Plants get help in boosting reliability

More and more companies are placing greater emphasis on maintenance and seeking help from vendors to boost the effectiveness of their efforts, as some recent major investment decisions demonstrate. Many automation companies now are benefiting by building up asset management services alongside process control capabilities.

By Mike Spear, editor at large

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Highlighting the importance of improving the maintenance skills set, leading CM company GE Energy Bently Nevada, also based in Minden, offers a variety of training courses, including a Reliability Process Workshop, a one-day simulation exercise that rapidly shows how reliability impacts profitability. Bently Nevada, of course, can point to many real-life examples of its CM products in use around the chemical industry — for example, Flowserve Pumps, Dallas, adopted them following a 2005 alliance between the companies.

Meanwhile, in December 2006, Emerson and Mtelligence, San Diego, Calif., formed an alliance aimed more at the enterprise level than the plant. Mtelligence’s software technology will provide an interface between Emerson’s AMS Suite in PlantWeb and enterprise asset management (EAM) systems such as SAP’s Plant Maintenance and IBM’s Maximo. “The Mtelligence relationship makes it easy and straightforward for users to connect the predictive diagnostics from our sort of applications to their EAM or CMMS (computerized maintenance management systems) for the purposes of planning and scheduling. Now you can start to drive those planning and scheduling activities — workload generation and the like — directly off the predictive diagnostics,” says Harris.

Interoperability initiatives

Mtelligence’s interface is built to a relatively new interoperability standard, Open O&M, which is a collaborative venture between the OPC Foundation, Scottsdale, Ariz., Open Applications Group (OAG), Marietta, Ga., and Machinery Information Management Open System Alliance (MIMOSA), Rosemount, Ill., a not-for-profit trade association involved in developing open standards for operations and maintenance. IPS also has committed to the Open O&M initiative by incorporating MIMOSA standards into its InFusion ECS (enterprise control system).

One of the largest developers of OPC software, Matrikon, Edmonton, Alberta, recently released its ProcessMonitor MIMOSA software (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Software now takes advantage of MIMOSA standards.

Figure 5. Software now takes advantage of MIMOSA standards.

“Sitting more at the plant historian level,” says Jason Barath, a consultant in Matrikon’s business solutions group, “we don’t deal directly with the plant equipment itself, but it’s very easy to get information from the plant using OPC on the control side. On the business side, MIMOSA is developing the same sort of architecture where you can just drop in plug-ins based on the type of maintenance system you’re using.”

Barath sees a growing interest in these open initiatives: “Condition monitoring has been around forever, but the traditional methods didn’t add real value. But now we have all these real-time systems in place, it’s starting to move. Within the next five-to-10 years we should start to see real growth.”

Given the average three-year tenure of today’s plant and maintenance managers, this might be too far in the future to benefit many of them directly. However, the end result certainly should be more reliable and profitable plants.

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