Being certain about the direction for improved performance

20 April 2018

Suzanne Gill reports on the Emerson Global Users Exchange 2018 event, which discussed how the process industry can make huge improvements by aiming for top-quartile performance.

Emerson’s biennial Global Users Exchange EMEA event took place this year in The Hague, The Netherlands, bringing together end users, integrators, machine designers and the global team from Emerson Automation Solutions to network and discuss process industry trends, best-practice and new technology developments.

The theme for this year was ‘Connect, Communicate, Create’ and the company once again took the opportunity to highlight its Project Certainty programme which was launched at the 2016 event. Many of the presentations throughout the event – from the company and from end-user customers – demonstrated the advantages to be had from being a top-quartile performer.

Industry today is constantly being challenged to maintain and improve profitability and this has led to a push to achieve top-quartile performance. As Control Engineering Europe reported two years ago, Project Certainty is designed to help improve scheduling and costs for capital engineering projects, helping companies to reach top-quartile performance. The initiative takes a combined technology and engineering-based approach for improved capital efficiency and more reliable project schedules. It relies on implementation of the right design engineering strategy to help eliminate centralised control system room requirements by up to 80% and can reduce piping in some applications by up to 60%. Further, project-wide equipment reliability analysis could offer huge cost reductions for capital spare parts. It also addresses the complexity of data and documentation through the use of innovative technologies such as electronic marshalling and pervasive wireless field instrumentation which can help project teams to accommodate last-minute design changes without impacting schedule.

Many of the technologies and methodologies needed to achieve top-quartile performance already exist so Emerson’s aim is to work collaboratively with customers to employ these tools and to help eliminate outdated project approaches and drive commitment for change across an enterprise. 

Presenting at this year’s event, Roel Van Doren, European president for Emerson Automation Solutions, said: “It has been proven that top-quartile performers in industry execute projects at less cost more quickly, and we know that sub-optimal performance can lead to huge losses over a plant’s lifecycle.

“With Project Certainty we aim to control three things throughout a project – cost, risk and schedule. We are convinced that with a collaborative effort between users, EPCs (engineering, procurement and construction) and suppliers, that Project Certainty can restore confidence in capital projects. However, its potential does not stop at the conclusion of the project. Since we launched the initiative we have seen the beneficial results of moving a plant from one-quartile to the next. It can have an impact of multi-million euros on the bottom line.

“Since its introduction many new, innovative, sensing and measurement solutions have become available. Today, for example, it is possible to measure many more things cost-effectively – such as corrosion and vibration. With WirelessHart we have a secure and effective way to connect the data points to control systems and application packages. We also have a package of software analytical solutions – Insight, PlantWeb Energy Advisor and,most recently, Optics.”

DeltaV InSight was created to help improve process control by monitoring and reporting performance; identifying and diagnosing problem loops; recommending tuning and maintenance improvements; and continuously adapting to changing process conditions. The software tool is used to improve control at existing plants and to reduce startup time for new control system installations.

Plantweb Advisor was created to help reduce energy costs through improved energy targeting and utilisation. The tool pulls energy data from various sources, including DSC systems and wireless assets, to provide real-time analyss and historical context. Users are able to analyse and compare the amount of energy a system is designed to use, what it has used over time, and what it is consuming in the moment.

The newest addition to the Emerson stable of analytical solutions is Plantweb Optics which allows plant assets to be visualised to improve reliability and operational performance. The solution connects technicians, engineers and plant management to help transform traditional work processes, enabling cross-functional collaboration and decision-making to help plants operate more safely and profitably.

At the event Emerson also talked about its workshops and service offerings which, it says, reach beyond traditional project engineering and after sales services. “With our current technologies and services portfolio we can now show customers a clear and cost-effective path to reach and maintain top-quartile performance,” said Van Doren.

Chemical concerns
Dirk Reinelt, senior vice president indirect procurement at BASF, also took to the stage at the event to discuss some of the issues facing the chemical industry today as trends change from products to solutions and from producing chemicals to offering chemical solutions. This presents challenges in both the asset investment and operational phases of chemical production. The investment phase poses issues surrounding global footprint, time-to-maket for new products and cost-efficiency, while operational phase issues include the need to renew assets to ensure a state-of-the-art facility and reducing turnaround time and downtimes to increase cost-efficiency.

While Reinelt believes that digitalisation is the solution to these challenges, he pointed out that digitalisation can present its own set of implementation challenges. The continuous process industries when compared to discrete manufacturing often consist of many more assets and a greater quantity of ageing assets. “A chemical plant, for example, will include over 10,000 assets, compared to 1,00 which is more usual in discrete manufacturing plants,” he said.

“However, handling vast quantities of data is no longer a real problem,” continued Reinelt. “What we need to focus on is asking the right questions to get the answers we need from the data. When it is possible to use information gleaned from our data to predict the future, then we will be on the right path,” he explained.

Reinelt believes that there are some core technologies which will enable a digital revolution in the chemical industry. These he listed as augmented reality; artificial intelligence; big data analytics; 3D printing; mobile devices; and cloud computing. Reinelt also believes that it is important to encourage collaboration which, he said, is key to set standards to allow industry to face its challenges. “We need to work with our suppliers to co-create and to bring together our expertise and creativity to foster solutions that are customised to meet our needs,” he concluded. Next month Control Engineering Europe will report on Emerson’s views about the importance of people in reaching top-quartile performance. “Today, you can no longer simply efficient yourself to top-quartile performance,” said Mike Train, executive president at Emerson Automation Solutions.

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