Extending Diagnostics to Wireless Field Devices

What’s that expression… “Tan, rested, and ready”? After a nice holiday break filled with family, friends, and football (I’m in Texas after all!), it’s time for me to dive back into the business of highlighting experts around Emerson Process Management.

I read a great piece in the AppliedAutomation supplement in the November 2008 issue of Plant Engineering magazine entitled, Asset management leverages smart wireless devices. Laura Briggs and Joseph Citrano, both managers in the Asset Optimization business, wrote this article.

Laura and Joseph made the point that all of the diagnostics that process manufacturers get from their HART devices connected to their asset management software or HART-enabled automation systems are also available from WirelessHART devices. They describe how Emerson’s AMS Device Manager software has two-way communications through a wireless gateway to communicate this diagnostic information between the wireless devices and the asset management software.

Prior generation wireless devices used in monitoring applications typically did not support two-way communications. They would broadcast process variable information but not any associated diagnostics. Verifying the accuracy of the transmitted information required a trip by a plant technician to the device. For devices located in hazardous areas, this might also require work permits and sniffers to measure explosive gas concentrations. The authors note that the process typically takes a few hours and often no problems are found.

This troubleshooting process for both wired and wireless devices can take place in the maintenance shop or other area where the PC with asset management software is located. While devices with actual problems must still require the work permit, gas sniffers and other safety procedures, the “no problem found” instances can be eliminated.

Laura and Joseph also describe how this information can be used as part of a predictive maintenance program. Repair and replace decisions can be made based on the diagnostic trends from the devices. Also, device calibration schedules and device maintenance documentation for both the wired and wireless devices can be managed centrally.

The article highlights a wireless application at a PPG facility where wireless devices were used where it was too cost-prohibitive to run wire and conduit (estimated to cost $20 per foot.) The wireless network “came to life” five minutes after installing it.

To me, it sounds like a good thing to be quick to install, provide process information where none existed before, and provide diagnostics to simplify ongoing maintenance.

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Update: I was reminded of a great video Joseph has done showing the setup, management, and use of best practices for your wireless network using the AMS Device Manager.

Update: I made one clarification above that the article appeared in the AppliedAutomation supplement that came with the Plant Engineering supplement.

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