Empowering Industrial Troubleshooting
Written by Jeremy Wilbert, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, AVEVA
Examination of process data and alarms, contextually logged using historian software, is important to understanding problems and uncovering opportunities.
The first blog in this series, The Drive for Practical Data Management, discussed the need for practical industrial-grade historian and manufacturing intelligence software to support manufacturing and process companies of all types. This second blog identifies some specific benefits companies can realize by using these technologies.
Do you instinctively remember when to change the oil in your car without prompting, or instantly recognize if the engine is running inefficiently and requires service? Most of us would reply in the negative and say we rely on a dashboard warning to point out these issues. Manufacturing and process automation systems can support their users in much the same way by providing deeper troubleshooting and optimization—if the relevant process and alarm data is contextually historized.
A recent survey of manufacturing companies revealed 70% of the respondents view diagnostics and troubleshooting benefits as a key value of historian data. Furthermore, 70% said this historian data enabled process improvement opportunities, and 56% said it helped them reduce energy consumption.
But realizing these benefits requires a complete understanding of operations and is not usually obtained in the moment with the naked eye. Detailed data must be analyzed to properly troubleshoot a problem, or to find ways to keep equipment running longer and more efficiently. Consider the productivity savings if a root-cause problem can be discovered in minutes instead of hours because the right data is at hand.
Providing Situational Awareness
The ability to recognize problems, identify root causes, correct them quickly, and perhaps even avoid them proactively are critical to keeping workers safe and preventing equipment failures or other incidents. In many cases, poorly addressed problems can also result in compliance and regulatory issues.
Traditional data archives have often lacked contextual information, making it difficult for users to understand the data streams. For instance, perhaps a tank level and a pump pressure are historized. But is a 95% level normal, or a sign that the tank is on the way to overflowing? Is it acceptable for the pump pressure to spike periodically, or is that the sign of some developing mechanical problem?
A modern historian must be able to overlay other contextual information for each variable, such as alarm states, acknowledgement status, and any other operator actions. Only then are operators and engineers empowered with the situational awareness to evaluate the system in context and take action to improve safety, minimize costs, and protect the environment.
Discover Hidden Patterns
It is well understood that a subject must be measured to be managed, but acquiring massive quantities of raw data is not enough. Wherever the data is sourced from, it must be consolidated and easily accessible by end users.
One end user operated bag-fillers which performed at a certain acceptable rate over the course of an hour. However, by historizing every action and making a closer examination, the team could review performance and gain otherwise unknowable insights.
It turns out that just one step of the filling operation exhibited a wide variation in time-to-complete. Once the team recognized this, a simple configuration change significantly reduced the length of the step. The result was an overall operational time saving which increased production by 20%, and ended up being well above the target speed, resulting in an additional $750,000 per day in increased production revenue.
Seeing, Understanding, and Acting
Even the most highly trained personnel cannot recognize all manufacturing and process problems and potential opportunities just by walking around and observing the operation. Historian and manufacturing intelligence software is necessary to help them fully understand the issues and reveal improvements.