanned), extended equipment life, and fulfilled power demand.

The Power Generation Instrument & Control Application (PGIC) is currently in production saving time and money for Salt River Project. It is a suite of applications to include a shared integration of the Instrument Index, Distributed Control System, Circuit and Raceway Schedules, Line Book, document management system, and asset management software. Together, this data provides users the information needed to research and troubleshoot issues. The application is an invaluable tool for researching and troubleshooting plant related problems in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective manner.

Prior to the development of the application, Salt River Project journeymen had problems accessing quality information (including I&C data, prints and documents, work orders, etc.), which can lead to unsafe and inefficient work conditions. Research could take hours, days, even weeks for certain problems, as data was not always electronic, centralized, secure, up-to-date, or accurate. With the advent of this application, Salt River Project personnel have electronic access to I&C data, allowing them to quickly and safely identify and solve root cause problems resulting in less equipment down time.

In addition, plant personnel are able to easily produce reports for circuit schedules, instruments, loop data, daily maintenance, calibrations, state certifications, and audit schedules. Plant use of this application ensures journeymen can avoid past problems. Personnel will be able to reduce past record keeping problems because they must update the data in the application before anyone can complete plant work. When a worker updates the prints, they become available to the field immediately, increasing safety, and decreasing troubleshooting time. The application provides a foundation to continuously improve upon the quality and availability of I&C data.

Hard copy vanishes

Prior to the development of the Instrument Index section of the PGIC, Salt River Project used hard copy (instrument) index cards. This index card file contained information about every instrument in the plant in numerical order. Approximately 30,000 instruments were on record and kept in 17 large (instrument) index card files. The issue with this method was anyone could modify the critical data recorded on the cards. Workers could also file them out of order, not keep them up to date, or they could simply be missing.

Through the instrument number, the technician's task was to locate enough information (prints, documents, manuals, etc.) to resolve problems and perform research. Instrument technicians had to rely on this catalog of instrument cards as the primary instrument record keeping tool. This proved to be inefficient and time consuming. The data contained in the Instrument Index includes: equipment numbers, special instructions, instrument calibration records, drawing numbers, etc. The application allows for secured documentation to update and be available for use in the field much faster than before. This application also shares information with other databases, such as document management systems and work management systems.

Instruments change

Instrumentation obsolescence due to changing technology is an unavoidable issue. Instruments age and the companies that manufacture them either stop making the instrument, stop making replacement parts for the instrument, stop supporting the instrument, or the companies merge with other companies or simply go out of business. The Instrument Index captures all of the instrument data, such as equipment number, plant location and calibration data, and supporting information, such as manufacturer, serial number, and vendor. One of the reasons for the new application was to allow users to update the information more easily, such as adding special instructions or maintenance procedures.

A time saving feature for users is the link to the asset management software. It is in the application so all work orders and basic data for the selected piece of equipment are visible without having to search for them.

Linking to the asset management software is also a time saving tool that eliminates having to build queries to manually search for work orders in the system. Users have found the Instrument Index application to be very easy to use to find an instrument and its corresponding work orders with the Instrument Index working as a search engine.

Next, the simple vendor information tab displays data used for purchasing new or repairing existing instruments. Workers can add new vendors easily at the click of a button.

Another feature of the Instrument Index is the link provided to drawings and documents in the document management system. In some cases, it was very difficult and occasionally nearly impossible to find a hard copy drawing using document management system alone. Each drawing has a link to the document management system. Upon clicking the link, the document management system login screen launches for the user to sign in. The document management system then opens to the selected drawing number, with all details and the image preview available for view.

The link to the document management system is a factor in safety (making documents readily available to plant personnel) and a time saver. For example, before building the Instrument Index application, Operations called an electrician because a pulverizer did not have a lube oil permissive to start. The electrician with 30 years experience found a drawing he had saved and determined one of eight pressure switches was set up properly and tried to install a temporary jumper in the control cabinet. The jumper did not give the permissive to start so the electrician assumed the pressure switch was not the problem. After struggling with this problem for four hours, he asked for assistance. After entering the software address (compound and block) in the search field, workers were able to gain access to the correct prints and switch settings in the instrument index. The end result was the pressure was 1/2 PSI low. Operations increased the temperature, which increased the pressure enough to make up the pressure switch. The wasted trouble shooting time, without the use of the application, cost $24,000.

Another example, from the most recent maintenance outage: An electrician needed to troubleshoot a problem on the Feed Water Valve but could not find the prints. They eventually found the prints, but it took two men searching Cimage for 10 hours. (Not all plant data was available at the time of the data going into the Instrument Index. As they find data, workers will record it.) These prints went into the Instrument Index and are now available for the next person within minutes.

