Yokogawa recovery is now completed

The recent Yokogawa User Conference in Berlin was reported in the INSIDER Newsletter July 2014 issue, showing a major emphasis on wireless systems, and the addition of new wireless sensors, for example for flammable gas alarm applications. The Berlin conference was the first significant Yokogawa European event since the Nice User Group meeting in November 2012, and so gave a good opportunity to talk to the management and assess how the business has reorganized and progressed over the few years. The overall impression is that Yokogawa is back to full health, so the major players need to move over.

The problems of the last five years.

The group has had a hard time over the last five years, following the world-wide recession and then their poor financial results in 2009. Then Japanese factors affected the Group badly, with the rise of the Japanese Yen reducing the competitive position – because of local production and group HQ costs – and the country then faced the impact and aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Some of the Test and Measurement Division businesses were sold off, realizing some capital, and the company structure has been rearranged: jobs and resources were re-allocated. Wound around this, the wireless standards ‘war’ between ISA100 and WirelessHART, where Yokogawa for a long time took the brunt of the problems, and presumably had to help in the process of finalizing the ISA100 standard into a workable form: at least this is now completed, and consequently Yokogawa is the leader in the ISA100 field.

Recovery factors

Perhaps the major market factor that aided the Yokogawa recovery was the growth of the LNG liquefaction and shipping activity around the world, since is this an area where they have significant expertise and have a large market share compared to the other majors. Currently there are continuing LNG projects, the Japanese Yen has returned to the historic level of ¥100=$1, and over some years the production facilities have been diversified, reducing the concentration in Japan.

The flow company, Rota, has always been headquartered in Europe: now the special custom assemblies of complete analyzer houses are also built in Europe and the USA, plus the latest LNG project on the Yamal peninsula in Russia will be engineered from Europe. In a discussion at their Berlin conference, Yokogawa president and COO Nishijima san reminded me that they already had two established manufacturing joint venture companies in China, manufacturing transmitters and flowmeters, and the DCS systems plus other measuring instruments are built in Indonesia, with general pcboard manufacturing in Singapore. Nishijima san also commented on the need for local manufacture in the USA to provide the fast lead times required in that market, so we might see investment in a new production assembly venture there.

The next steps – with wireless

The Berlin conference showed that Yokogawa is building on their ISA100 position, and is seeking other add-on wireless sensor technologies to increase their ‘in-house’ capability. This might be by using their add-on wireless adaptor/interface, to existing mains powered sensors. It looks like a good relationship has developed with GE Bently Nevada, and corrosion and intrusion detection sensors might be next, with maybe fire detection sensors to go alongside the GasSecure flammable gas detectors on offshore platforms. Dräger, the specialists in oil and gas safety technology, were one of the major sponsoring partners of the Berlin conference, and also presented a talk discussing fire detection, using visual flame detection systems.

Nishijima was appointed President in February 2013: in April 2013 Herman van den Berg was appointed European President, and in December 2013 Simon Rogers was recruited as the head of the UK operation. Van den Berg, probably in common with Chet Mroz and others in the USA, has been burning up the air miles to Japan over the past 18 months, as a part of planning the recovery of the business. In fact there was an acquisition in March 2013 of Soteica Visual Mesa, marking an entry for Yokogawa into energy management IT services. Nishijima san sees further alliances and even acquisitions as an important route for Yokogawa to consider, to achieve the future growth his shareholders expect to see, and the current improvement in debt/equity ratio and normalization of the company share status makes this much more possible.

DCS and software developments

The major existing DCS developments have involved cyber-security improvements, probably in conjunction with McAfee after the February 2013 announcement, and ISAsecure certification for ProSafe RS. Additions to expect in this area are augmented reality added onto the displays, and compatibility with virtual servers. Yokogawa sees major business expansion potential in providing IT techniques and services for their IA customers, as a continuing service activity.

