Optimising industry’s output with IIoT

Optimising industry’s output with IIoT

11:04 AM, 23rd November 2016
Anne-Marie Walters, Global Marketing Director, Bentley Systems.
Anne-Marie Walters, Global Marketing Director, Bentley Systems.

In an interview Anne-Marie Walters, Global Marketing Director, Bentley Systems with Chemical Today magazine speaks at length about the global acceptance of IIoT by the chemical industry and ways in which this technology is leveraging accuracy, authentic and safety standards of the industry.

By Debarati Das

What are the latest trends in the IIoT segment?

The chemical industry is mature when it comes to sensing and automation systems for safely controlling operations and monitoring major items of equipment. Yet, while the manufacturing industry is a little more advanced in implementing these technologies to make better products, the chemical industry is not yet thinking that way. It is still trying to figure out how the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will make things different. So, the focus is on how to use these technologies to run their plants more effectively and efficiently, and achieve higher operational excellence.

In the chemical industry, you will find plants that are as old as 100 years, all of which are being constantly revamped to extend their life and adapted to the ever-changing market and regulatory demand. When these activities are scheduled, they typically require a plant to be shut down for around six weeks every year, and often other maintenance activities are scheduled during this shut-down period.

However, there are also times when shutdowns occur unexpectedly when some vital piece of equipment fails outside of these scheduled times. With the right technology in place, operators can eliminate these unexpected shutdowns and even minimise the planned shutdowns down to as little as two weeks, ensuring maximum work is done in a minimal amount of time. This is where IIoT can come in and help identify what needs to be attended to, repaired, or replaced before it breaks down.

For instance, owner-operators use sensors, vibration monitors, and pipe thickness monitors to constantly watch certain points in the asset. But, it is impractical to have sensors on every piece of equipment or at every point on a pipe. Bentley helps plant owner-operators with applications that contain the engineering knowledge of the pipe, and together with other information such as flow rate, temperature and pressure, can accurately predict the high probability areas of failure, and where their inspections need to be directed, or pipe thickness detectors placed. Essentially, moving maintenance to a risk-based approach to inspections and ensuring scarce resources are directed at the right problems.

One example is in the oil and gas industry, where a global oil company is using our technology to monitor and manage its pipeline corrosion inspection activities. It started with its downstream businesses in refineries determining that by combining real-time sensor data with temperature, pressure and flow rate data, combined with pipe stress analysis and engineering content, they could identify the areas that are likely to corrode and thin, and narrow the corrosion inspection focus to those areas.

Bentley’s predictive analytics solutions have also proved to be beneficial in the oil production business. In oil production, chemicals are injected into the wells to minimise corrosion and maximise the flow of oil from the well.

However, the more chemicals you inject, the more expensive it becomes, thus lowering your profit margin. The best scenario is to optimise production against chemical injection, balancing the cost of chemicals with production flow rate while maintaining the product quality. Our predictive analytics applications help operations optimise production and quality by managing all the data pertaining to product value, chemicals cost, intervals between shutdowns for cleaning, and so on. Our users, in turn, have achieved a phenomenal return on investment and have reduced operations costs by 30 percent.

How is the acceptance for IIoT growing among various industries globally?

There has been a wider acceptance for predictive analytics and risk-based inspection applications in the industry. They provide better information to the decision makers to carry out a better operation. What is lagging behind is the acceptance to turn over the entire control to a ‘sensor’ and to believe that the computer knows better than the operator. There is still resistance to that becoming fully automated.

Also, studies have found that too many sensors in a plant overwhelm the operators on the floor. At Bentley, we have been working with our partners to bring in dashboards, key performance indicators, and more intuitive ways of presenting information while providing a comfortable working environment.

What are the other sectors where IIoT is finding a bigger role?

In the discreet manufacturing industry, there is a huge move toward knowing how your product is used and being able to design a better product in order to make it more useful for the user. For instance, in aircraft, we constantly monitor the condition of the engine and we know when it needs maintenance. So, a service organisation gets feedback from the operating conditions of a machine, which helps them optimise their maintaining and operating of the asset.

In this process, the companies are also utilising this operating information to help designers redesign the next product, making it more efficient by eliminating the flaws they had found in the earlier one. So, while the older model of a pump could work for 5,000hours before maintenance, the new ones can now work for 10,000 hours.

The manufacturing industry is just getting its head around how to bring service information into engineering the next product. In the process industry companies think about how to build a safer plant to both operate and construct and are beginning to think about ways real-time sensing technologies can help improve safety and efficiency.

For instance, instead of putting sensors everywhere in a huge plant or frequently sending a person to manually inspector check an area, one can have digital and infrared cameras fixed at a point or on a drone, which can intelligently monitor any physical change. Instead of constantly monitoring the camera output, the camera surveys and computers compare the images to identify leaks, vibrations, hotspots, bending, or contraction in a pipe at a particular location and sends that change information to the operator.

What is the role of asset management in an organisation?

Asset management helps you make better and more timely decisions. It notifies you when and where you need to repair or replace something without wasting time on things that are running well or losing time when something fails. This can lead to a situation where accidents don’t happen at all and unplanned maintenance drops to zero because you can identify and rectify a breakdown before it happens. Asset management monitors the plant, pulls all the information together and directs inspection and maintenance efforts to things that matter. Using our asset management applications, organizations typically cut their maintenance costs by 30 percent. Predictive and operational analytics help you adjust what you are doing based on the business requirements.

This might include running the plant at a lower rate because the demand (and hence price) for the product has gone down, or adjusting the production as per changing weather conditions to optimise energy usage. In the chemical industry, everything is ageing. But, if you can get another year out of the assets before you replace them, you generate huge cost savings.

What are the risks involved with IIoT?

There is a lot of debate over cybersecurity issues and hacking risks associated with all the connected devices controlling the plant. Assets and infrastructure in this sector can seriously injure or even kill people if anything goes wrong. So the industrial world is much more protective of its data and has greater demand for security than almost any other sector. This is one of the reasons why Bentley has embraced Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

Microsoft has built Azure to meet the most rigorous standards of the industrial world. There are also many manufacturers adding cyber security at the sensor device level, so that even if someone manages to hack into the central control system, there are safeguards in place to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.

© Chemical Today Magazine


See the Interview Coverage in Chemical Today magazine (Pg 86)


View the interview on Mobile, download the Chemical Today magazine app





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