If ever there was any doubt that the future of industrial processes rests in the cloud, the recently concluded 2016 Emerson Global Users Exchange (Oct. 24-18 in Austin, TX) put that to rest. In the hundreds of workshops, educational seminars and roundtables, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was pervasive and the message was that, by tapping into the IIoT intelligently, industrial companies can achieve top performance and recover more than $1 trillion in operational losses globally.
In his opening remarks, Michael Train, executive president of Emerson Automation Solutions, said, “With a global contraction in capital spending, the industry is under tremendous pressure to hit financial targets with existing assets. The key to setting and achieving new performance goals is first understanding what is possible given today’s technologies and which levers can deliver measurable, predicable results.”
While it’s common to have the latest monitoring equipment gathering data on plant operations, the fact is that data often does not get analyzed properly nor is it sent to the right people and used in the way that makes it most valuable. Emerson announced on the first day of the Exchange its expanded Plantweb digital ecosystem, which is a portfolio of standards-based hardware, software, intelligent devices and services designed to help users achieve measurable improvements in performance. Peter Zornio, chief strategic officer Peter Zornio, explained: “Market volatility is driving a cautious, ‘grind it out’ mentality, but operating performance goals demand transformational thinking and action.” Process automation can help connect operations to business performance, and improvements can be made using the data, connectivity, analytics and mobility made possible by harnessing the power of the IIoT.
Security on the Internet of Things
Cyber security is one of the biggest concerns about the IIoT, so Emerson has created a program called Operational Certainty to help with that, and has teamed up with Microsoft using the Azure IoT Suite to develop what they are calling the “Secure First Mile” initiative. The first mile is when data is moved from the plant floor onto the internet to power IT and cloud-based applications.
Devices called data diodes are employed to mitigate the concern that, once a portal is open for information to go out, that connection can become an inlet for malicious attacks. These devices physically limit data transmission to one direction—out from the operational systems. Combined with the appropriate protocol translations, simple systems can be constructed that allow highly secure transfer of data from gateways that are talking directly to sensors.
Top Quartile Performance
These endeavors are in place to help users achieve “Top Quartile Performance,” which is defined as achieving operations and capital performance in the top 25% of peer companies. Compared to a fourth-quartile company, says Train, a top-quartile company will have one-third the number of safety incidents versus their average industry peers, spend half as much on maintenance and operate with an incremental 15 days of available production each year, spend 20% less on production-related expenses and spend one-third as much as the industry average on energy costs with 30% less CO2 emissions.
While data collection, security and equipment performance are all important for industries to succeed, none of it can be sustained and businesses cannot be expanded and improved without leadership.
The keynote speaker for this event was Tom Flick, a former NFL quarterback who said, “Winning is great, but there’s something better than that—helping other people to win.”
Flick pointed out that leadership is not the same as management and distinguishing between the two is important. “We’ve educated people to become managers, but management’s job is keeping things the same. It’s to make things run smoothly. Leadership,” he explained, “is communicating motives and strategy. If management is playing defense, then leadership is playing offense. Leadership is about change.”
Flick laid out what he believes are the three most important attributes of leaders: They push frontiers and seize opportunities, they exercise their ethics and put principle above technique, and finally they lead the way by inspiring people and helping them unleash their energy.
Operations and the Human Factor
In his presentation, Mark Murphy, technical director, electrical and control systems engineering for Fluor Enterprises, said there are two drivers in projects— lifecycle costs and capital. Usually capital costs win out, but we have potential for a larger savings over the life of the asset when considering lifecycle costs. Some of the most expensive assets in plants are steam traps, relief valves, heat exchangers, cooling towers and rotating equipment. “Monitoring this equipment will reduce lifecycle costs,” said Murphy. “If you have an acoustic transmitter that can monitor a valve, it will tell you if the valve is leaking, and that can save millions in fugitive emissions.”
He also recommended that users look beyond the capital costs to see the true cost of the project. “Compare capital costs to lifecycle costs, and sometimes extra capital costs will improve reliability.”
Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) are often required to reduce the rise of any kind of incident that would pose threats to human health, the environment and operations in a refinery. Tommy Elkins of the ControlWorx division of John H. Carter Co. pointed out that, regarding SIS valves, the most important consideration is defining the appropriate safety integrity level (SIL), and choosing valves based on the application needs, including temperature, pressure and the kind of fluid—erosive and corrosive. Determine if that valve is up to the level required for your operation. Additionally, not all SIL-certified components (valves, actuators and positioners) are compatible with each other, so even if they are individually adequate, together they may not work together.
One way to make sure these valves operate as needed is to do partial stroke testing, which can detect whether packing is seized, if an actuator is malfunctioning or if some other connection is not being made.
One of the most well-attended workshops was entitled “Better Listener, Better Life,” presented by Emerson’s Bruce Smith and Nikki Bishop. This interactive session had attendees actively practicing the art of listening after they had learned why listening is so important, what makes a good listener and how to become a better listener. It’s no wonder this workshop won an award as one of the most valuable business classes at the event, as everybody came away with a real understanding of the difference between listening and hearing, and how that can improve workplace productivity, safety and satisfaction.
While the workshops and education sessions were valuable, this event, like most other industry events, carry much of their value in the opportunity to network with peers in the process control industries. Nearly 3,000 end users, EPCs, business partners and Emerson representatives traded ideas and information that can be taken back and instituted in plants, mines and processing facilities that will surely benefit from the Exchange.