Examples quoted were CMMS in the cloud, which is already being offered as a service in Japan, and a software service called iMaintain, jointly developed and installed with Akzo Nobel in Germany: plus there is also their RigRider drilling procedure software, as reported from the Offshore Europe Expo in the newsletter last September. iMaintain enables client engineers to access device live data and history via a tablet on site, after reading the device ID locally using OCR. The iMaintain server accesses the DCS via an OPC link, to get current data, but can also call up device notes previously recorded, and also the instruction manual. A similar service offering is the Sotieca VisualMesa energy management system, which can suggest fuel and operational changes that will run plants such as refineries at minimal cost. One example of this is a recent project for the BP Lingen refinery in Germany: the system is in use in around 70 sites in refineries and petrochemical plants in the EU and North America.

The R+D activity on instrumentation also continues….

In the area of field instrumentation, continuing development will be seen following their strategy of having a two tier offering, featuring a top of the range unit backed up with a lower cost unit aimed at lower specification requirements. This has been seen with the EJX and EJA-E pressure transmitter, and the Admag AXF flowmeter, with the RXF unit typically for water industry applications. A new version of the TDLS combustion gas analyzer will also be launched soon. The activity level in this area of R+D is significant, with typically 400 to 500 new patents generated in a year.

Nick Denbow

The INSIDER Newsletter covering industrial automation and control is a Spitzer and Boyes publication, see http://www.iainsider.co.uk

Rockwell $5.3m order for LSB nitric acid and ammonia plants

LSB Industries Inc, a diversified industrial manufacturer of chemical and HVAC products, has awarded a $5.3 million contract to Rockwell Automation. Rockwell will serve as the main automation contractor for two new plants, providing a $3.5 million PlantPAx process automation system with electrical, controls and instrumentation services, and a $1.8 million Ethernet motor control system. The systems will be installed at both of LSB’s new plants (nitric acid and ammonia) currently being constructed at its El Dorado, Arkansas facility.

“Rockwell Automation won the order based on its strong installed base, plant preference at our El Dorado ammonia plant, and its strategic partnership with the Casale Group,” said Dallas Robinson, vice president of operations at LSB.

Working with the Casale Group, a Swiss systems integrator specializing in ammonia and methanol, and Rexel, a global electrical distributor, Rockwell Automation won a major order for this ammonia plant, strengthening its position in the chemical sector.

“We’re pleased to deliver this important project for LSB Industries,” said Terry Gebert, vice president and general manager, Rockwell Automation global solutions. “Our domain expertise, process knowledge and project management will help LSB Industries implement and operate profitable, sustainable facilities.”

Single-cell mass spectrometry

Yokogawa technology has been selected for the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s next-generation technology transfer program. The technology has made a major step forward towards the development of a confocal image single-cell drug discovery support system.

OK, its not what you expect to read about on an instrumentation and control newsletter website blog, but instrumentation gets into some interesting areas. One of the real advantages of the University system as I saw it, in Cambridge, was that you had researchers from many different disciplines side by side at dinner, in the bar, or just happening to talk to each other. OK, I left there 50 years ago, but still go back for the occasional event/dinner etc – why not, I had fun there. Last month I went back for the 50th anniversary dinner – presumably Churchill College want to make sure I remember them when I write a new Will – and sat next to a young Japanese lady who was using a Yokogawa confocal scanner to monitor the neuron messages in the brain of a fruit fly. Apparently the fruit fly does not think about much, other than fruit, so his neurons are easiest to track, and this is the technology you need.

I have to say its not easy to keep track after several aperitifs and two different courses, with the wine, but for an electrical engineer cum journalist I kept up. So now read what the real description says….

Yokogawa Electric Corporation has announced that its confocal image single-cell drug discovery support system has been selected for the Japan Science and Technology Agency’s (JST) next-generation technology transfer program (NexTEP). NexTEP was created to promote efforts by companies to find practical applications for the technologies (including those covered by patents) and research findings of universities and public research institutions.

