Engineered wastewater-effluent-treatment systems are generating 45,000 liters of potable water per hour and 3.2 MW of green energy. Continue Reading →
Adding more sensors or “things” to applications or processes begs the question: Who’s responsibility is it to analyze these data points within an enterprise? This is the IT/OT convergence debate happening in some manufacturing circles.
From a recent blog post at Paula Hollywood’s outpost at the ARC Advisory Group’s IoT site, she writes:
If engineering has primary responsibility for asset-related data, it should also be included to provide a single model of automation and operations management. In order to gain maximum benefit from convergence, enterprises must move beyond simply automating and integrating production processes to automating and integrating workflows with business processes including plant engineering in a common information infrastructure.
Asset management can be a pain point but more companies are moving towards distributed monitoring of KPIs, operation parameters and machine health. The lynchpin for distributed monitoring for operations and maintenance teams is “light” infrastructure solutions via industrial networking in certain cases, see below:
The app and monitoring platform allow Southwest Baking to use this browser-based software from Opto 22 to build mobile monitoring interfaces and then allow production personnel to login via smartphone or tablet. The food manufacturer leans on all of its employees, both management and operators, to monitor 11,000 lbs./hr. of frozen product runs according to KPIs.
“We use it (monitoring platform) strictly [for] indicators, and it’s meant to be more than a HMI,” says Rob Wroblewski, plant engineer at Southwest Baking. “We don’t use it to actually control food processing; just for data in a useable format.”
The automation platforms and technology have converged also and solutions can be implemented to help operations and maintenance staffs immediately.
Emerson Electric, Inc. made news last week with its announcement of its acquisition of Pentair Plc and their valves and control business for $3.15 billion in cash. The company is selling other non-core businesses and is focusing squarely on the future of industrial equipment and Industrial Internet of Things.
Below is a video demo of Emerson’s CSI 6500 ATG mobile machine health solution for rotating equipment. This remote solution uses a smartphone app and software to provide machine health data, analytics, and insights on how to optimize spare parts.
Outdated designs, work processes, and technologies keep many of today’s storeroom operations from adequately meeting the needs of the maintenance efforts they’re expected to support.
By Wally Wilson, CMRP, CPIM, Life Cycle Engineering
Regardless of organization size, many storerooms are still operated as they were when the plants first began operating—which could have been decades ago. They still have light-duty metal shelving that wastes substantial vertical-storage space and heavy-duty pallet racking with extra-wide aisles to accommodate large components. For many sites, changes that make MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) storerooms more efficient are long overdue.
Why a storeroom deserves TLC
An MRO storeroom is a business within a business that’s expected to have available items to maintain a site’s operating equipment. While the maintenance department may be its primary customer, it serves many areas of an organization. Its main role is to manage the inventory investment and provide the needed parts and components for equipment repairs and support the overall objectives and goals of the business.
The culture of the maintenance organization directly affects how a storeroom functions. If the expectation is to provide repair parts quickly for equipment breakdowns, the storeroom will be forced to operate with a large inventory investment—and in a very reactive mode. If maintenance personnel are conducting reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) and planning and scheduling their work, the storeroom operates in a more efficient and proactive manner, and with less inventory.
Note that how inventory is managed affects the outcome of equipment reliability. Take, for example, the fact that a harsh storeroom environment can damage parts. Dust, dirt, heat, cold, vibration, and static electricity can affect the quality and performance of some parts when put in service.
Service life can also be affected by how items are physically handled and stored. Think about the impact of an electric motor that’s dropped or had its shaft struck by a lift truck. Mishandling of parts can cause concealed damage that does more than adversely affect the life of the components themselves. It also can cause collateral damage to other equipment with which those items are installed.
Here are some recommendations for bringing your storerooms up to date in terms of location, storage equipment, work processes, technology, layout, inventory-stocking decisions, and kitting approaches for planned work.
Past thinking was that the storeroom needed to be centrally located for easy access from anywhere on the site. This philosophy was driven by the role of the storeroom and the need of the employees to have access to everything from office supplies and consumables to repair parts for equipment maintenance.
Current thinking is that the storeroom should be located on the perimeter of a site for increased security. Placing a storeroom there also reduces delivery traffic that can cause a safety hazard for employees and delivery-vehicle operators.
