The art of asset management

Will asset management save North America's process plants? This article from the editors of CONTROL provides the 411 on local and remote asset management capabilities and corporate oversight.

By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor, and Walt Boyes, Editor in Chief

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Good News:
1. Easier access to all data
2. Easy to customize reports 
3. Faster response for repair and maintenance
4. Sense of ownership by plant maintenance
5. Problems can be seen, heard, smelled, felt
6. More flexible and easier to update/modify than remote systems
7. Less expensive
8. Best approach for firms with one main plant
9. Best method for sites without reliable and secure high-speed communication
Bad News:
1. Harder to communicate with those not on site
2. Fewer prople locally for problem solving and brainstorming
3. Data collection is often manual and/or non-standard
4. Less corporate visibility and support
5. Requires on-site specialists
6. Harder to share best practices or benchmark


Good News:
1. Data access to all
2. Better understanding of issues by management and support groups
3. More powerful data analysis tools often available
4. Access to remote experts, both in-house and 3rd party
5. Lower labor costs because few people can monitor many plants
6. Forces standardization and automation of data collection
7. Share best maintenance practices among plants
8. Forces standard practices and use of single software package
9. Analysis of problems not hindered by day-to-day plant operations
10. Can help optimize spare part inventory management
11. Only way to support remote unmanned facilities
12. Can be used to implement industry benchmarking
Bad News:
1. Hard to implement and maintain connectivity to all
2. Security is a significant and difficult issue
3. Customizing data to meet needs of each location
4. Higher cost
5. Less reliable, depends on reliability of remote communications
6. Cannot see, hear, feel, smell, touch problem
7. Need to enforce standards across all plants
8. Need to get trust and buy-in from local maintenance personnel


Finch manages remotely



ver the years, many organizations have subscribed

to the age-old wisdom, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, companies that run continuous production operations often adhere to a different philosophy: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s because a sudden machine failure can damage thousands of dollars worth of products and disrupt delivery schedules, particularly in continuous-production industries such as paper manufacturing. More often than not, unplanned machine failures create increased labor costs, lost revenue and unhappy customers.

No one is more aware of this reality than Finch, Pruyn & Co. Inc, a leading manufacturer of fine, uncoated papers for marketing, book publishing and office use. Based in Glens Falls, N.Y., Finch, Pruyn paper is known for its superior smoothness, high brightness, opacity and excellent printing characteristics. Founded in 1865, the locally owned and independent company produces more than 240,000 tons of paper per year.

Finch, Pruyn operates four paper-producing machines in its plant. One of these machines, which produces bonded specialty paper, accounts for 55% of Finch’s total paper output. With more than half of the company’s revenue stream dependent on a single machine, the ability to achieve maximum uptime on this production line is critical. In order to maximize uptime and productivity, as well as drive growth, the paper producer needed a solution that would help prevent problems before they occurred.

For Finch, Pruyn, its objectives were two-fold: first, minimize or eliminate costly troubleshooting delays, and second, shift the company’s maintenance strategy to a more proactive, preventative approach. To accomplish these objectives, Finch, Pruyn turned to Rockwell Automation, which recommended the paper company switch from its current reactive approach to In.Site Continuous Support, its proactive, real-time remote monitoring and diagnostics service. Finch, Pruyn was quick to recognize the potential benefits of the remote monitoring program and decided to implement the service on its specialty paper line.
As a first step, Rockwell Automation engineers traveled to Finch Pruyn’s New York manufacturing facility to install a network communications kiosk on the plant floor. The kiosk is used to connect the In Site service to each intelligent device (e.g., controller, drive) involved in the production process. The wide-area network transmits data collected from the plant floor to a data warehouse at Rockwell Automation’s command center outside Cleveland.

With the connection to Finch, Pruyn’s production process established, engineers at the command center continuously assess production status using proprietary software applications to compare real-time and historical process data (e.g., line speed, yield, mean) to a predetermined optimal range. If a parameter deviates outside the range, In.Site staff notify plant floor personnel at Finch, Pruyn and begin troubleshooting activities to diagnose the cause and determine corrective actions. Once corrective measures have been determined, In.Site engineers collaborate with the plant maintenance staff to execute the actions and restore normal operations.

“Not only are we proactively identifying acute problems that could lead to unplanned downtime, but we are calling the customer immediately to let them know that we are already working to correct it,” says John Strohmenger, a Rockwell Automation In.Site manager.
In the first year of the In.Site program, numerous potential unplanned downtime events at Finch, Pruyn were prevented, improving the overall profitability of the specialty paper line. For example, Finch, Pruyn avoided  $347,000 in lost production and manpower hours by reducing the number of unplanned downtime events nearly 50%. The increased productivity and reduced maintenance expenses allow Finch, Pruyn to focus on higher priorities, such as producing high quality printing paper and improving business profitability.

“Our specialty paper line is critical to the success of our business,” said John Zak, a drive system specialist, at Finch, Pruyn. “Before we had In.Site, unplanned downtime was a constant concern. But now, we are confident the line will remain in operation. And, if it does go down, we know the duration of the event will be minimized. This has resulted in a significant improvement in profitability. The In.Site program has already paid for itself three times over.”

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