Through this undertaking, JST aims to develop a new drug-discovery support system that will integrate a single-cell mass spectrometry method developed by the RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center’s Laboratory for Single Cell Mass Spectrometry with high-speed imaging and high-precision positioning technologies that Yokogawa has developed for its confocal scanner units and drug-discovery support devices.

For the development of new drugs, multiple cells are typically ground to analyse intracellular metabolism and thereby verify the efficacy and side effects of a particular candidate drug. A drawback of this technique is that molecular changes in individual cells cannot be analysed in sufficient detail. In addition, large numbers of animal and human cells are required.

With this new system, JST aims to clarify how molecules of a candidate drug reach a specific cell and the changes that take place there. Single-cell mass spectrometry is a technique for the analysis of target molecules that have been suctioned out from individual cells as they are being observed under a microscope. The system that is to be developed will speed up this process by automating the identification of cells and molecules where unusual changes have taken place, and automatically capturing target molecules. In addition to speeding up analysis, this will reduce costs.

Yokogawa will work with RIKEN to develop a system that will accelerate the development of new drugs by enabling the quick and precise analysis of the effect that candidate drugs have on intracellular metabolism.

Single-cell mass spectrometry is a method whereby cell molecules are suctioned out using a microfine glass tube (nanospray chip), ionised with an ionising organic solvent, and analysed (to identify type and amount) using a mass spectrometer. Performed under a microscope, this method is fast and the analysis results are highly precise. While a large sample is needed with conventional methods, this analysis method requires just one cell, and it can also quantify intermediate metabolites and trace metabolic pathways to final metabolites.

About Yokogawa’s confocal scanner unit and drug-discovery support system

The confocal scanner is a scanning unit that focuses laser beams on individual points on a plane to acquire tomographic images of live cells at selected depths, without the need for slicing the sample. Thanks to its clear images and industry-leading imaging speed, Yokogawa’s confocal scanner is widely used in research institutions around the world. The Yokogawa drug-discovery support system that incorporates this scanner unit is an automated testing tool that looks at cell functions, administers drug candidate compounds to cells, takes pictures of induced intracellular changes, and analyses reactions. This system also leads the industry in screening speed and resolution.

Correlation flowmetering finds the computing power needed

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

This was a quote from George Peppard, in the A-Team, in 1983. But that was too early for the cross-correlation two phase flowmeter to become a reality, as it was only 7 years after I first saw prototypes with Dr Maurice Beck at Bradford University in 1976. My job then was to investigate University developments, to see what could be developed into a viable commercial product for Bestobell Mobrey. We decided not to take up the project, but Maurice Beck continued with this type of research, subsequently as a Professor at UMIST in Manchester. The cross-correlation function took much more computing power than was easily available at that time, but the concept was attractive, particularly to people dealing with multi-phase oil-well flows, dry product flows and other measurements using non-contact sensors. Later, this included people such as oil and oil service companies, like Schlumberger, and sensors for solids monitoring applications, such as Endress+Hauser.

The technology nearly 50 years later

Dr Andrew Hunt

Dr Andrew Hunt

So it was a real pleasure to catch up with what seems to be the culmination of this development process, at the demo facility of Atout Process in Southampton. Andy Hunt, md of Atout Process, has worked on the concepts involved with this flowmeter and flow visualization system for over 12 years, with colleagues in Tomoflow technology. Tomoflow developed and patented much of the electronics and software needed: the technique is similar to tomography, but unlike a body scanner, taking 5 -10 minutes for one scan, it completes a scan across a pipe around 600 times each second – or even faster in some solids applications. Dr Hunt has an oil industry background, and at one time worked for Schlumberger on these techniques, with Prof Beck and his colleagues. So around 5 years ago he set up Atout and licensed the Tomoflow technology for commercial applications development in relation to process applications.

Over the last 5 years Atout has developed sensors and application expertise for visualizing and computing the density profile of flowing materials, across the pipe section, using non-contact, non-penetration capacitance measurements, normally working through a plastic or similar pipe wall material. Typically using two sets of 8-electrode arrays, spaced along the pipe, and computing all the inter-electrode capacitances, these can provide a picture of the material density within the pipe. Cross-correlation functions, now reduced to a minor part of the major computing power applied, calculate the transfer speed of the mass pattern between the two arrays.

