HART Communication Delivers for Monsanto Muscatine Plant

Focus on Asset Reliability Reaps Productivity and Cost Avoidance Benefits

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Phase II takes fuller advantage of the HART Protocol and compliant software (i.e., ValveLink for Fisher and Trovis-View for Samson valve positioners) to remotely capture and compare diagnostic test results with historical data to determine any instance of degraded performance.

From Handhelds to WirelessHART

Before the asset management system was in place, HART was not used at the plant other than for device configuration. Today, the protocol is used in the field as well as in the asset management system, which Holmes says serves as "a smart handheld on steroids."

Of course, it's that and more. The asset management system supports a full, digital I/O infrastructure as well as HART-enabled I/O. However, older legacy systems don't fully support this infrastructure. In such cases, handheld communicators allow personnel to perform diagnostics and testing. However, Monsanto is continuing to deploy HART technology in a way that will soon bring such data into seamless integration with all-digital fieldbus data using WirelessHART technology. This allows standard-compliant modems or adapters to send/receive data between HART-enabled devices and the control/automation system.

Where this has been deployed, data from devices communicating over Foundation Fieldbus and WirelessHART protocols are seamlessly integrated into the asset management system for a fuller presentation of diagnostic information.

WirelessHART was first installed at the site's wastewater facility. This was followed by a gateway adapter at one of the site's Acetanilide herbicide manufacturing units, which include wireless data on six level instruments for pump seal pots. Five additional WirelessHART gateways have been purchased for installation in the near future. Plans call for WirelessHART network coverage to extend across the entire facility.

ROI Paves Way for Expansion

As a result of the program's demonstrated ROI, the reliability programs have been steadily migrated across the entire facility, providing for increased availability, improved reliability, reduced downtime, and a reduction in reactive work.

The benefits range from small improvements, such as a reduction in the number of nuisance alarms and the turning off of previously required data flows to quantified dollar sums that are fueling expansion of the project.

For instance, code analysis data in the asset management system helps to quantify predictive vs. reactive work. In turn, this generates a Top Ten "Bad Actor" list with dollar figures on cost avoidance. This helps quantify the level of cost avoidance the reliability programs have been providing, and has helped leverage the program's expansion plant-wide. Averages of 12 deficiency orders are entered each month; an average cost avoidance of over $1,600/work order correlates to over $200,000 dollars annually since 2008.

"By increasing our focus on Asset Reliability, we've made a positive step change in key focus areas, not to mention ROI," he says. He calculates that since 2008, when the reliability program began, the plant has achieved between $800,000 and $1.6 million in cost avoidance per year. Connecting HART-enabled devices and other protocol instruments to the asset management system is one key reason why, because it provided a direct dynamic tie to the health of his instruments. This, in turn, has helped eliminate the need for expedited production runs, worker stress and mistakes during outages, and the environmental and safety problems that can ensue from technical teams operating in a panic situation.

"HART-enabled devices -- measurement devices and smart valve positioners -- are at the core of this achievement," Holmes says. "Now management is asking the reliability group to identify what we want to do next."

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