Like any good help, capable process control and automation experts can be hard to find. To compensate for the double whammy of accelerating retirements and galloping technical advances, Emerson Automation Solutions introduced its new Connected Services program this week in a press conference at the Emerson Global Users Exchange.
Connected Services is an essential element of the company’s Plantweb digital ecosystem which securely delivers plant-floor, operations technology (OT) data up to enterprise and cloud-level software applications.
“Connected Services represents a model for collecting equipment data, and getting it to Emerson’s experts,” said Mike Boudreaux, director of Connected Services, Emerson Automation Solutions, who described Connected Services, its capabilities and how its fits into the Plantweb digital ecosystem.
“The big challenge is how to manage available expertise,” Boudreaux explained. “We’ve all been saying that more retirements are coming to our field, but they’re happening now. Many of our customers are having to go wide and thin on their experts, and those who need expertise in many specific areas can’t maintain it. There’s also a lack of skills coming in, so the knowledge gap is widening even more.”
To spread Emerson’s process control expertise as efficiently as possible, the company’s Connected Services, aided by the Microsoft Azure platform, makes possible real-time monitoring of equipment and device health, energy use and other process variables. These enable Emerson experts to constantly monitor and develop reports on device and production performance, prioritize repairs, and perform asset trending. The services are scalable, leverage existing equipment, and employ Emerson and Microsoft cybersecurity solutions.
“We have experts on staff with years of experience in getting real value from process data, and delivering it to customers so they can make better decisions,” explained Boudreaux. “They can help users with any of the performance, uptime, reliability or other challenges they may have,” added Boudreaux. “Typically, we don’t need to sell customers on the value of this expertise because they already know the KPIs they’re looking for Emerson to help improve. These usually fit into their existing reliability programs.”
As a result, Boudreaux reported that Connected Services are expected to reduce or eliminate unplanned downtime; minimize and optimize preventive maintenance tasks; reduce overall maintenance spend by increasing predictive work orders; and improve outage planning for maintenance and spare parts.
As part of the Plantweb digital ecosystem, Connected Services are on offer in several major areas, including:
DeltaV Connected Services will drive reliability and performance improvement by sending continuous health monitoring from customer sites via email to the Emerson Global Services Center, which will send back local response and resolutions recommendations.
Steam Trap Connected Services seek energy, reliability and quality improvements by sending acoustic data from WirelessHART gateways, delivering it to the Center via VLAN or cellular connections, and emailing back steam trap condition reports that make maintenance or device replacement more targeted and efficient.
Machinery Connected Services gather continuous vibration monitoring data, sends it to the Center via HTTPS procotol, and emails back advice that lets the customer collaborate with its local Emerson representative.
Control Valve Connected Services that leverage online ValveLink software to gather DeltaV, HART, MUX and WirelessHART data and communicates via HTTPS with the Center, which emails back advice on how the customer and local representative can collaborate.
“A gateway sits on the user’s network, monitors for changes, and collects and sends them to the services center,” said Boudreaux. “Next, the center finds items the user might not see otherwise, filters out noise and chatter, and sends back actionable information. In this case, the innovation is that Emerson now owns the monitoring sensors and wireless gateways, and hosts the software; customers sign up for long-term service contracts, and pay a monthly fee; and we add network monitoring to improve their reliability as part of their subscription service.”
Beyond its present Connected Services for DeltaV, steam traps, control valves and machines, Boudreaux added that Connected Services also will be coming soon for gas chromatographs, ultrasonic flowmeters, radar tank gauges, metering skids, heat exchangers, compressors, turbines, boilers, heat recovery steam generators and other process equipment.
“The next phase of Connected Services will have more secure connectivity, and use data diodes for cybersecurity. We’ll also take their onsite connectivity and available software, apply that infrastructure across Emerson Automation Solutions, and coordinate it with Secure First Mile networking and Microsoft Azure to add more services,” explained Boudreaux. “Using our version of the analytics maturity model, based on API-691 for Advanced Condition Monitoring, we’ll go from simply aggregating data visualization to anomaly detection, diagnostics, prognostics, decision support and intelligent products.
“In this case, the last mile is using the Microsoft Azure cloud environment, partnering with OSIsoft and Dell, and using Azure for machine learning, big data storage and Microsoft IT support,” Boudreaux said. “Connected Services represents a model for collecting equipment data, and getting it to Emerson’s experts.”