Locating the storeroom on the site’s perimeter increases the need to plan and schedule the preventive and routine maintenance work. To support the planning and scheduling of this work, parts need to be kitted and delivered to a staging area or specific job site. Ensuring that needed parts and services are available before a job is scheduled is critical—and directly supports proactive maintenance and MRO-storeroom operations.
Update storage equipment
Regardless of a storeroom’s location, how space is used determines whether it operates efficiently. Assessing the vertical space, along with the square footage, helps define which storage equipment will be best suited to effectively manage inventoried items. Most MRO storerooms contain about 70% small items, with larger components and sub-assemblies making up the balance.
The smaller items should be stored in high-density cabinets, that, compared with metal shelving, dramatically increase space utilization. Cabinets can reduce the footprint of metal shelving in a storeroom by two-thirds. These types of cabinets also provide protection from environmental hazards (dirt and contaminates) that can damage parts.
If square footage is limited, but ample vertical space is available, vertical carousel units are a good option. These units combine the high-density cabinet capability with a small footprint for storing large numbers of parts. Keep in mind, however, that such units are not limited to small-item storage.
Most vertical-carousel units have a maximum weight capacity of 300 to 400 lb./tray. These units can be configured in varying heights from 16- to more than 30-ft. to maximize use of available vertical space. Implementing vertical carousels significantly increases the use of available square footage and reduces the required footprint even more than high-density cabinets. A limiting factor is usually the cost, which can range from $150,000 to $250,000 per unit.
Update work processes
Several basic work processes need to be in place to effectively manage the storeroom and the inventory. Some rely on areas of the business operation outside the storeroom to be successful. Processes internal to the storeroom include:
- Receiving. Identifies tasks required for the storeroom clerk to document and verify receipt of a shipment.
- Inventory-stocking. Activities required to locate and store items to ensure the parts are properly stored.
- Inventory-issue. Tasks required to allocate items from the storeroom inventory.
- Inventory-cycle counting. Activities required to verify and correct on-hand quantity discrepancies.
- Inactive-inventory identification. Identifies non-critical, slow-moving items that are candidates for revised stocking levels.
- Obsolete-inventory identification. Activities required to identify parts that are not attached to a current operating equipment asset.
Work processes that the storeroom supports include:
- Incoming inspection. Inspections of incoming items that were fabricated or require certification before receipt.Return-to-inventory. Activities that credit returned items to a work order.
- Return-to-supplier. Activities that address warranty, credit, or replacement of a defective part.
- Planned-work kitting. Activities that ensure all parts are on-site before the job is scheduled for completion.
- Repairable-component process. Activities that track and manage the rebuild of selected components from removal from service to return to the MRO storeroom inventory.
Technological advancements can be valuable tools for dealing with MRO inventories. Many organizations, though, have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase and install a state-of-the-art inventory-management system, but failed to leverage all of its capabilities. The sad fact is that employees often don’t receive adequate training on how to use the software. Consequently, they continue to rely on spreadsheets and other workarounds to do their jobs.
The business software is one of the most critical aspects in effective management of today’s storerooms. While bar-code technology, which is supported by most of today’s available software applications, has been around for decades, only a few storerooms have fully implemented it to track and manage their MRO inventory. To maintain visibility of the storeroom inventory, its receipt, management, usage, and re-stocking of materials has to be streamlined and updated in real time.
If such software is managed properly, all authorized individuals have access to real-time inventory reporting. Accurate, real-time inventory visibility is essential to your maintenance planners. If they’re not confident the inventory is accurate, they will spend much of their time doing physical checks to confirm the parts are actually on site.
A storeroom should be laid out with consideration for space utilization and material flow. Inventory analysis and classification, using the A-B-C identification system, lets the storeroom manager establish a cycle-count frequency and define what items are critical, what should be held in inventory as stock, what should be non-stock (order on demand), and what are commodities that should be vendor-managed in the shops.
Handling or moving inventory items multiple times is a waste of effort for the storeroom staff—and increases the chance of damaging parts and components. When determining the space needed for a specific commodity group, a cushion of 15% of the space should be reserved for expansion. This approach provides space for new parts stocked for equipment modifications or new equipment installations.
