Wireless Workers Unchained
Wireless Workers Are Already Roaming Around Process Plants Worldwide. Might Your Facility Be Next?
"A key operational improvement was putting every unit procedure in an operator's hands while he or she is in the field," observes Kim Hoyt, manufacturing excellence manager at Huntsman. "Operators no longer have to remember the thousands of details buried in hundreds of procedures. They are available at their fingertips."
Supervisors and engineers benefit from the wireless network and the handheld devices as well. "Now, additional data on plant operations can be collected and analyzed because local instrumentation data can now be captured and stored electronically with minimal effort," Hoyt explains. "In addition, new wireless devices can be installed at a much lower cost than instruments that have to be wired into the DCS. As a start, we are looking at implementing wireless tank levels and temperatures."
Safety incidents have been reduced by over 75% and are expected to fall to zero. The mobile system has also reduced maintenance costs and increased uptime due to improvement in overall equipment effectiveness, ultimately increasing production quality and quantity.
INFORMATION EVERYWHERE ON A BLACKBERRY
Mohawk Fine Papers, a premium paper manufacturer in Cohoes, N.Y., was faced with several problems due to changes in operations. "A series of acquisitions, direct-to-consumer initiatives and expansion into new product lines caused an explosion in our finished product offering―from about 5,000 products in 2005 to about 35,000 products today," says Ben Whitaker, Manager, Enterprise Process Reengineering at Mohawk.
"At the same time, customer demands for quality and flexibility have continued to increase, and we constantly press ourselves to operate with shorter service times so that orders taken today can be in customers' hands tomorrow. Meeting these demands requires that the entire enterprise is constantly aligned and focused on key orders, key requirements, last-minute changes and what's happening on the mill floor. To coordinate these efforts, managers need a real-time view across the enterprise."
To accomplish this goal, Mohawk launched the Information Everywhere initiative to bring information from across the enterprise to users via web pages, on mobile devices and within applications. The project brings together information from control systems, production systems, inventory systems, purchasing systems, order entry systems, scheduling systems and accounting systems to provide a real-time view of the enterprise.Mohawk implemented Transpara's (www.Transpara.com) Visual KPI as part of the overall Enterprise Intelligence initiative. Visual KPI delivers role-based, actionable key performance indicators (KPIs), scorecards and trends on any mobile device or PC. This operational intelligence and data visualization solution turns data from operations, financial and infrastructure sources into meaningful information for improved decision making from any location. "Since Mohawk was already a Blackberry environment, it was a natural fit to put Visual KPI on Blackberries," notes Whitaker (see Image 3).
Visual KPI provides the mobility/data visualization component. Other technologies involved are OSIsoft's (www.Osisoft.com ) PI data historian; Microsoft SQL Server for data extraction, transformation and loading; and Microsoft Sharepoint as the information portal.
"Most of the data from the production systems are interfaced through OSI PI," explains Whitaker. "However, we have also integrated Transpara KPIs with our ERP system and various Microsoft SQL databases." Everyone in the plant has access to the data via their Blackberries including technicians, managers, supervisors, engineers and even the chief operating officer.
The project was conceived on July 1, 2009, and launched on July 16, 2009, and the Visual KPI rollout was completed on August 6, 2009. "Transpara promised that we would be up and running in less than 30 minutes," exclaims Whitaker. "That's exactly what happened."
The project played an important role in Mohawk's overall 2009 improvement in machine output, customer satisfaction and energy consumption. Supervisors and senior managers now have real-time access to machine status, production status and order status. This allows for more responsiveness to customer requirements and to manufacturing issues. In the maintenance area, supervisors and senior engineers have real-time access to energy consumption for better response to machine performance issues.
The only problem so far is that the information only goes one way. "With Transpara Visual KPI, Mohawk can effectively delivery virtually any type of information from enterprise systems to Blackberry devices. However, this communication is unidirectional and, once consumed by the wireless user, may require action and response. Increasingly, Mohawk has a need for bidirectional communications and the ability to respond," notes Whitaker.
In response to Mohawk's and other customers' requests, Transpara has recently enabled "write back" capability for the most common interfaces to data sources.
WIRELESS DOESN'T HAVE TO BE MOBILE TO WORK
Like wireless worker mobile applications, wireless monitoring of fixed assets is a method for increasing operator productivity. In both cases, operator time is saved, albeit via different methods.Saudi Aramco recently installed a wireless vibration monitoring system from GE Energy (www.gepower.com) on the pumps at a tanker-loading facility in Saudi Arabia along the Persian Gulf. Manual monitoring required a round-trip of 2,000 km six times a year, and each trip took three days for a total of 18 man-days per year. Wireless monitoring eliminated these expenses.
NV Energy's (www.nvenergy.com) Fort Churchill Generating Station in Yerington, Nev., installed a GE Energy Bently Nevada Essential Insight mesh wireless monitoring system because it didn't want its operators walking around. The problem was that a walking-around monitoring program missed too many systems, took measurements at the wrong time or didn't take enough measurements.
"Many of our less critical assets were either not monitored at all or were monitored infrequently using a walk-around data gathering regime," says Greg Bushman, plant manager. "Because several of these assets could impact plant production, they were important enough to merit an online condition monitoring system."
Another problem was the lack of data frequency when collecting data via a portable data collector (PDC) and lack of instrumentation. "Prior to the installation of the wireless system, all data for essential assets was collected using a PDC," explains Bushman. "This required technicians to perform rounds to collect data at various intervals and at certain times of the day. Because of varying temperature extremes, a particular fault may only present itself when special conditions exist. Those conditions could be the heat of the day, and if the technician is only taking measurements during the swing/evening shift, an anomaly might never be detected."
At the Persigo waster water treatment plant in Grand Junction, Colo., lift pumps in the 462-mile piping system are often miles away from the plant. If a problem came up, crews had to travel long distances to fix it. Complicating the situation, underground copper cables in the 20-year-old plant were deteriorating, degrading performance.
Ed Tankersley, lead plant mechanic, summed up the situation. "Our wires underground were failing; therefore, we were trying to get our plant-wide SCADA system running so everything in the plant would come back via wireless Ethernet. However, we had a relatively primitive communications system."
To resolve these issues, Totally Integrated Automation technology from Siemens Industry (www.usa.siemens.com) was installed. Operators can now access any process from any HMI panel in the entire plant, or from the PC operator's station in the main building. This is a big advantage, particularly in the headworks building where all the sewage comes into the plant. "That's not a place you want to spend a lot of time," Tankersley says.