July 15, 2020
By: Lyat Avidor Peleg
For operational excellence in manufacturing plants, the devil is in the details
Small items can have a huge impact. Many machine learning (ML) tools monitor a small number of key assets to investigate known, repeated problems. This has its value, but at SAM GUARD we take a different approach. SAM GUARD tracks every moving part in order to spot the unforeseen issues that otherwise go unnoticed.
If you’ve been to a concert, you’ll have heard the beautiful results of a large orchestra, made up of multiple moving parts which have to work together flawlessly in order to produce a wonderful sound. Like an orchestra, process plants also have multiple moving parts, each one of which plays a significant role in achieving operational excellence.
At SAM GUARD, we’ve seen over and over again that small items can have a huge impact. Many machine learning (ML) tools monitor a small number of key assets to investigate known, repeated problems. This has its value, but at SAM GUARD we take a different approach.
SAM GUARD tracks every moving part in order to spot the unforeseen issues that otherwise go unnoticed. Addressing the small events helps you realize the true and substantial value of operational excellence. For example, one of our long-term customers reported an estimated saving of between $142,000 and $3.9 million over a 2-month period, thanks to SAM GUARD.
How does SAM GUARD help process plants save money?
The secret to SAM GUARD’s success is that it listens to every component in the orchestra of the plant. Our software establishes a baseline for every device so that it can identify normal behavior, and then tracks performance for small anomalies that no human would ever pick up. If you catch them in time, they are easy and inexpensive to fix, but when they go overlooked, they can cost a lot of money to correct, and frequently disrupt or close down production.
Here are some real examples from our customers.
- Pump leakage in a mining plant could have closed down production
The key piece of equipment in a mining plant is a pump that pumps mined material back to the home base for further distillation. Any inefficiency in the pump drags down production rates, so it’s vital to keep it working at peak efficiency.
One mining process plant received an alert from a different monitoring system that showed an upward drift in the pump temperature. It was the beginning of May when ambient surrounding temperatures were rising, so the process engineer concluded that the pump oil temperature was probably just affected by the higher air temperatures and dismissed it as insignificant. However, they also received a SAM GUARD alert which showed the rising oil pump temperature and an alert showing sudden fluctuations in the sealant pressure which correlated with the change in temperature.
The combined alert made it clear that something serious was going on. The plant immediately sent a maintenance team, which found that sealant fluid had been leaking into the environment. Over time, this would have damaged the pump gears, demanding an expensive replacement job plus a costly loss of production while work was paused to allow for the repairs. Thanks to the SAM GUARD alert, the team simply replaced the piping and everything returned to normal. This one small issue could have caused the entire plant to shut down, costing millions of dollars in lost production.
- Deterioration in the heat exchanger in a polymer plant could cost lives
The process engineer in a polymer plant was already an experienced SAM GUARD user who was aware of the value of our alerts and took each one seriously. Consequently, when they saw a SAM GUARD alert for the heat exchanger, they followed it up immediately. The alert showed a rise in the temperature on the hot side of the exchanger, together with a commensurate rise in the cold flow, after months of stable numbers.
Upon investigation, the maintenance team found that the coating in the hot side of the heat exchanger had deteriorated. This damaged the efficiency of the heat exchanger, and also posed a safety hazard because the equipment processes dangerous materials. Without SAM GUARD’s early warning, employees and nearby residents could have lost their lives.
- Inefficiencies in the economizer in a steam process plant are a wake-up call for maintenance
SAM GUARD generated a complex alert about the gas economizer in a steam process plant. The alert showed a drop of 3℃ in the economizer’s efficiency, indicating a problem with heat transfer due to the fouling effect. Any loss of efficiency in the economizer means that the plant would have to pay for more gas consumption in order to produce the steam it needs, so this issue could be very costly as well as damaging the plant’s mission to reach operational excellence.
When the process engineer investigated, they found that the machinery hadn’t been cleaned for over a year, despite a maintenance schedule that requires cleaning every 6 months. This often happens in process plants, because unexpected, urgent events that need to be dealt with can disrupt the regular cleaning process. The alert served as a wake-up call for the maintenance team, and a reminder about the value of SAM GUARD in helping control room teams to become more proactive rather than reactive. When you’re constantly dealing with urgent issues, you can end up neglecting the regular activities that prevent such issues from arising.
- Fluctuations in the steam process stripper reveals that alert parameters have been wrongly set.
A process engineer in a Polymer plant received a SAM GUARD alert that showed disturbing fluctuations in the steam process stripper. The opening position (OP) of a flow valve to the stripper closed suddenly, while it’s SetPoint was stable. The control room was willing to dismiss it as merely a sign that the steam input was unstable on that day. However, since the source of the disturbance was the letdown station from middle pressure to low pressure, they decided to check the report, which showed that pressure was rising while steam temperature was falling, indicating a serious problem with the letdown station.
When a team came to inspect the letdown station, they found it totally shuttered, but that hadn’t generated any alarms. The alarm for the steam temperature had been mistakenly set to 100℃, which is far too low. Steam that is only 100℃ contains a high percentage of water, which causes hammering on the piping and can damage it over time, as well as potentially shutting down the entire boiler if it enters there. The water spray was also at around 0%, which implied that the sealing wasn’t working correctly.
In response, the maintenance team altered the OP alert for the letdown station control room to sound at 10% and the temperature alert to 150℃, to give an earlier warning if this occurs again. They also checked the spray valve and found that it wasn’t sealing, which is what caused the disturbance in the first place. Costly damage to the boiler and other key pieces of equipment was avoided.
Small improvements bring big savings
These are just 4 case studies that show the enormous value of SAM GUARD’s accurate, specific alerts about small anomalies and minor events. Titan, an important company in the cement industry, has been using SAM GUARD for over 2 years, and has seen operational excellence appear within its grasp.
After rolling out SAM GUARD across the organization, it saw a year-on-year rise in reliability factor to 99%; significant production gains, which are vital in a sold-out market; and a drop of 5% in repair costs and 8% in labor costs.
As you can see, the devil of operational excellence truly is in the details. Only a wraparound analytics monitoring service that tracks every piece of equipment and every data point, all of the time, can pick up on the small early anomalies that indicate potential for major production losses and repair costs. Watch our webinar to learn more about these and more use cases.