Generally, inventory is best located and managed by commodity grouping items. The main advantage for grouping by commodities is to reduce duplicate inventory. This minimizes dollars invested in inventory and frees up valuable space. If a storeroom isn’t staffed 24/7, having the inventory grouped by commodity helps off-shift maintenance personnel find parts they need without wasting time searching throughout the storeroom.
Update stocking decisions
Inventory should be tied to an operating-equipment asset. Not all parts—even those deemed critical—will be held in the storeroom inventory (nor should they be). The decision to stock a part in inventory should consider these factors:
- Order lead time. The understanding of order lead time often varies within an organization. The order lead time typically starts when the order is received by the vendor and ends when the order leaves their shipping dock.
- Expected usage. Many parts could have multiple applications across the site and if the MTBR (mean time between repair) is available, the stocking decision can be made more accurately.
- Vendor reliability. When selecting vendors, consider past vendor performance and issues that could affect their ability to provide the needed parts.
- Impact on safety, production, and/or environment. Gauge the potential blow to these areas if a needed part were not available for the equipment repair.
For consumable inventories, consider these options:
- Vendor-managed inventories (VMI). Items in this category are high-use, low-dollar items that can be stocked at a point-of-use location.
- Vending machines. Many consumables, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), tools, filters, leak-prevention solutions, and office supplies, can be dispensed using various types of vending machines.
Update kitting approaches
Ensuring that all correct parts are available for a job provides a strong platform for a proactive maintenance program.
A planned-work kitting program also helps the storeroom. The key benefit is the ability of the storeroom to reduce the level of parts stocked and total dollars of inventory investment. Reducing the inventory investment contributes to an organization’s ability to operate at a lower cost.
Adding to the storeroom’s efforts to reduce inventory, the purchasing group can secure parts as they are needed for repairs, thus reducing the need to expedite purchase orders for parts or stock large quantities of many items.
For example, it costs $150 to $300 to generate and administer the average purchase order from requisition to invoice payment. Using the auto-replenishment (material-resource-planning) capabilities of an inventory-management system cuts the purchase-order cost to $10 to $12 per transaction. If the kitting process is successful, much of the inventory can be ordered as needed, staged for the job, and the work executed as scheduled.
Kitting provides a number of other benefits for a plant, including better maintenance-technician utilization. In most organizations, that rate is about 25%. With a planned-work kitting program, the rate increases because jobs, by definition, are well planned, and technicians will not be wasting valuable time looking for the parts to complete them.
Start sooner than later
The common approach to revising storeroom operations is to turn to new technology to solve all problems. The first step, however, should be to determine where you are now and what barriers prevent you from having a functional storeroom that proactively supports your site’s reliability and maintenance efforts. You’ll most likely discover some problems that haven’t yet been addressed—perhaps because your site has never launched an initiative designed to capture the opportunities they represent.
If, in fact, you find that your MRO storeroom needs a makeover, start the process as soon as possible to reap the associated operational and financial benefits. Innovation is driven by a clear understanding of the problem, planning a strategy to facilitate the needed change, identifying key activities to achieve the goals of the strategy, and measuring the performance with lagging and leading indicators.
Having a strategy to execute an improvement plan puts a rudder on your storeroom ship. Monitoring the progress of the initiative with key performance metrics will validate your progress and drive the continuous-improvement effort forward. MT
Wally Wilson is a senior reliability consultant in materials management and work management, planning, and scheduling for Life Cycle Engineering (LCE.com), Charleston, SC. He can be contacted at wwilson@LCE.com.
Key Storeroom-Performance Metrics
Key performance indicators (KPIs) that report lagging storeroom performance can shape strategies and action plans to drive long-term continuous improvement. Leading indicators are the mid- and long-term performance goals and the strategy to trend the storeroom performance toward the target goals. The strategy should include key activities and process revisions to drive the expected performance.
The following KPIs are used to measure storeroom performance:
- Inventory-turns ratio. The best-practice MRO inventory turns ratio is three to four annually.
- Inventory value. Best practice is 0.5% to 0.75% of the asset-replacement value.
- Inventory issued. Indicates dollar value of inventory issued.
- Inventory received. Indicates dollar value of inventory received.
- Inventory transactions. Indicates the utilization of storeroom employees.
- Incidence of inventory stock-outs. Best practice is less than 2% of total inventory requests for unplanned jobs.
