Automating manual operations can deliver significant benefits. And when you're dealing with all the recipes needed to make hundreds of different chemical intermediates, automation can be an absolute blessing.
For example, specialty chemical manufacturer KMCO Inc. in Crosby, Texas, had been using mostly manual and single-loop controllers to make about 1,000 products. These include glycols for consumer anti-freeze, down-hole mud lubricants for oil and gas applications, and many chemicals that other manufacturers turn into final products, according to Joe Walsh, DCS administrator at KMCO.
"We had many old controls, including 100 single-loop controllers operating in our processes," said Walsh. "We had stand-alone, isolated and small SCADA systems running different applications, no centralized control and data repository, and many other legacy products. So we were doing a lot of manual quarter turns on valves, dealing with general and unstructured alarms, and all-handwritten logs and sheets.
"We needed a unified control system that would support phase-wise migration and scalability and minimize downtime during implementation. We also wanted reliable controls to maximize uptime, full integration with our subsystems and ease of use from implementation to operations."
A Way Forward
Walsh and Manoj Kumar, solutions consultant at system integrator and distributor Wilson Mohr in San Antonio, Texas, presented "World-Class Plant Automation on a Budget" today at the Honeywell Users Group (HUG) Americas Symposium in San Antonio.
KMCO and Wilson Mohr investigated possible solutions and settled on Experion HS, Honeywell Process Solutions' DCS-based architecture solution. KMCO also implemented HPS' HC900 process automaton controller; eServer for secure, web-based access; and OneWireless components to bring in data from remote tanks. As a result, the new KMCO system now includes 15 operator displays on 27-inch Dell flatscreens; manages about 2,000 composite I/O points; performs batch reporting using historian and trend data; uses OPC capability on its SCADA and controllers; and has more traceable alarms and messaging.
"The HC900 controllers are allowing us to stay modular, so we can grow as needed," explained Walsh. "The new operator stations give us control information, overviews and trends, as well as business-network data from outside the firewall. A lot of former paperwork is now on-screen, while our I/O modules and batch reporting is giving us 1-minute samples of every point in our reactors, and this information can then go straight to management."
Walsh added that KMCO's control closets are no longer crowded and confused, and all its cables are cleanly marshaled and labeled. "Our processes are now easier to program, and our operators can sit and run their processes instead of running around making manual adjustments. We're experiencing less waste, and we're making better product."