Operational Benefits with Foundation Fieldbus

The ARC Advisory Group just released a Foundation fieldbus study which indicates that fieldbus solutions are expected to grow globally by more than 22% annually over the next five years. Specifically, the announcement of the Fieldbus Solutions study cites:

The worldwide market for Fieldbus Solutions in the Process Industries is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.3% over the next five years. The market was greater than $831 million in 2006 and is forecasted to be over $2,279 million in 2011…

When the Foundation fieldbus technology was introduced in the mid 1990s, the compelling benefits were in capital expenditure savings, primarily in wiring and commissioning savings. I got to see this personally when I went to Alaska’s North Slope to see an Oil & Gas producer be one of the first to adopt this digital communications technology. It made perfect sense given the tremendous labor costs, and cost of building structures to shield the equipment from the harsh, arctic environment. You can see some photos on slides 75-76 of a Foundation fieldbus Installation tutorial in the Fieldbus Tutorial section of EasyDeltaV.com.

The ARC study announcement indicates that more and more process manufacturers are seeing operating expenditure benefits, especially through predictive maintenance. The study indicates:

Manufacturers are recognizing that the real value of fieldbus is Operating Expenditure (OpEx) related rather than Capital Expenditure (CapEx) related. End users have reported that predictive maintenance is the single largest savings resulting from the use of fieldbus.

I caught up with Emerson fieldbus consultant Dan Daugherty to get examples of predictive maintenance benefits. He cited a study by Dow in a Hydrocarbon Processing magazine article from a few years back. The article cited remote diagnostics in smart instruments helping to eliminate 63% of “problem not found” maintenance tickets through remote diagnostics. These diagnostics also helped reduce problems associated with drift, plugged impulse lines, and zero shifts in the field devices. Use of the ValveLink Snap-On in AMS Device Manager makes it possible to diagnose valves without having to pull them offline and look inside them. In another study by DuPont, they found that only 14% of the valves scheduled for preventative maintenance actually required being pulled and rebuilt. Dan summed it up well:

The savings on valves more than justifies implementing predictive maintenance methodology, so it is as if all the other benefits (fewer trips to the field, etc.) are for free.

The ARC announcement concludes that new installations benefit most. The greatest growth areas for these installations are in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Depending on the conditions of an existing facility in terms of maintenance costs, the benefits from predictive maintenance may provide the economic justification to retrofit existing non-digital instrumentation and communications.

Posted Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 under Foundation Fieldbus.

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