- Identified obsolete inventory. Expressed in dollars, the best practice is less than 5%.
- Excess inventory. Stocking overage, expressed in dollars.
- Inventory accuracy. Best practice is 98% overall inventory accuracy.
- Inventory adjustments. From inventory cycle-count activities.
My first B2B media job primarily covered factory applications, namely packaging automation factories in the early aughts, and it showed me a range of sophistication in the discrete space. I witnessed a high-end dairy beverage producer and its in-line molding and filling machines — Krones Inc. — or smaller just-in-time operations, such as bag filling machines.
However, process automation has become a big part of my editorial coverage and I recently wrote about how oil and gas companies are using more automation in the field to reduce maintenance operations — Remote Processing Helps Shale Producers Find Profits. This article uncovers a new monitoring and control solution for capturing flare gas and reselling it.
It’s called a mobile gas processing unit— Mobile Alkane Gas Separator (MAGS)— but the platform is monitored and controlled from a remote location, some 200 to 300 miles away. Pioneer Energy relies on a roving army of technicians with operation and maintenance skills to service wellsites, while using smartphones and tablet to link into the platform.
Related is a recent post at Microsoft’s blog page that discusses the “empowerment of the field worker’ and quote ARC’s Ralph Rio. Rio discusses maintenance tech workers ability to do more sensing in the field, below:
“Mobile devices and state of the art software solutions have vastly improved the lives of field teams,” explains Ralph Rio, vice president at ARC Advisory Group. “Today’s leading field service workers are much more efficient and can quickly respond to faults through access to real-time data and line of business applications. They have a fully-digitized job list with the ability to report the status of a job, even if they’re out of network range.
Rio also discusses virtualization in the blog post and how this could alter the landscape. I’m not there yet with virtualization in the field, with oil and gas prices leveling off, demand low and products not fully realized.
Wireless solution increases reliability, safety, and efficiency within a critical transportation operation.
At busy airports around the world, the ability to provide a constant, reliable supply of aviation fuel is key. For one major international airport, this responsibility falls to a single fuel-services provider. It stores all aviation fuel transferred to the airport and is the facility’s only fuel-receiving terminal.
Because fuel services are so crucial, the organization’s primary goal is to ensure that the operation stays up and running 24/7/365. At the same time, the plant needs to operate as an efficient business, meaning it is essential to run with minimum manpower.
A case in point
In 2015, the fuel-services company decided to expand and improve its automation system. This move would increase safety, reduce downtime, and free-up time for operators and engineers to focus on other mission-critical tasks. The organization found a solution in Emerson’s AMS asset-management software, coupled with the manufacturer’s CSI 9420 wireless vibration transmitter, both produced by Emerson Process Management, Austin, TX (emersonprocess.com).
The facility manages four fuel-transfer pumps—two of which are running at any given time. Their location and function makes these units notoriously difficult to monitor. Also, due to the heavy workload and ambient temperatures that can exceed 100 F, the pump bearings frequently fail.
Operators needed a solution that collected more information without increasing the cost or man hours. The solution was wireless vibration monitors, which, in turn, have helped create a safe, efficient maintenance environment.
Although the fuel-service pumps had been monitored for many years, the costs and complexity of running cabling made continuous monitoring out of the question. Before implementing wireless vibration monitors, the plant had to monitor the pumping system through motor and bearing temperature profiles and the intermittent use of handheld vibration monitors. This process presented several problems.
Operators were only able to record intermittent vibration values for the pumps, making it difficult to see true trending. The effort required significant time and did not provide constant monitoring. In the case of an intermittent impact or similar event, it was possible for operators to miss important data.
Collected vibration data were entered into a complicated spreadsheet. The problem with such an approach is that even the most robust spreadsheet has significant limitations in its ability to track trends and processes—and provides no predictive-maintenance data whatsoever. Furthermore, while detecting mechanical problems was relatively easy, it was much harder to detect problems that came from process mistakes. That’s because the spreadsheet couldn’t provide an accurate timeline for comparison.
Although personnel could react to events they saw happening, there was little data to show what exactly was going on—which, ultimately, led to the need for more operator and engineer hours to evaluate detected problems and determine a solution. The commitment to operating with a limited staff made it essential that the company reclaim these man hours as quickly as possible.
