The Search for the Asset Management Holy Grail, Part I

Are We There Yet?

By Nancy Bartels

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As part of the PlantPAx system, CSU installed an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix  programmable automation controller on each of the plant's generators. The ControlLogix controller sends diagnostics via EtherNet/IP to a microwave station at the base of the mountain back to a ControlLogix controller at CSU's more convenient Birdsall facility. FactoryTalk AssetCentre software consolidates human-machine interface (HMI) data from the hydro units, allowing CSU's operators to centrally monitor and manage system parameters, such as water pressure, and adjust controller setpoints. By evaluating diagnostics, such as I/O modules and field devices, operators can also remotely troubleshoot the system.

"When maintenance is necessary, we can analyze the situation from the Birdsall location, gather all the necessary parts and route water to one of CSU's other hydro stations during the repair to maintain power production," says Brent Richardson, plant manager, Colorado Springs Utilities.

Prior to the upgrade, it could take three or more days to recover the Manitou and Ruxton systems from a forced outage. Since then, CSU has experienced nearly 100% availability. CSU's operators remotely monitor each plant and diagnose issues as they arise, often well before the issues cause downtime.

With downtime costing $100 dollars per hour, CSU estimates that the increase in availability is saving the company $50,000 annually. Furthermore, CSU can now optimize renewable energy production by identifying the highest efficiency hydro units. Prior to the upgrade, CSU could produce 3% renewable energy—when the hydro units were functioning properly. Today, CSU can reliably produce 6%, and is well ahead of schedule for meeting the 2015 state mandate of 10%.

The Focused Route

For some companies, the real need is for a system that simplifies and automates a critical, but time-consuming part of the overall maintenance task. In the case of pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca's (www.astrazeneca.com) Sweden Operations group, calibration management was the challenge.

Calibration is critically important in the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA's 21 CFR, Part 11 regulates how the calibration certificate for each instrument is documented and signed electronically. All the equipment and instruments in the production process must be calibrated regularly. This involves testing sensors to make sure they give the correct result in various conditions, such as temperature, atmospheric pressure, air humidity, etc. The job is exacting and time-consuming, and when done manually, is not only tedious, but prone to error.

Eight years ago, the Sweden Operations group embarked on a project with calibrator supplier Beamex (www.beamex.com) to automate the company's entire calibration process. They implemented a completely new calibration system using Beamex's CMX Calibration Management software with the Pocket PC option and documenting Beamex MC5 multifunction calibrators.

Tomas Wahlgren, business relationship manager for maintenence and engineering at AstraZeneca, explains, "Previously, the calibration was primarily done with manual and paper-based process. The certificate was on paper, which was signed and stored in binders. After implementing the new process, the entire process takes place digitally, from measurement to signing and archiving. We perform about 22,000 calibrations annually, which previously engaged about 50 employees. Today, the same work can be accomplished with only 15 people."

The roll-out was by no means plug-and-play. To justify the $600,000 investment, the system needed to reduce time and costs for calibration itself and for the line-down period in production. With 22,000 calibration certificates to produce, the ability to justify a reduction in calibration frequency was essential. Astra Zeneca also wanted quick and easy access to data from any desktop computer in the company. Essentially, what the implementation team needed to do was unify the entire company—used to working with 12 different databases and several different workflows—around a single system.

While the payoff was quick—one year—the full benefits of the system did not kick in until later. When the toughest work around unifying the entire operation around one calibration system was done, around 2007, the team settled in to gather and analyze data. "Thanks to this data cleansing process, we have become more and more aware of how to optimize the amount of data, which data to keep and which to dispose of," says Wahlgren. It took until 2010 to stabilize the data and only then, based on the data, could AstraZeneca start reducing the calibration frequency on certain devices and instruments.

The Devil Is in the Data

As illustrated by the AstraZeneca project, the asset management Holy Grail is all about the data. "The real success is going to be dependent on how good your database is. The problem with instrument asset management systems is how well or poorly they do is linked with the plant asset management system," says Ian Verhappen, director, Industrial Automation Networks Inc. (www.industrialautomationnetworks.com). "MIMOSA, B2MML, that's why they're there—to get data from instruments to the AM system."

And it's more than just linking one system to another. "How do you make sure you have the system set up to make sure you're getting an accurate picture?" asks Mark Leroux, marketing manager for collaborative production management at ABB (www.abb.com). "You have to look at this from a variety of perspectives. You have to match the system's nomenclature. That's a big issue. When you configure the bills of materials and the costing, that has to match what's in the real world. There is software out there that allows you to do that, but it's still a lot of work." 

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