As Simple as a Fuel Gauge

Emerson’s Craig Abbott provides the analogy of your car’s fuel gauge to think about how to manage your plant assets.

Emerson's Craig AbbottIf you asked a large group of people “How often do you refuel your car?” almost certainly the response would not be as simple as “every Monday morning”, nor would anyone have such a lack of planning to refill only after running dry.

Refilling a fuel tank is one of the simplest maintenance tasks we would perform on a car, essential to the vehicles operation and yet the timing of it is worked out by a complex algorithm that takes in information from the fuel gauge, today’s fuel cost, the amount of travel expected in the near future and the time it would take to refuel – perhaps taking a “pit stop” before or waiting until after that important meeting. We rarely give this algorithm a second thought, but most of us would run through it almost every single day.

In a production facility, there are numerous pieces of equipment that are essential to the continued operation of the plant. They are not critical, in that failure could cause a catastrophic event, however they are essential, so that without them, the facility could be shutdown, or have to operate at limited capacity until repairs are performed. Any delays in repairs have a financial impact over and above the actual cost of the repairs themselves.

If you asked maintenance managers “How often do you maintain your assets?” then some would run equipment to failure, most would perform regular maintenance. Very few would have taken on the task of trying to predict the moment an asset requires maintenance – just before it fails.

Process equipment does not come with a simple gauge that tells you when an asset needs maintenance. Multiple sources of information would be required to feed a decent algorithm and more often than not, if not critical to the actual production process, the measurements simply do not exist. There is a real challenge for maintenance managers to develop their own algorithms and to find ways of gathering the information they require to make decisions.

Emerson does have these algorithms and has the instrumentation required to feed them.

Currently, the Essential Asset Management portfolio contains algorithms for Pumps, Simple Compressors, Fin Fans, Heat Exchangers, Blowers, Cooling Towers and Fired Heaters. Multiple assets of varying types can all be supported concurrently in the one software solution.

Where instrumentation is not already in place, it can easily be retro-fitted by fully self powered transmitters that report data to the software package via a private, secure, wireless communications network. No cabling and minimal manpower is required to get up and running. If data is already available, then that can be included using industry standard OPC.

AMS Asset GraphicsThe wireless network can be deployed rapidly to deliver asset diagnostics to a PC, upon which the HMI displays a health indicator of the monitored equipment, trends of sampled data and highlights possible issues that are affecting asset health. When components of the asset start to deteriorate the health factor drops, alarms are generated and alerts appear to identify the probable root cause.

With a health indicator available, the maintenance manager now has the information required to make intelligent and informed decisions. Maintenance can be scheduled, spare parts ordered with sufficient lead time, operational capacity can be adjusted, and where necessary, assets can be taken offline before any failure impacts other assets.

You can connect and interact with Craig and asset optimization experts in the Asset Optimization, Maintenance and Reliability track in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.