Data is Not a Four-Letter Word

April 20, 2017
Today, industrial companies and manufacturers have no shortage of data. In a world increasingly ruled by the Internet of Things, where employees carry touchscreen devices in their pockets, we have immediate access to more data than we could possibly read or use. And there’s the rub:  Many companies don’t know what to do with all that data.

Smart manufacturing can bring Top Quartile operational performance

Data has sometimes been likened to the water in the ocean: It’s everywhere, but you can’t use it. Of course, you can’t readily drink salt water—at least, not without processing it.  Similarly, you can’t use the expanding sea of data surrounding complex industrial processes—at least, not without analysis.

Today, industrial companies and manufacturers have no shortage of data. In a world increasingly ruled by the Internet of Things, where employees carry touchscreen devices in their pockets, we have immediate access to more data than we could possibly read or use. And there’s the rub:  Many companies don’t know what to do with all that data. First, that data needs to be converted into information. It’s often said that “information is power,” but that claim holds true only when it’s the right information, in the hands of the right people who can act on it.                                                                                                                               

Most industrial companies have plenty of sensors throughout their production lines, constantly churning out data. In order to put that data to work to transform industrial processes, however, it must first be processed into actionable insights.

When equipped with the right strategies and software to manage information, industry experts can put the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to full use to realize new efficiencies and improve bottom-line results.

Real-time, actionable insights are what empower businesses to achieve Top Quartile performance. Companies that have achieved Top Quartile operational levels have less than 3 percent downtime, compared with 5 to 14 percent downtime for companies whose operations are performing below average.

Many companies have already incorporated smart technologies to manage their production processes. Plants today typically have embedded sensors to measure temperature, flow, pressure, vibration, friction, valve positions and other indicators that may point to excessive equipment wear or impending breakdown. But what if the data from these sensors could be aggregated and analyzed, in context, in real-time to provide even earlier notice of emerging problems?

It can. Emerson Automation Solutions has helped companies leverage their data through a range of high-performance analytics. Emerson’s software applications provide analytical tools designed to meet the needs of skilled workers as well as deep domain experts.

The ability to identify a piece of equipment with impending breakdown or failure can mean the difference between average results and Top Quartile performance. Top Quartile performers can recover two weeks of additional production per year compared to their average industry peers. Nearly half (47%) of all unplanned outages are due to equipment failure, and the cost to repair a failed asset is 50 percent greater than handling the problem before the failure.

When the right tools are matched with the right analytics, and delivered to the right people, IIoT insights can deliver results in surprising ways.  Consider the following simple example:

Recapturing Lost Power

Leaking steam traps can result in a substantial energy drain for manufacturers, often accounting for 5 to 10 percent of total energy costs.  Problem is, traps are often located in hard-to-reach locations, making leaks difficult to detect manually.

But when wireless acoustic transmitters, IIoT connectivity and software analytics are deployed to remotely monitor steam traps, failed or leaking traps can be detected automatically and repaired right away.  Manual rounds are eliminated, and maintenance time is focused on timely repairs, resulting in reduced energy waste.

Plants with steam trap monitoring solutions see average annual savings of $500,000, with a seven-month average return on investment. A Denka Chemicals Singapore plant realized 7 percent reduction in steam demand after identifying two dozen failed steam traps upon implementing a monitoring solution; this monitoring continues to help them quickly identify another two to three failures per month.

Predicting Pump Failure Before It Happens

A similar combination of sensors, IIoT connectivity and analysis tools can help to monitor pump health, identify deterioration and warn when failure is likely. Through monitoring and analyzing a host of functions, including temperature, vibration, and pressure, real-time insight into pump health – including process effects such as cavitation - can be generated, with the results provided visually to plant personnel. At one 250,000-barrel-per-day refinery, pump health insights helped the company achieve more than $500,000 in annual savings, with an 11-month return on investment.

Gauging Pressure in Real Time

In addition to advanced analytics, we also see a growing trend to replace manual collection of data with smart wireless sensors. Pressure monitoring is critical to maintaining safe plant operations.  The IIoT can speed remote collection of field data with connected gauges providing updates every minute and up to 150 times the overpressure protection compared to traditional gauges, as well as two layers of process isolation, assuring a safer field environment.

Ensuring Peak Performance

The ability to accurately identify a deviation from equipment design is critical for many industrial processes if they are to avoid unscheduled downtime and achieve Top Quartile performance. IIoT applications can calculate and track equipment performance against targets. By employing this application, a liquefied natural gas facility achieved a 1.5 percent overall performance increase on its four liquefaction trains after doing necessary maintenance on underperforming equipment. 

Taming Energy Consumption

Energy management information systems automate the process of mapping and managing energy consumption in real-time. Operators receive alerts, dashboards and emails to signal them when energy usage is higher than expected. One large North American manufacturer was able to reduce water and energy consumption giving $6 million in savings in the first year, boosting the company from fourth to Top Quartile energy performance.

Your company may be awash in data, but there are solutions to not only avoid drowning, but enable you to turn the tide by turning data into actionable information to drive Top Quartile performance.

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