Honeywell Users Group Americas brings fresh attitude

We view automation as a competitive advantage, but how could we use it to help make the transformation we needed?

By Jim Montague, executive editor, Control

I always enjoy attending Honeywell Users Group Americas because I always learn something new and unexpected, and its 40th anniversary edition on June 21-25 in San Antonio was no exception.

For instance, a large audience and I were enthralled by the tale of Reliance Industries Ltd.'s recent effort to update many of the 500 legacy process automation and other systems at six major sites containing 120 refining and petrochemical plants, and get them down to just 35 standardized applications. However, I later realized it wasn't just the scale and scope of Reliance's upgrade that made its epic thrilling; it was the attitude of its presenter, Rahul Chaturvedi, senior vice president and CIO of the hydrocarbons division at Reliance.

Where a huge renovation project might seem like an equally huge headache to most process owners and operators, Chaturvedi's whole outlook appeared to be focused on opportunity. He seemed to have a cordial, cheerful, impatient, even slightly aggressive desire to upgrade Reliance's process controls to compete and succeed. Very refreshing. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that the 35-year-old, $62-billion firm started in textile milling, migrated over the years into polyester polymer fibers, petrochemicals, refining, oil and gas and retail, and is now poised to become one of India's biggest 4G telecom providers this coming December.

Now we can check performance once per hour and make adjustments on the fly.

"We view automation as a competitive advantage, but how could we use it to help make the transformation we needed?" says Chaturvedi. "We see smart operations as putting panel operators and other users in control of the ecosystem around them by providing visibility and access to situations that require action."

Chaturvedi added that visibility and access for smart operations means breaking through traditional, organizational silos between operational functions. Reliance worked with Honeywell Process Solutions, and developed its Manufacturing Information Intelligence System (MIIS) to eliminate manual systems and go digital in functional areas such as operations, maintenance, reliability and safety.

"We and Honeywell went to all six sites and 120 plants over about six months and found they had abut 500 legacy systems," explains Chaturvedi. "Next, we developed a reference architecture, which showed we could update with just 35 standard operations applications for product movement, blending, historian, alarming and other functions. Then, we identified areas most in need of digital transformation, including material transfers in health, safety, environmental and fire (HSEF) areas, manufacturing operations, reliability engineering  and maintenance (REAM) and other automation and energy applications. Management agreed to our spend; we enlisted everyone, especially our panel-level operators; took about two-and-a-half years to implement the 35 applications and finished in 2013."

Chaturvedi adds that its MIIS project also allowed Reliance to implement other common controls and historian equipment, establish better networking, put generated data into the right contexts for the best analysis, and enable better decisions and actions. "We also improved connections between the 120 plants and our headquarters and Centers of Excellence (CoEs) that focus in 14 to 15 technical disciplines," he says. "This allowed the polypropylene CoE to get data from its applicable plants and applications, and let the crude oil CoE to get its data from the right refineries, etc. Also, our process engineering department can use a process monitoring engine built into MIIS, and if KPIs aren't performing right, then they can drill down even to plant schematics, and fix what's out of range. Previously, equipment monitoring and performance data were on spreadsheets published once per month, but now we can check performance once per hour and make adjustments on the fly." Sweet.  

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