Instrument Calibration data is stored in the Instrument Index for quick access to accurate instrument range, output, calibration, and data information. A link to Beamex for Calibration Certificates will be included in the near future.

Reports are readily available for users to take out to the field. If a user would like to print the complete information for the selected instrument, data from all tabs, the report is available by clicking a print button located on every tab of the form.

The Instrument Index should easily allow workers to develop and produce additional custom reports on the vast amount of data stored in the application. Instrument Overhaul Calibration List (IOCL) reports added in during 2007, as a result of a catastrophic boiler failure. This failure occurred because no one calibrated in a timely manner the critical flow transmitter. The end result is it drifted about 2%. This caused an expensive failure for NGS. The new IOCL reports will help prevent something like this from happening again, by running a report looking at what instruments workers did not calibrate. With this list, facilities can better monitor calibration schedules and better plan for Preventative Maintenance.

Another important factor that Salt River Project was able to address with the application is the aging workforce. Roughly 45% of the technicians will retire within the next five years. This application serves as a common place to capture knowledge about the instruments and supporting information such as special instructions and maintenance procedures learned over the years, in a common location. Quite a few Preventative Maintenance tasks and other routine work were cut out due to this approaching staffing decrease. Time and breakdown maintenance show this work still needs to occur and should go back to the workload. Use of the Instrument Index will help add these functions back into the work plan by sending out automatic reminders set up in the application, so work occurs on schedule.

As a direct result of the success of the Instrument Index, other SRP generation facilities said they would like to use this application. NGS put together a formal proposal and presented it to management for this application to be a standard for Salt River Project. This process is currently in progress facility wide. Currently Salt River Project facilities have their own or no system to track I&C data. The end goal is convert data for every facility to the Instrument Index format, so people can share resources between facilities without losing efficiency.

Filling in the blanks

Before the Distributed Control System (DCS) portion of the PGIC came on-line, there were several places that stored inaccurate and incomplete plant data. The DCS combined and secured the data in one location so plant personnel could correct, verify, enhance, and report on the data. To put all of the data together, workers reformatted and validated each unique database and worksheet, with varying table structures, against the DCS data, then imported to a new SQL Server database standard table structure.

Information from the DCS application can then troubleshoot field devices. The data contained in the DCS application includes hard and soft information, wiring and routing information, and drawing numbers. Use of this coordinated information facilitates and expedites the troubleshooting process.

Development of the DCS application met the need of plant personnel as a way to reduce the time-consuming research and data validation before and while troubleshooting. The inability to resolve problems quickly resulted in tedious delays and lengthened the time it took to return a unit to production.

Use of the DCS application proves better safety can occur when more controls information is readily available to each employee in an easy to access and understand format.

The data in the DCS Application validates against the system data, displayed in the Computer Aided Engineering View form. It incorporates a built-in validation process to ensure that data in the application stays up to date. Reports are available for users to take out to the field. Workers can easily can easily develop and produce custom reports based on the vast amount of data stored in the DCS.

Raceway reports

The Circuit Raceway Schedule portion of the application records, tracks, and reports Cable and Raceway data.

A user can search by cable number to find all of the necessary details for a cable replacement or troubleshooting project. The cable form displays from and to points, cable status, detailed cable description, drawing information, and lists the conductor and routing data.

The Raceway form displays a raceway's details, and also the additional Cable information that determines the total Raceway Cable Area and Fill percent.

Reports are readily available for users to take out to the field. If a user would like to print the complete information for an individual or range of Cables, as a cable or wire tag report, the report is available by selecting the Unit and Cable Number(s) and clicking a print button.

The PGIC is a troubleshooting and research application that helps plant personnel complete work in a safer, timelier manner. This application:

  • Improves safety through accurate and up-to-date I&C data, drawings, and documents
  • Contributes to high quality standardized I&C data that is secure and readily accessible
  • Improves productivity due to reduced research time in determining outage root cause, resulting in reduced revenue loss from plant outages and reduced down time on plant equipment
  • Effectively captures, tracks, and compares common standardized I&C data between plants
  • Improves the security and management of I&C data (system data, documents, drawings, etc.)
  • Improves equipment reliability due to improved calibration of equipment device records
  • Reduces training though standardization of the structure and management of I&C data
  • Allows for faster troubleshooting and research of Cables and Raceway data.

As a result of the success of the PGIC, an improved exchange of information within the Instrument departments at Salt River Project kicked off. This project will help the organization utilize the knowledge and experience of all of I&C employees to better help all areas of the company to perform accurate and safe work.


Jody Damron is a supervisor O&M - Santan with Salt River Project, and Laura Somak is a senior computer analyst with ITS Business Unit Applications at the Salt River Project. Both are in Phoenix, Ariz.