The mystery of intelligent sensor diagnostics @ProcessingTalk #PAuto

The fashion, or trend, that has developed over the last few years for process and analytical instrumentation sensors is to use their on-board intelligence to monitor their own performance status. They achieve this by monitoring and tracking various diagnostic measurements – secondary parameters where consistent values are said to indicate the sensor is working as it should, and has not been subject to any changes since leaving the factory.

This approach is easily understood if you consider the possible effects of exposure of a sensor to excessive temperatures, which might soften the potting or glues holding a sensor to a ‘window’ – and it can be expected that this would be detectable. The addition of a diagnostic sensor, such as a temperature probe, within the sensor housing, could also be an option for checking the sensor condition, and alarming if the sensor exceeds a high or low set-point.

But how else do sensors check their own performance, and how relevant are these “checks”? This topic was discussed in the latest issue of the South African Journal of Instrumentation and Control, August 2017 issue: SAIC is a journal produced by technews.co.za.

Modern (intelligent?) sensors

So, over the past two years of attending and listening to presentations, and reading relevant articles describing the advantages of self-monitoring systems and sensor diagnostics, waiting for an engineer’s explanation as to how the clever monitoring system actually tells the factory instrument engineer anything, it is a bit of a disappointment to report that there seem to be no suppliers that actually make any significant disclosure. This applies across sensors ranging from ultrasonic and Coriolis flowmeters, electromagnetic flowmeters, level measurement systems using radar or ultrasonics, and level alarms. Obviously all the major suppliers are involved in such equipment, and compete with each other, but this secrecy seems a little extreme.

The problem is possibly that until a manufacturer can point to a failure that was detected – or anticipated – using their diagnostics, and decides to publish it, the user population has no idea what systems might actually work. But equally, by publishing a success for the diagnostics, the same manufacturer is saying that one of his sensors failed – and that is a very unusual event, these days. Plus also maybe not something they would wish to publicise.

The older approaches

The whole idea of diagnostics and sensor monitoring has been around for a long time. From personal experience with Bestobell Mobrey, in the 1980s, Mobrey launched an ultrasonic version of a float switch, the ‘Squitch’, which switched a two wire mains connection through a load circuit. When not alarmed it just sat there taking a small control current. For customer reassurance that it was operating in this quiescent state, there was a blinking red LED to show that the sensor was ‘armed’ and operating normally. Mobrey called that a heartbeat indicator, a term that is now used more widely.

For custody transfer flowmeters, the classic approach to validate confidence in the reading is to use two meters in series, and check that both give the same answer. This has progressed to having two separate ultrasonic flowmeters mounted in the same flowtube, on some installations.

For the more safety conscious plant there are often requirements for duplicated sensors for such duties as high level alarms, where two different technologies are used by the sensors – e.g. by mixing float, capacitance or ultrasonic level alarms.

The modern approach

It seems that the ultimate approach is to let the sensor supplier link into your plant automation and data system to interrogate the sensor, and he will verify the measurement and performance diagnostics on a regular basis. With many and varied sensors, this leads to a lot of external interrogation of your plant assets, and possible worries over losing control of your plant.

Overall, it begins to look as though it is becoming impossible for a discerning plant engineer to decide which supplier has the best performing diagnostic system to monitor the relevant sensor’s performance. Rather like opening the bonnet of a modern car, and deciding it would be best to take it to a garage!

At a recent lecture on this subject, held by the InstMC Wessex section in co-operation with Southampton University, a detailed discussion concluded that the sensor suppliers now have all the real expertise in-house and a normal plant engineer could not be expected to cover the depth of this technology for all the many sensors and other equipment within his control. In the end the decision as to ‘which supplier to use’ returns to your own previous experience, including the service and support that has been and is now on offer, and the suitability of the product for the money available for that sensor task.

False alarms from safety sensors?

So I do know about sensors and control systems, from the supplier point of view. But maybe like many suppliers I’ve only been on site to troubleshoot a sensor that is reported to be giving incorrect data. So someone else made the decision to question the validity of the sensor outputs.

