“We are building an infrastructure that opens up opportunities for more applications,” says Gary Borham, operations manager at steelmaker Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp., where wireless transmitters measure cooling water flow and monitor grease system health in the congested, hot steel-mill environment. “The result is better information from difficult-to-reach areas of the mill,” Borham says, “and this is helping our personnel prevent unscheduled downtime, meet customers’ quality requirements and optimize productivity.”
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO GO WIRELESS, RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX
Easily Tap Plant and Process Information
The more you know about the process, physical assets and overall operations of your plant, the safer and more profitable your business can become. More (and better) measurements mean more opportunities for reducing operational costs and improving quality, throughput and availability. In addition, new environmental and safety requirements have been established after many of today’s facilities were built, and plants have struggled to get access to measurement and diagnostic information that could ease compliance.
So, why aren’t more plants “measuring up”? Too often, the cost or difficulty of adding new measurements has outweighed the perceived value.
With traditional wired technologies, distance or complexity can make connecting the measurement point to a control, asset management or maintenance system, or data historian impractical or cost-prohibitive.
Wireless technology removes the barriers of traditional wired solutions and gives you unprecedented access to data that was previously out of economic or technical reach. Imagine, for example, the benefits of additional temperature measurements to detect cool spots in steam lines, or the advantages gained by cost-effectively instrumenting a remote tank farm.
At Milford Power, a 500-megawatt plant on the Connecticut coastline in the U.S., wireless transmitters monitor temperatures in 11 remote buildings that house infrastructure equipment, including water circulation pumps. In the winter, small heaters in each building prevent pump systems from freezing, knocking that pump out of commission for three days and costing up to $20,000 to repair. A wired solution would have been cost-prohibitive, so temperatures were checked when operators made rounds to perform their visual checks of the pumps.
NOT TOO LATE TO ENTER INNOVATORS CONTEST
But wireless saved $75,000 in installation and capital costs, making automatic monitoring possible. “It only took two hours to place the eleven devices in the pump buildings and have them communicating to each other,” says Cliff Esmiol, maintenance supervisor. “They easily communicated around buildings and other obstructions.”
In fact, when a new steel and concrete building was constructed in the plant, it completely blocked a transmitter from the other transmitters in the mesh. The signal, however, was unaffected.
And wireless isn’t just opening access to traditional measurements, such as temperature and pressures, but to instrument and equipment information as well.
For example, millions of smart HART-based devices in the field today have some level of diagnostics capability. Unfortunately, many plants don’t have the infrastructure to receive HART data into the appropriate system. Since only a fraction of these devices are digitally monitored, the potential gain from accessing such “stranded” diagnostics is significant.
With wireless technology, the data doesn’t have to be stranded anymore. Existing wired HART devices can be upgraded with a wireless adapter to transmit diagnostic information back to the control room or maintenance shop, where appropriate personnel can take corrective action as needed. Process control signals continue to be communicated over the wired connection.
The possibilities are almost limitless. Just think of all the things you’ve always wanted to measure, but couldn’t justify the investment. Chances are that now you can.
Indeed, the ease with which new measurements can now be implemented has proven to be a game-changer for early adopters. “When Emerson approached me with their industrial wireless solution, they said ‘We’re plug-and-play,’” says Tim Gerami, a senior design engineer at PPG Industries’ Lake Charles, La., facility. “I gotta admit, I kind of laughed. Nothing I’d seen so far was that easy,” he continued. “But I’m a believer now. Five minutes after installing it, the wireless network came alive. It’s been there ever since.”