Practical demonstrations

Pipe sensor, with visualisation of contents on the laptop - using bench electronics (behind)The results were impressive. Placing a dielectric rod (of diameter <20% of the sensor) within the sensor, the Complete sensor assembly and electronics wrapped around food grade plastic pipescreen visual representation clearly shows the rod position, movement and size, within the blue on the photograph that represents a clear pipe. In the picture on the left, the electronics unit behind the sensor is a desktop research unit: the second picture on the right shows a sensor with the electronics packaged around a food grade plastic pipe sensor, which would then be sleeved.

Dropping 6Kg of wheat from a hopper through such a sensor showed the clouds of wheat on the PC screen, as the areas of higher mass density. Flowing at 2m/sec on average for around 15 seconds the mass total was computed second by second, and the total mass flow displayed within 1%, on each of several runs.

The wheat flow test rig with a completed sensor assemblyProviding such mass flow data to wheat processing/milling systems is one of the first applications likely, and other applications on biofuels, plastic pellets, minerals and cement are possible. For the technophiles, the capacitance changes being monitored are as small as a few tenths of a femtofarad for the widely separated sensor plates: a femtofarad (fF) is one thousandth of a picofarad, and the sensor cables themselves have a standing capacitance of around 2pF.

The wheat flow test rig is shown on the right, the bucket collecting the wheat was on the floor!

Monitoring the dryness of steam

Water droplets carried in steam flows can have a devastating effect on turbine blades and similar high speed equipment. Detecting the presence of wetness, or water mists, in steam flows, is a major safety requirement for power generation systems. One of the Atout sensor systems, packaged inside a stainless steel flanged pipe section, has been tested on a live ‘dry’ steam line, at 190⁰C and around 25 bar, and successfully monitored the wetness levels: as far as anyone could estimate! Free air tests show the system is well able to detect the passage of a single small drop of water falling through the sensor.

Monitoring wet oil flows

The ultimate flowmeter application is to monitor two and three phase flows in the oil industry, for wells and allocation metering. The Atout flowmetering software goes a long way to achieving this, and certainly allows the visualization of the flow profiles and mass density within a pipe flow. Some videos of this visualization are shown on their website. Undoubtedly this is why the UK Technology Strategy Board has given Atout Process a grant to demonstrate their technology, and why there are regular visitors to discuss such potential applications.

A major achievement has been that Atout Process is a participant in one of the latest European projects run by NEL in East Kilbride, which aims to establish a reference measurement network and standards aimed at improving the accuracy of subsea multiphase flow measurement for the oil and gas industry. Atout Process will work alongside National Measurement Institutes with industrial and academic partners from the UK, Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

Steam sensor assembly in the background, with new bodies for the NEL multi-phase flow visualization sensor

Steam sensor assembly in the background, with new bodies for the NEL multi-phase flow visualization sensor

Andy Hunt commented “This is a fantastic opportunity for Atout to show what we can do with our advanced flow imaging technologies. We believe that flow imaging systems will become a fundamental part of new multiphase flow measurement standards”. Atout has built the sensor packaging needed to fit their capacitance imaging device and flowmeter onto the NEL test lines, as seen in the picture.

As Hunt also commented, if the Atout meter is what is used to establish the industry measurement standard, then this will bode well for future applications. Indeed, there is very little else that the researchers can use to get any picture of what is happening in the pipe, to define the flow structure. Atout forecast that one of their prototype multi-phase flowmeters will be installed offshore inside two years.

The processing technology …..

