ABB’s Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya explains how ABB’s digital suite connects the physical and digital worlds to help industrial players better manage their installed base of instrumentation devices and get better actionable insights that lead to increased efficiency and environmental benefits.
The world of industrial plants has never been more dynamic, nor has it been so complex. Today’s plant owners find themselves having to manage vast installed instrumentation bases with constituent parts that have evolved and grown organically into a patchwork of old and new devices, from examples of long-superseded technologies, to newly developed digital harbingers of Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT. And all these devices require different management approaches.
Simply replacing the old generation of devices with new instruments and smarter technologies is itself costly, time-consuming and sometimes risky. The additional need to close the skills gap and train staff in heterogeneous technologies of differing vintages adds a further cost.
Plant operators today – doing more with less
Meanwhile, plants must be able to respond and adapt quickly to pressures brought on by external variables, shifting regulatory burdens, rising standards, exalted thresholds of environmental responsibility and sustainability, and the drive towards net zero. On top of all this, a macro-economic backdrop of high inflation and soaring input costs of energy and raw materials is concentrating minds on marginal gains.
If operating an industrial plant is inherently costly, the greatest single cost is an unplanned shutdown due to component failure or some kind of malfunction. When that happens, all the basic commercial desiderata of operational performance, return on assets, cost of ownership, time to benefit and shareholder value rapidly deteriorate. According to the ARC Advisory Group, 5 per cent of annual production is lost to downtime and poor product quality. ARC adds that 80 per cent of those losses are avoidable, and 40 per cent are due to operator error.
Predicting the future, while managing today’s challenges
In order to minimise unplanned downtime while maximising reliability and efficiency, plant operators need a comprehensive, asset-performance monitoring and management platform. Such a platform is ABB’s digital suite of solutions that enable on-premise or in-cloud remote-access monitoring of instrumentation devices, while providing cues for predictive maintenance schedules.
ABB’s digital suite comprises three elements all designed to optimise plant operations. The Smart Device Manager is a product configurator. It helps the customer configure, install and commission a product quickly, easily and securely according to site conditions; it monitors device parameters and provides a cyber secure infrastructure to request remote services and expert support, all in real-time. Remote support is available if required.
The second element, ABB Ability SmartMaster, is the new generation of remote condition-monitoring and verification platform for use with ABB and other devices. Without interrupting the industrial process, SmartMaster connects the physical and digital worlds through IT/OT convergence, collects data remotely from field devices, analyses it and feeds it directly to phone, tablet or laptop to allow the operator to monitor the condition and performance of instrumentation devices in real-time. Device health is verified and NAMUR status confirmed in order to help the customer obtain an installed base overview. The SmartMaster solution works with different types of instruments – both two-wire and four-wire devices – and can verify their health based on device specific thresholds. While it operates at the plant level, it can also aggregate data from multiple plants and, via the cloud, offer a consolidated view of an entire plant fleet.
The more data that SmartMaster accrues, the more accurately its trending function can predict maintenance schedules so that both ABB service-assisted clients and self-service customers can plan service operations, order spare parts and optimise device replacement. In the event of serial breakdowns or coincidental device malfunction, SmartMaster can identify patterns of breakdown and provide analysis and insight into remedial action.
Getting insights on the entire life cycle of instrumentation device
If the SmartMaster identifies an issue that needs further investigation, the ABB Ability Verification for measurement devices can provide a hardware health check by means of a physical, on-site assessment of an individual device. This is the third element in the digital suite. In providing a deeper level of health check than SmartMaster, ABB Ability Verification can determine device accuracy and health within pre-set design parameters, and then confirm correct device operation. ABB Ability Verification’s detailed test reports can be used for both audit purposes and for International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) records which represent recognised documentary evidence of quality control. By ensuring proper operational health, Verification reduces the risk of production loss by operator error, it helps operators avoid unplanned downtime, it improves lifecycle management and it minimises the need for training.
SmartMaster and Verification complement each other in monitoring the condition of instrumentation devices. SmartMaster offers a plant-level or cloud-based fleet-level solution; Verification provides a one-to-one device check. SmartMaster checks software only and does actual simulation of different signals to ascertain the health of the device under test. Verification is on-site and requires a hard link between device and laptop. While SmartMaster helps manage plants in an optimised state, those operators who run electromagnetic flowmeters, which are chiefly used in the water industry, will find that the exacting regulatory environment in which water utilities operate demands device-specific Verification reports to clear regulatory approval.
By giving the customer information covering the entire life cycle of an instrumentation device, from configuration to maintenance to predictive maintenance, ABB’s digital suite prolongs device lifecycles, reduces unplanned down time, cuts down on training costs and helps operators overcome some of the many challenges that modern industrial plants face.