Implementing wireless vibration monitors, along with a predictive-maintenance software application, dramatically changed this fuel-service provider’s processes. Having pump vibration constantly monitored means that the organization can feel confident personnel will quickly be made aware of any change in function.
In short, operators know that a bearing is heading for failure long before the problem results in process upset. This type of predictive-maintenance capability is vital, as servicing a pump means taking it offline for approximately two months to have it repaired by the manufacturer.
Because the fuel-service facility can’t afford any downtime, the ability to predict pump problems provides peace of mind by allowing personnel to schedule maintenance, not act out of desperation.
Wireless pump monitoring has also increased operator safety. With remote capture of vibration readings, plant personnel have less contact with running machinery than they did when manually recording vibration values. Less contact with the running machines translates to fewer opportunities for accidents that might result in injury.
Moving from recording machine-health data on a spreadsheet to the automatic recording of those data in an asset-management application has been one of the most significant improvements in the operation’s processes.
The asset-management software allows the organization to observe trends in equipment health that simply could not be tracked through a spreadsheet. Alarms are now raised with any abnormal situation and operators are equipped with the tools they need to make decisions quickly. MT
Payoff From Understanding What Could Happen
Managing equipment through an asset-management application allows an organization to better understand what is happening and what could happen on the plant floor. In the case of the aviation-fuel-services company, having vibration and temperature data continuously tracked, stored, and analyzed in the asset-management software lets the plant’s operations and maintenance teams build a timeline around events. This ability is particularly important when a change in process is the catalyst for hardware failures.
Because the software can show exactly when a problem arises, the plant can compare the data with maintenance logs to see if a process change occurred at the same time. In turn, management can rest easy regarding deployed process changes, i.e., know that, regardless of how seemingly insignificant, such changes will always pose a low risk to operations.
On the plant floor, engineers see the most benefit from the plant-wide automation-system enhancement, as they can now spend their time on operational matters instead of pouring over spreadsheets, tracking temperature and vibration data for maintenance. The front-end operators are also relieved that they have reduced their equipment checking time.
Wireless vibration monitors provide the fuel-services people with the flexibility to move toward a holistic machinery-health-management plan. Plant management can feel confident that detailed pump health information is always available and no unexpected shutdowns are lurking around the corner. Management also gains peace of mind that safety is improved, as maintenance teams have fewer reasons to be working around dangerous equipment.
For more information, visit Emerson Process Management at emersonprocess.com
Interoperability has been the “mantra” in manufacturing for some time, but management needs more resources for fully-realized IIoT. The industrial internet depends on interoperability and that’s why this reference paper on industrial architecture can be a valued asset in developing plant or process manufacturing strategies. The Industrial Internet Consortium recently released this Industrial Internet Reference Architecture white paper and it provides multiple points-of-view for the enterprise: connectivity, functional, implementation, safety, communication security, data distribution, secure storage and integrations best practices.
Chapter 13 discusses edge networking principles and recommends a blueprint for data reduction techniques, along with other best practices with storage. Contributors include a who’s who of technology and manufacturer suppliers, such as ABB, GE, SAP, IBM, RTI, Fujitsu, Intel, Micron, and AT&T, to name a few.
In general, oil and gas companies are beginning to divulge information about more sensing and cloud solutions in the U.S. This dispatch from Bob Gill at ARC Advisory Group documents a chemical case application from Denka that relies on a 3rd party turnkey monitoring solution for the company’s steam traps.
This asset management success story employs a IIoT system that’s completely outside of the plant’s control architecture. The twist, if you will.
As in most process facilities, Denka’s approach to monitoring of steam traps at its Styrenic Resins Plant was previously very manual, based largely on an annual inspection by a contractor. This conventional approach means it is inevitable that any failed steam traps will go unnoticed for a long time and contribute to wasted steam and wasted money. Indeed, Denka’s last yearly manual survey earlier in 2015 revealed 35 out of 210 steam traps (17 percent) as failed.
Being outside of the control system also helps alleviate HUGE security concerns with this IIoT solution:
Firstly, it has no involvement with or connection to the plant control system (DCS). This alleviates common concerns of process-industry owner operators of interference with a live and running DCS and, in terms of security, DCS data potentially leaving the plant.
Emerson Process Management provides this maintenance/asset management monitoring service. The IIoT case application train is getting full.