By Phil Ng, Senior Global Product Manager, Honeywell Process Solutions
Manufacturers are under pressure to improve reliability, performance and monitoring – and do it with fewer experienced personnel. At the same time, they need to reduce maintenance and operating costs. It is critical to replace the knowledge of a retiring workforceand utilize experienced operators and technicians to the fullest.
Developing new solutions to make the current workforce more efficient can also address the expectations from the next generation workforce as well. These new engineers and technicians desire a more integrated experience which they are accustomed in their personal and commercial applications. Fortunately, the solution to meet both groups’ needs are not mutually exclusive by any means. New technologies and solutions for the process industries can mirror the user experience found in commercial products.
This article describes how the latest trend in field instrumentation technology and engineering practices – cloud-based tools to improve application validation, instrument selection, and device commissioning – can help improve project results while ensuring the safety and efficiency of industrial facilities.
Importance of Measurement and Control
The industrial sector is facing increased competition and fast depletion of experienced and knowledgeable engineers. With process measurement and control being a critical enabler of the manufacturing plant, companies continue to look for innovative methods to improve efficiency, increase reliability, minimize risk and reduce cost.
Process industry sites are focused on optimizing operations through enhanced field device functionality. This includes making better use of intelligence from smart instruments. Key priorities include integration addressing the typical work flow isolation of the control system from the transmitter thus improving the user experience, and the use of smarter devices for sharing of valuable digital data amongst stakeholders. Plants also require robust diagnostics to gain advance warning of possible failure events, as well as online applications to save implementation time and reduce engineering effort.
In manufacturing facilities, there has long been a separation of instrument and system functions. This has resulted in isolated silos of products and solutions to meet end user needs. Plants are focused on eliminating barriers to improved overall performance, helping operators and engineers save time, and improving later phases of control and instrumentation projects.
Changing the Instrumentation Paradigm
With demands to optimize plant operations and execute capital projects as quickly and efficiently as possible, there is a corresponding need to reduce the time, money and mistakes associated with instrument design, ordering, configuration and set-up. Experience has shown that conventional transmitter selection can be slow and error-prone.
A key challenge faced in the project design stage is interacting with teams situated in different locations across the globe and getting approval or comments in real-time.
Conversely, device commissioning is a tedious aspect of any automation project. Validation, specification and pre-configuration activities are just the first steps of the engineering work to get an instrument deployed in the user’s process. After the transmitter arrives, field technicians and engineers install and connect the transmitter to the targeted control system. Then, they must verify proper connection to the Distributed Control System (DCS) before putting the device on process.
Today, the paradigm for selecting and deploying process instrumentation is changing. Industrial organizations can utilize a new breed of productivity tools to take the user experience to a new level throughout the lifecycle of field devices, starting from product selection through commissioning. These tools might not be able to fully replace the knowledge accumulated by senior engineers, but they definitely help bring young workers up to speed.
Developing Cloud-Based Engineering Tools
In the era of digitization and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud-based selection tools and automated commissioning, testing and documentation capabilities will help industrial companies select accurate and efficient process instrument technology, and also deploy field devices using an efficient and consistent workflow.
Instrument applications and validation: Industrial organizations can now utilize a cloud-based Application and Validation Tool (AVT) to assist in selecting the right technology and configuring the right transmitters so the factory can ship a pre-engineered product for an out-of-box, trouble-free experience.
The AVT solution improves effectiveness when specifying and installing large numbers of new field instruments, as is common on a unit expansion. The tool is designed to:
The cloud-based AVT makes it easy to select the correct instrument and configuration based on the exact parameters of the instrument application – avoiding costly mistakes upfront in the project. There is instant duplication of selection in the tool, allowing specified transmitters to be quickly repeated. This feature is useful on projects with many identical transmitter configurations with minimal changes.
Plant personnel can use a laptop, tablet or cell phone to input technical data about their specific requirements, collaborate with other stakeholders via a cloud infrastructure to expedite engineering decisions, and determine the optimal setup for the necessary devices on a project. Documentation of the inputted design parameters and instrument configuration preserves engineering work electronically and allows for automated building of a model number for the device that is unique to the configuration requirements. As such, process instruments can be ordered and delivered preconfigured, ready to be installed in the field, saving installation time.
With the AVT solution, visualizing device mounting on a vessel or checking the sensing probe obstruction by the agitator for a level application is no longer a challenge. Clean, simple and interactive visualization as data are entered from the process application helps in making an informed decision. The visualization does not end there, however; live feedback such as showing wetted and not wetted parts of the field instrument and different process connections are explained using with a 3D model.
Another important aspect of the AVT is assisting beginning users with limited knowledge of the chemical compatibility of process fluids with different materials of construction. Thanks to the tool’s embedded chemical compatibility chart, they will never end up selecting a wrong wetted part material.
In addition, the AVT offers a handy share and collaborate feature making real-time sharing and input on device selection from the consultant just a click away. Multiple users can view the transmitter configuration through the link generated by the tool. The collaboration feature eliminates travel and saves engineering time.
The Application and Validation Tool also helps in generating a standard datasheet, which can significantly reduce the time spent by engineers on manual data entry. The datasheet can be printed and electronically downloaded, with full editing capability, to support the user’s audit and documentation trail requirements.
Automated device commissioning: With the advent of Lean engineering workflows, instrumentation configuration can be done ahead of receiving the hardware, thus freeing up schedule dependencies. The control system and transmitter configuration are brought together and made coherent with a new Automated Device Commissioning (ADC) capability.
Project engineers once dealt with complicated and repetitive tasks in the initial project stages, Lean engineering workflows allow configuration development to be performed by teams scattered around the globe. An added benefit is that the cloud-based engineering work is independent of the project hardware thus removing schedule dependencies.
ADC further eliminates time-consuming work and improves efficiency on automation projects. It performs multiple important tasks in transmitter connection and DCS configuration. The tool is designed to:
With an ADC capability, engineers can easily witness the automated action of ensuring that the right transmitter is landed on the correct controller input/output (I/O) module. Mismatches are identified and the user can resolve them at that moment. Once the hardware configuration is confirmed, engineers can perform loop checkout as well. The tool’s loop test checkout template is easily modified in Excel, and then the auto device commissioning function runs the test according the scripted plan. All of this is done in an office environment with a single resource – saving precious time and keeping personnel safe.
Cloud engineering with integrated tools and automated documentation provides a solution to reduce project risk and schedule, lower implementation costs and effort, simplify operations and minimize lifecycle cost, improve efficiency due to reduced downtime, and enhance safety.
Ultimately, cloud-based engineering tools will make people more productive and plants more efficient. They enable error-free up-front engineering, reducing engineering hours; and simplify and eliminate commissioning steps, shortening device-commissioning time. These solutions also streamline usability, improving safety through an enhanced user experience; and help optimize troubleshooting and repair with new methodologies, significantly reducing maintenance budgets.
The integration and flow from one tool to another creates the user experience expected by both new and experience operators, technicians and engineers.