Monitoring Plant Asset and Automation System Health

As process manufacturers lose experienced automation professionals to retirement and/or turnover, the need to maintain reliable operations remains. Emerson’s Tinh Phan provides a look at system health monitoring from the field devices, through the asset and control systems, to the IT network connections and interactions.

Emerson's Tinh PhanAs a control system engineer, I use to typically look at the plant intelligent device assets from the control system (DCS) point of view. I look at the device level, control strategies, Fieldbus/HART/Profibus/DeviceNet and other digital communications technologies, etc.

One thing I tend to forget is the outer layer of monitoring. These are the network switches, firewall switch, DCS/PLC hardware communication components, printers, etc. The plant IT department typically monitors, maintains, and controls this layer.

System health monitoring in the DeltaV system and AMS Suite provides monitoring for every component of your plant automation and control system for personal from the IT, operations, and maintenance groups to the plant manager.

DeltaV System Health Monitoring
System Health Monitoring is a service that helps process manufacturers maintain their entire control system. The service cyclically monitors DeltaV controllers and workstations, non-DeltaV controllers, Ethernet switches, firewalls, and UPSs. When a health condition is detected, it sends an email alert to the Remote Monitoring Center located at the Global Service Center (GSC).

The GSC will analyze the alert for likely root causes, and then notify the process manufacturer’s local service provider about the issue. The local service provider, who has additional knowledge and experience with the system, will further analyze and diagnose the alert before collaborating with the process manufacturer on a resolution.

The key to this monitoring is proactive detection, with timestamped data to support root cause analysis and event notifications.

Process manufacturers that have retiring work force expertise, need increased production uptime, require lower IT and maintenance support costs, or more defined roles and boundaries between organizations might augment their inhouse expertise with Emerson professionals. The objective is to improved availability and performance, reduce unexpected and disruptive events, and streamline maintenance efforts through proactive detection in the control system and smart field devices.

4 comments

  1. benorchard says:

    Been doing pretty much this for over 12 years now. The issue that often gets overlooked is the “…it sends an email alert to the Remote Monitoring Center located….”. You can only send the email if you have a network path from the fault to anywhere.
    If its the IT switch that has gone down, you now have an island in fault and no way to cry for help.
    Our solution was to install SMS modems on all our PAC’ s. In this way if the email came back with an error code, we simply sent a text. Yes, it took some creative work to get signal at all locations, but I feel it was more than worth it in the end run. Reliability went up, proactive alarms as text messages were just fantastic.
    Also, we soon took advantage of the fact that we could send SMS codes to each PAC and get a result. (For example, the energy company could send a text and start/stop co-generators).
    Lastly, it only took the IT guys a few weeks to realise that we had a much more robust and fault tolerant error handling system than they could ever put together and asked to come onboard.

    • Ben, you raise great points and thanks for sharing what you did to solve the broken comms path issue. I shared your comment with Tinh and team for their additional thoughts.

      • Here’s some feedback from Tinh, “Ben, I totally agreed with you with this solution 12 years ago. Even I used this type of Modem to transmit situation and failures of asset at all my Waste Water and Water treatment plants back in 1997. With current technology such as Smart transmitters, Valves, and Network Switches, we can make full use of their diagnostics and detection to be proactive before any of these components fail or prevention before your product line shutdown. We have the capability of being predictive instead of reactive. This is why I am a strong believer of AMS Suite for my assets and System Health Monitoring for my Automation system. Unlike before with Modem, I only get a txt of a situation that already happen that I have to drive in and troubleshoot and react to the situation.”

      • And some additional feedback from another member of the Lifecycle Care team, “The monitoring device is connected to the SMTP server to send the notifications. Part of the service is to keep sending a test alert on regular basis to ensure that the monitoring device is health and avoid the problem you mentioned that the connection to the SMTP server is not healthy; we call this message the “Heart Beat”. Once the Remote Monitoring center doesn’t receive this notification, they raise a flag that the monitoring device could be faulty or the connection to the SMTP server is interrupted.”

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