People often have a bias against a technology, and both correlation and capacitance have their detractors: we all know the history. But what Atout have done is taken the cross correlation technique and used processing power to go deeper into the flows within the pipe, into each little box, splitting out different ‘clouds’ and identifying their mass, and their velocity. This avoids making some of the base assumptions previously used in cross-correlation, which were not really valid. The processing technique can work in other formats too, for example the same flow visualization tools could be used on a multi-electrode electromagnetic flowmeter, or even a part filled magflo meter: such products have also been considered for multi-phase flow.

This article was first published in the May 2014 issue of the Industrial Automation INSIDER, which is a subscription newsletter. See http://www.iainsider.co.uk

Kentz to be acquired by SNC-Lavelin

SNC-Lavelin of Canada has made an agreed cash offer to buy all the shares of Kentz Corporation, for a total investment of GBP1164 million, or $2Bn. SNC-Lavelin is Canada’s biggest engineering and construction company. SNC believes Kentz will provide a major step for SNC into high growth, high margin operations in the oil and gas industry – in geographic areas such as the Middle East, North America and Asia Pacific.

Kentz went public on the London stock market in 2008, and last year fought off take-over bids from both M+W of Germany and AMEC of the UK (See INSIDER September 2013 page 7). Kentz was formed in 1919 in Tipperary, Ireland. Earlier this year it acquired Valerus Field Solutions – the US based integrated oil and gas surface facility solutions provider.

With Kentz, SNC will add 14500 employees in the oil and gas sector, making their total manpower working in this sector 18500 employees, or 42% of their total payroll.

  • On a similar topic, Wood Group, the Aberdeen based service provider to the oil and gas and power generation markets, is advertising on their website front page for a Mergers and Acquisitions Manager!

Latest moves in HART and FF collaboration

The FF has issued the following press release today:

The Boards of Directors of the Fieldbus Foundation and the HART Communication Foundation are pleased to announce that they have approved unifying the two Foundations into a new industry organization dedicated to the needs of intelligent devices and their integration in the world of Process Automation.

The combined power of both organizations will serve to protect the investments that end users in Process Automation have made in HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus communication technologies. The mission of the combined organization will be to develop, manage, and promote global standards for integrating devices into automation-system architectures, providing functional solutions for process automation suppliers and end users. Suppliers will also profit from the increased efficiencies in resource utilization, procedure consistency, and member service and support improvements.

The Fieldbus Foundation and HART Communication Foundation have a long history of cooperation. For example, the two worked together to develop common international standards, such as Electronic Device Description Language (EDDL) specifications and Field Device Integration (FDI) technology. Combining the organizations offers significant potential for harmonizing the procedures and efforts supporting the two protocols, as well as simplifying each technology’s implementation while better delivering their full benefits in plant operation and maintenance.

The FOUNDATION fieldbus and HART specifications will continue to exist individually, and to evolve into the future. Each protocol will retain its own brand name, trademarks, patents, and copyrights.

The new organization will continue development, support, and promotion of the two existing protocols, and will direct the development, incorporation, and implementation of new and overlapping technologies. Thus, the new organization will eventually serve as the single source for FDI, the sole integration tool for HART and FOUNDATION fieldbus technologies. The name of the proposed organization is not yet finalized.

The next step will be to complete the membership ballot by the end of summer 2014. Following a successful membership vote, legal filings for the creation of a new not-for-profit entity will take place in September 2014. As a final step, it is expected that the new organization offices will be consolidated and located near Austin, Texas, in early 2015.

Enterprise asset management

Tree swing with 3 seatsAs marketing requested it

Tree swing with 3 supports As sales ordered it

Tree swing fastened to trunk As engineering designed it

Tree swing in the trunk As we manufactured it

Tree swing suspended in missing trunk As field service installed it

Tree swing made of a tire What the customer wanted

EAM: A societal oxymoron – an article by  Harry H Kohal, vp of business development for Eagle Technology Inc

OK, I had never heard of them either, but its a very nice article:

Enterprise asset management (EAM) is a way of thinking, a discipline, and ultimately a culture that increases equipment life and production uptime. One of the dichotomies we face when we talk about asset life is the conflict between quality and reliability in the corporate world, and disposability in everyday life. When our new washing machine was delivered from Best Buy, the delivery person said “This is a nice washing machine, but don’t expect it to last like your old one did.” That old machine washed for four daughters, a mother-in-law, dogs, and, of course, my wife and me. Of the 25+ years we had it, we had the repairman out once or twice, but we were assured that the repairs were worth making! Now I am not sure I will need a repairman, as my smartphone can transmit any issues directly to the factory—but is the machine made to last?

