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The Future of Process Instruments: State Monitoring and Self-Diagnosis

Process instruments

Advances in condition monitoring technology have provided new opportunities to improve the performance of many industrial applications.

From water treatment plants to petrochemical facilities, most industrial processes rely heavily on a variety of process instrumentation. Devices such as temperature and pressure transmitters, flow meters, and gas and liquid analyzers are used to ensure accurate measurement and control.

While plant managers are primarily concerned with the proper operation of the process, the instruments that provide the data need attention as well. They need to operate reliably and accurately to ensure that the process is running correctly, so their health and performance need to be prioritized as well.

Today’s process instrumentation has largely moved away from the analog technology of the past and is mostly digital. As well as providing data on process parameters, these instruments generate a wealth of information about their performance and accuracy. Many modern devices can check their circuitry for problems and assess their performance, which can help technicians with calibration and maintenance. For detailed news, please see the following.

Condition Monitoring and Self-diagnosis

Condition monitoring of equipment brings many benefits, including the ability to continuously check and measure the health of the equipment. In some cases, this information can be shared with the equipment supplier, whose experts can provide service recommendations based on the health of the equipment and remote help. Some suppliers take data from their equipment and offer complete online condition monitoring systems to help users make better decisions about the status and future of their equipment.

Another major benefit is reduced maintenance. Many meters can be maintained through self-cleaning, however, an accurate assessment of the condition of the equipment allows users to move to a predictive maintenance model. This avoids the need for time-consuming scheduled maintenance, which can be an important factor if the equipment is located in remote areas or is difficult to access.

Self-diagnosis also helps equipment achieve maximum uptime. This is particularly important for critical operations such as gas emission monitoring systems. As they monitor potentially harmful gases, regulations governing the availability of these systems are becoming increasingly stringent. In the countries with the strictest regulations, there can be a maximum of 10 minutes of non-functional operation per half hour, an average of 5-6 non-functional half hours per day, or a maximum of 10 days of non-functional operation per year.

Condition monitoring can also include remote monitoring. This allows managers to be continuously informed about the status of the instrument through alarms sent directly to a smartphone or tablet.

Condition monitoring

Effective Communication and Flexibility

The first condition for making the most of these features is to enable effective communication with the device. Although most measuring devices are digital, many applications still use 4-20mA current loops.

Another key factor is the ability to interrogate the device. One of the main ways to do this is through in-built condition monitoring and diagnostics based on the NAMUR NE 107 standard. Essentially, NAMUR NE 107 categorizes internal diagnostics into four standard status signals – fault, function check, out-of-specification, and maintenance required. This makes it easier for technicians handling alarms and other process personnel to address these issues.

Status signals can also contain more detailed information. For example, fault signals can include information about equipment problems or whether the process itself is the source of the fault.

Flexibility is also a key feature of the NAMUR NE 107 diagnostics – users can turn off any unwanted diagnostics or configure how diagnostic results are reported.


Automated Verification Improves Accuracy

Field verification is an important step in maintaining the accuracy of your equipment. Manual verification has been widely used in the past. Based on the use of multimeters and similar devices, this requires trained technicians and longer downtime. A faster alternative is software verification. However, this may require the use of several different software packages that may not always work with all communication protocols.

Better modern verification software packages offer a higher degree of automation and do not require specially trained technicians. They can support a wide range of device types, provide in-depth analyses of device conditions, generate variable calibration reports, and determine whether a device passes validation.

As an example of the potential benefits of automated validation compared to manual validation, one organization has reduced its costs by more than $1 million per year using this technology. Initially, the business was spending $150,000 per year to validate 75 regulatory measurement devices, and $100,000 per year in maintenance and repair costs. The business also lost 5 percent of its production due to poor quality. By moving to automated validation, the company reduced maintenance costs by at least $162,000 and saw a significant increase in production.

The most cost-effective approach to maintenance is predictive maintenance, with condition monitoring as its key foundation. Predictive maintenance uses performance data to predict which piece of equipment or component on a piece of equipment is likely to fail and when. Maintenance personnel can more effectively investigate the condition of equipment, perform tasks according to production schedules, and repair instruments before they fail. A better understanding of the actual condition of the instrument allows repairs to be carried out in the right way at the right time, thus extending the life of the instrument.

One of the main benefits of adopting a predictive maintenance program is the ability to reduce unplanned downtime if the instrument is only taken out of operation when necessary, it can continue to function as a monitor for the longest period. Another benefit is the ability to schedule tasks and utilize labor resources more efficiently.

Moving from preventive to predictive maintenance helps eliminate routine tasks that have no value or do not improve equipment operation. In addition to reducing overall maintenance costs, the risk of inaccurate adjustments is eliminated.

Modern measuring and monitoring instruments offer great advantages in that they help to monitor their condition and provide information for predictive maintenance. In this way, they can remain operational for longer; ensuring that instrument users in any industry can cost-effectively maximize process uptime while meeting relevant regulatory requirements.

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