Making animal feed nutritious and healthy isn't easy, but doing it sustainably presents even more challenges. These are a few reasons why plant managers are always seeking operating efficiencies, and often reconfiguring or expanding their facilities to achieve these gains.
For example, Evonik built its plant in Blair, Neb. in 2009, completed a 50% expansion in 2012, and is planning another for 2019 in partnership with Royal DSM. The facility manufactures L-lysine amino acid-based additive for poultry feed, and its processes were monitored and managed by more than 40 drops (each in a cabinet or rack) of Quantum I/O when it opened in 2009. During the 2012 expansion, all new drops were implemented with 8000 Series I/O (manufactured for NovaTech in an OEM agreement with GE Automation and Controls). In all, the plant has about 3,800 I/O points controlled by seven process control modules (PCM).
Between expansions, however, Evonik's engineers determined the plant needed further I/O upgrades because its Quantum I/O and processor were nearing obsolescence and experiencing networking problems. Plus, Evonik needed to modernize its I/O and migrate onto a standardized Ethernet network to accommodate the future plant expansion. All this needed to be done cost-effectively and with minimal disruption of plant operations.
"We needed this upgrade because of frequent S908 communication issues that were causing production losses," says David McBride, automation engineer at Evonik. "Previously, we also lacked HART compatibility, so we wanted to add 8000 Series I/O for better diagnostic and asset management capabilities. Our maintenance was also getting leaner, so we needed a more direct connection to our D/3 control system without added networking paths underneath."
McBride presented "8000 I/O Migration" on Sept. 19, the second day of the NovaTech Automation Summit 2017 in Baltimore, Md.
In preparation for the Blair plant's upgrade, Evonik conducted two pilot projects in November 2016 and April 2017, consisting of one drop each, so it could best plan its upgrade task by task. The company initiated installation and checkout of the first phase (15 drops) of its upgrade in May 2017 with timely help on its compressed, four-day schedule from NovaTech. The second phase (29 drops) of the upgrade is scheduled for 2018, during the start of the next plant expansion.
"Luckily, we didn't have to rewire our field instruments because NovaTech provided whole rewired units," added McBride. "We also checked all I/O points with simulated signals, and came up with a validation plan. It's good to document hardware data and do device inventories ahead of time, so we can avoid chasing our tails later. After phase two is done, our whole plant will be on 8000 I/O."
McBride reported that he and Evonik learned several lessons during their I/O upgrade:
- Planning is critical must involve all plant functions;
- End-user management must be kept involved, and provide direction on technical and manpower issues;
- Be prepared for unexpected issues. In Evonik's case, this included validation, added power requirements, and instrumentation that needed different wiring to work with 8000 I/O;
- Pre-build backpanels instead of replacing onsite;
- Enlist a local electrical contractor; and
- Consider working two shifts to shorten overall project timeline.
"You need experienced people on upgrade projects like this because they can address issues that need to be dealt with," added McBride. "Bringing on the right more people can really help you think through the details."