In the corporate world, the stakes are heightened. The money invested means the manufacturing equipment, custom machines, robots, and associated belts, conveyors, and gears have to be reliable, so we can optimize uptime and yield top dollar. Mining shovels, robotic welders, injection molding machines, and milling machines are assets sometimes costing hundreds of millions of dollars, and they must be reliable and dependable. However, modern manufacturers of this equipment try to balance between designing and building a machine that will last forever and meet customer needs, and that will have a limited life cycle. There is no future in building the machine that lasts forever. There is no doubt in my mind if we were willing to pay the price, a washing machine could be built to last the lifetime of a family. In fact some commercial washers could match that potential the way they are currently built, but most people do not buy commercial washers for their homes.

So what does this washing machine have to do with enterprise asset management?

The disposable mentality is a part of our current culture. We expect things to last for a while, and then we get rid of the asset and buy a new one. The products are not designed to be fixed, which would cost the manufacturer future sales. However, the same manufacturer producing these disposables needs the equipment it uses for making its products to last “forever.” We no longer take our televisions to a repair shop. When they stop working and are out of warranty, we go get a newer one with better energy-saving features and better picture quality. When it comes to businesses, that strategy is avoided like the plague, because the longer capital equipment is in service, the higher the return on investment. Maintenance people are asked to keep assets running, but are not provided properly installed EAM systems to be more productive. Is this cultural attitude, the disposability we live with every day, the reason management of many companies does not seem to relate to EAM? It may be a strong contributor. Another more prevalent underlying issue is the lack of skills and desire to do data analysis. This requires time, expertise, and management that is responsive to the news this data reveals.

Many maintenance programs have so-called EAM programs that consist of fixing assets when they break. The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule has been lost over the years as staff changes, resulting in early failures and unexpected breakdowns. Management may have the attitude: “Preventive maintenance or predictive maintenance is something those really sophisticated companies do, not us.” “We don’t have the time or manpower for that” is a typical response from small to mid-tier companies; the businesses that need to manage their assets to remain competitive.

There is an industry-wide shortage of people who can do quality analysis and repair work. No one 18 to 22 years of age is going to college to become a repair person; it is not glamorous. Why is this occurring? For the very reason the washing machine is not going to last 20 to 30 years, the world views more and more things as disposable, and there is not a perceived need for someone to repair something. Even when your automobile gets to 100,000 miles and things start to break, the mechanic will tell you it is probably better to go buy a new car. After all, the old car did not have Bluetooth, USB, better widgets for driver comfort, and the new safety features! Who do you know who is not a NASCAR driver who dropped a new engine and transmission into his or her car in the past three years?

EAM defined

I recently presented the outlook of EAM and its effectiveness to a group of facility vice presidents, directors, and managers, and the forecast was fair to partly cloudy! The forecast was based on the diversity of implementations I have seen over the past decade. Depending on the experience of the responsible manager, when the solution was implemented, and who participated in the process, I have seen good to very poor implementations. While we may agree that software should be intuitive in its usage, most of the implementations that were failures did not fail because of the software. They failed because the implementer failed to define what success will look like!

When I got started in business, I came across a tree swing cartoon that aptly described how clearly we all have a point of view, and how that point of view affects what we see. Many variations of this tree swing cartoon exist online, but the actual creator remains anonymous. The cartoon is replicated in this article. It illustrates several different ways a swing is tied to the tree with captions describing how marketing requested it, how the sales team ordered it, how engineering designed it, how it was manufactured, and how it was installed. In the end, the final tree shows the swing exactly the way the customer wanted it.

