Infineum International Ltd.

Goals

  • Increase plant’s availability by anticipating any potentially damaging situations
  • Optimize operators’ efficiency and reliability during inspection activity
  • Limit production downtimes to scheduled maintenance only

Challenges

  • The proximity of the plants to inhabited areas makes it essential for the sites to be safe and reliable at all times
  • Detection of critical indicators, e.g. vibrations or the presence of foreign particles, which automatic instruments do not usually detect effectively
  • Maximize the value of the time and experience of the field operators

Results

  • The Wonderware solution has enabled the plant to achieve a plant availability factor of over 90%
  • The system has allowed the operational procedures for visual inspections of equipment to be optimized and standardized, thanks to the removal of paper reports and the intuitive nature of the handheld devices
  • Wonderware IntelaTrac’s features now allow operators  to identify potential problems which were previously neglected, thus avoiding the need for any emergency intervention
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``Using IntelaTrac has made a major contribution to reaching a plant availability factor above 90%, since it has integrated perfectly with the other innovations added to our equipment.`` - Mauro Tassistro, Applications Team Leader

Background

Vado Ligure, Italy −  Every time we  start the car, our gaze falls almost without fail    to the fuel gauge, since fuel is the essential element for making a vehicle run. We only think about oil when the indicator light comes on, and we rarely stop to think about the additives that help optimize engine function. And yet, engine oil and additives are fundamental elements in ensuring that the cars and other means of transport we use to travel around everyday are working properly.

The production of these additives for lubricant oils is the core business of the Infineum Group. The company was established ten years ago  through the  merger of Paramins (the additives division of what was then Exxon Chemical) and Shell Additives. In Italy, the factory in Vado Ligure  (near  Savona)  is  the  Infineum Group’s main European supply center for additives in lubricant oils.

Human Supervision in an Automated Industry

When working in the petrochemical sector, it becomes essential to combine safety and productivity by anticipating potentially damaging situations. In addition, unforeseen problems have immediate and financially significant repercussions for production and therefore, to the business.

Inspections using the Manufacturing Efficiency Index, carried out by management in the years following the merger showed an average plant availability of 80%. This is not an acceptable value for a highly automated firm looking to the future.

In response to this, Infineum launched the Global Manufacturing Excellence Program in 2004, with the aim of maximizing plant reliability, achieving availability of over 90% and limiting production downtimes to scheduled maintenance only. Efforts have therefore been concentrated on two specific fronts: preventive maintenance and operational management.

In this context, it is easy to understand the importance of  maintenance at  large scale plants. Seemingly less important, however, is the periodic monitoring of the plant carried out by field operations personnel.

However, these professionals, thanks to their regular  rounds,  are  in  fact  the people who know the site best. They are able to recognize abnormal or potentially dangerous situations that are not detected by plant instruments.

The plant’s production process is constantly monitored by electronic instruments and detects any deviation from the ideal working parameters. All this information     is fed back to the DCS in real time. However,  certain  specific  factors  such  as noise, vibrations or the presence of dirt or small internal leaks, are not efficiently measured or detected by automatic instruments.

Installing additional measuring instrumentation would lead to higher costs and could overload the DCS. Human supervision therefore, remains fundamentally important even in an industry that is becoming more and more automated.

Traditionally, operators use paper for reporting even though it is prone to transcription errors. These reports then had to be transferred manually, therefore increasing the amount of time required to obtain useful information. Moreover, some inspections are not carried out from the correct location, thus limiting the accuracy of the observations.

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Collecting Critical Operational Information Quickly and Efficiently

As part of the Global Manufacturing Excellence Program to increase plant availability and optimize operators’ work, the Infineum Group decided to equip its staff with devices capable of collecting critical operational information in a quick and efficient manner. The group needed to identify a reliable tool that optimizes direct inspection activities.

This was not a simple search, since each plant has its  own  particular features. This makes it impossible to standardize the inspection processes. The whole search was made even more complicated due to the regulations in each country.

For this reason, it was necessary to start by establishing a new method of inspection procedures. The operators themselves were directly involved in this task, leveraging their specific experience to identify the correct steps.

The organizational planning also required the adoption of instruments that will enable operators to work optimally so  that they could concentrate on  their field  of expertise.

Infineum tested multiple solutions, but most of them ended up  being unsuitable  to the complexities of the plant’s production. An intense software selection process began, intended to identify a single platform capable of adapting to the specific needs of all production plants.

At the end of this search, only two products were found to  fulfil these requirements. Even when narrowed down, the choice was still complicated since the success of the whole project depended on the selected platform.

“As we were faced with two possibilities,” explained Enrico Bertossi, Infineum’s Global Manufacturing Excellence Program Advisor, “the real and concrete references presented by the System Integrator, Rex, played a crucial role in the decision-making process.”

Another factor was the need to achieve integration with SAP, the business system Infineum uses for planning plant maintenance operations. The only tool  able to  meet these requirements was Wonderware IntelaTrac, the mobile workforce and decision support system by AVEVA.

This solution is designed to enable workflow, procedural and general task management activities required to achieve reliable operations. These  capabilities are enhanced by the tool’s key feature: allowing on-site operators to input information and receive support at any location within the  plant, without the  need  of a physical connection.

The decision was made easier by the fact that “IntelaTrac was priced less than the other supplier,” said Bertossi.

Staff Approval of IntelaTrac Usability

“All our expectations were confirmed immediately after the application deployment. We were  able to  obtain the  approval of  all  system users after only 6 months of development,” said Mauro Tassistro, Infineum’s Applications Team Leader in Italy.

Tassistro himself has an overall view of the whole project, since the system architecture is centralized in Italy, but has continuous connection to the plants in France, Germany, North America and Singapore.

These plants present extremely different situations in terms of both  production  and staff operating methods. However, the  approval  of  users, who  appreciated the ease- of-use and maintainability of the system, was one of  the critical factors  in choosing the IntelaTrac based monitoring system.

Field operaors previously used paper forms for reporting during their rounds. This was difficult, especially during adverse weather conditions. By contrast, Wonderware IntelaTrac installed on a handheld device is simple and intuitive, allowing operators to concentrate more on their traditional tasks.

As an added benefit, the  integration with RFID  technology means data  relating to a specific observation can only be input when the operator is in the correct position. This procedure prevents errors. In addition, the practical use of the IntelaTrac interface made these operators really appreciate the technology being developed, since they understood the benefit for their day-to- day work.

“The decision to involve users from the very start of the project has enhanced the advantages provided by an innovative tool like IntelaTrac,” emphasized Tassistro.

“Staff approval is the result of the solution’s usability in the plants. In addition, installation was completed in just a few months, therefore minimizing the impact  on staff operations and avoiding any interference with production,” confirmed Bertossi.

Nothing Escapes Wonderware IntelaTrac

“Using IntelaTrac has enabled the plant to achieve a plant availability factor of over 90%. It has integrated perfectly with the other innovations added to our equipment,” said Tassistro.

The platform developed by AVEVA has allowed the identification of certain situations, usually overlooked, which could have potentially led to the progressive deterioration of some pieces of equipment that would subsequently need emergency maintenance intervention.

Finally, the use of inspection support tools has also increased on-site operators’ sense of responsibility, as they feel more involved  in  ensuring  that  the  entire plant is run properly and correctly.