Manufacturing Gets Nimbler

Faster and better production campaigns promise a compelling competitive advantage.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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Next the system was installed on the plant's plastic coatings process. Gains included more consistent batches and better product quality in a process that had been largely manual, notes Eduardo Loschi, production manager. More responsive control of process times, temperatures, pressures — in general, all the process parameters — resulted in increased production volume, more uniform quality and greater operational security.

Continuous processes also benefited from the upgrade. For example, the DeltaV system helped decrease variability, improving both productivity and process reliability at the site's maleic anhydride plant. Its embedded diagnostics contributed to an about 10% drop in ongoing maintenance costs. "Today I am able to start up, stop and operate the maleic anhydride plant totally from the control room. This is a great labor-saving advantage," notes Carlos Alberto Samartini, production manager. Production volume at the phthalic anhydride unit rose by 5% while operational labor requirements fell by 30%.

"Overall," says production engineer Miriam Coretti S Liba, "the new system has made things easier. It decreased the processing time, and there was greater process security. From what we've seen so far, we have gained in productivity and reliability."

In late August, Emerson announced that specialty chemicals group Perstorp of Perstorp, Sweden, had selected DeltaV for a control system upgrade at its pentaerythritol (penta) plant (Figure 1). The company is striving to run longer batches and reduce downtime. The Perstorp migration project will be one of Europe's first installations of version 11 of Emerson's DeltaV system.

The Security Angle
A broader general challenge to batch processors is security. While use of off-the-shelf technology has brought interoperability, efficiency and other great benefits, it also has created an ongoing security challenge, cautions Daren Moffatt, Invensys Operations Management technical consultant. (For more on security, see CP's Chemical Security Action Blog.)

In the past, the primary focus of process security has been on controlling and managing access to recipes, operations and process changes. "But today… batch access control should be integrated with managed enterprise security programs that mitigate potential threats from terrorists, hackers, malicious codes and other sources that are becoming more prevalent," he stresses. "Batch processes might be most vulnerable in the controls zone, but increasingly [are] subject to threats at the plant network and data center zones."

A "defense in depth" strategy (see "Protect Your Plant"), as well as host-based firewalls, hardening of workstations, anti-virus programs and vulnerability management, can help mitigate security threats. "While taking these appropriate mitigation measures will improve security, ongoing security management is needed for it to remain effective," Moffatt cautions.

"An effective, ongoing vulnerability management process is the foundation of a good batch process security plan. Newly discovered vulnerabilities need to be assessed in a timely fashion, and a course of action determined based on likelihood and impact. The greatest threat to your operations today comes from doing nothing. By taking steps first to assess and address, then to understand and manage security, batch processors can mitigate security risks and maintain safe, reliable and compliant operations," he adds.

Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at



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