If I ask each of you what a successful EAM implementation looks like, I believe we might end up with the same variations, so the question that faces us is “is anyone wrong?”

Several of the views above provide some functionality, but they have limits. One of the views provides no functionality, but the rider will not fall off the seat.

Communication means: “Saying” and “Hearing” have the same message.

Marketing request: Tree swing with 3 seats
What the user really wanted: Tree swing made of a tire


Team effort

Implementing an EAM solution is not a one person job. A team view is required to implement any EAM solution. You may disagree, and tell me you know everything there is to know about your business. I may agree when it comes to what assets need preventative maintenance (PM) and the steps for that PM, but I challenge you to identify the data your CFO or CEO will need five or 10 years from now to make solid business decisions. What data do you need to defend your organization from a lawsuit? Where are your documented processes and procedures to assure the quality of data in the system? How did you structure your nomenclature of assets to allow for additional assets, locations, companies, or customers?

You see, the decisions for an EAM solution extend beyond today, and potentially beyond your tenure in the job; it is a companywide solution. If you decide parts and the associated costs are not important, or the work done by contractors is not important, or labor/time capture is a waste of time, or closing work orders is not necessary as long as the work is done, you are heading down the path of failure!

Expert help

Some of you will read this and think, “Duh, of course you have to do those things!” However, the reality is I see people who only want to use the system for PM, who say they do not need training, and they will figure it out on their own!

Wake up! You may be smart, but so were the people who designed the tree swings. It is not about the software, it is about the identification of success.

Expert help and training are not just about the software, they are about putting the 5,000 pieces of the puzzle on the table, sorting them out, communicating to make sure everyone knows what the end picture looks like, planning the process to get the outline of the puzzle in place, and developing the plan to fill in the missing pieces. Unlike a puzzle that will reach completion, the EAM solution will never be done. New equipment will be added, old equipment decommissioned, and new technology, new regulations, and new processes adapted to refine and improve everyone’s view of the picture of success.

New players will come into the game, and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) have to be adhered to so data quality is consistent and valid. Periodically, time must be spent to assure that data is good. The other thing I learned early in my career is “garbage in, garbage out.” It still applies, and garbage data leads to many failures of EAM solutions, which is not the software vendor’s fault.

I can cite many examples where the company gave the EAM solution to the production manager, the position changed hands, and the new person felt a new solution was needed, throwing away potentially valuable information! Then in six or 10 months the CFO said, “we have to cut staff; maintenance expenses are too high.” Thus, the manager had no data to support the value of the work his staff had done, and what it will really cost the company to decrease staffing. You see the job is not just to fix things, keep them running, and manage people, it is all about managing data, a fact lost to many!

The real issue

I have pointed out several stumbling blocks to successful EAM solutions: culture, people, the lack of definition of success for the company, the need to look beyond today, and the changing role of the people responsible for EAM. The problem is complex, as the labor force becomes scarcer, as management misreads the value of EAM, as establishing a solution with SOPs and the enforcement of those standards is complicated. The changing regulatory landscape must be reflected in the detail of the work order tasks. It is not enough just to say “PM the machine.” In the end, there are many good EAM solutions, but the real test when looking for a solution is to ask yourself, is the vendor most interested in just selling the software, or does the vendor have the ability to help me map out the path to success? If you engage a vendor that has helped customers map their success plans, that vendor can help you, too. Why go it alone and risk failure? That cost is much higher than the cost of some training and consulting; it could save your career. The real issue is that the world is changing, and if you are not willing to admit you need to change, you are doomed, and your EAM solution will be doomed. After all, the outlook is fair to partly cloudy.

Regular news on Process Automation and Control topics is presented in the INSIDER monthly newsletter, supplied on subscription by Spitzer and Boyes LLC: Nick Denbow is the European correspondent for the INSIDER. For more information please consult http://www.iainsider.co.uk or http://www.spitzerandboyes.com


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