These days, the nearest I get to regular sensor monitoring is at home, typically with smoke alarms, a CO monitor, and a flammable gas alarm. Plus the plant manager, my wife, is always demanding an immediate solution to any alarm system going off, to continue production.

The problem

A flammable gas alarm was positioned above the gas hob: perhaps in retrospect not the best place, as the instructions said humidity and steam should be avoided. But very quickly we realised that the detector was not very tolerant of any wine added to dishes being cooked on the hob. Then, surprisingly, it alarmed whenever we had bread dough baking in the (electric) oven. Since the detector was said to be set to alarm at 25% of the LEL this was surprising.

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The instruction came down – ‘Get me a switch in that alarm circuit, so I can switch the piercing noise of the alarm off!’ So, there was my solution, and a task, so that was done. I did not think it through any further.

Time passes

This system worked well for maybe 3 years. The alarm switch changed power from the alarm to a lamp over the worktop, so we knew to switch it back on after a problem event. But such sensors must have a life, and so when the alarm started going off when the kettle boiled and steam drifted up past the detector, I thought the unit was failing. There were then several late evening alarms, for no apparent reason, and we could not smell any gas (it is difficult to detect these days), nor see anything untoward. Like every engineer I guess, I felt the sensor, to find it very hot. This seemed to confirm the problem, that the sensor was failing, so take the thing out – ‘it was not that hot before!’ Something had changed.

Six months later, this Summer, we had a new gas meter – a Smart unit – installed on the domestic gas supply. Ultrasonic measurement of the flow, wifi connection to the indoor display, and mobile network reporting usage figures to the supplier. That would all be great, except the fitter refused to reconnect the gas to the house, because of a slight leak detected indoors. We had to call out a plumber to deal with our in-house problems. Good job it was Summer, as that took over a week.

Finding the gas leak

The leak was located as somewhere in the piping to the gas hob. The plumber tightened up the connections under the hob, and repeated the pressure loss checks. Still a slight leak, but within allowable tolerances. OK, so he checks once more, to be sure, and starts his paperwork. A last twist of the 90 degree bend directly on the hob (supplied by the Chinese supplier) produced an interesting result: the threaded part of this connector sheared off, almost in two half-round pieces. It looks like steel, but low grade steel, and showed a brittle type fracture all around the fitting.

Presumably the crack that had been there before, allowing a slow leak, had led to the fracture on tightening the connection. That was installed 10 years before, and no-one had done any checks of that or the system post installation. OK, I had never had the systems tested for gas leaks.

What had happened?

The conclusion at this point was that the slow leak presumably collected gas in the lower cupboards, and when this escaped it combined with the wine vapours to trip the alarm. Possibly the steam from the kettle just accelerated the rise of the gas past the detector. The detector was presumably a Pellistor, and got hot because it was burning the gas off. The dough rising in the oven? I don’t know much about bread and dough – but the leak was directly above the oven, so maybe the gas and air, warmed from the sides of the oven, helped the gas rise up past the detector. If that fitting had actually failed totally one night, there would have been a major blast, as I had removed the gas detector.

We now have installed a new detector, further from the cooking (3 metres). Plus the old one is re-installed, as a back-up unit: it is working OK still, next to the boiler. The bad news: the new alarm went off last weekend, when simmering a Paella laced with white wine….

Yesterday the plant manager produced a batch of dough and made bread. Both flammable gas alarms went off, first the unit 3 metres away then the old reserve unit, now even further away in the utility room, with the boiler.

Legislation

In any rented accommodation the landlord has to have a gas system safety check once a year. Because we own our own house there is no such requirement, and the boiler service man, who checks the gas boiler and heating system once a year, is not required to, and does not include, a system gas leak test in his inspection.

Product or system failure?

The gas hob was made by Proline, and installed around 8 years ago by a registered installer. It was a Chinese manufactured unit supplied by Comet as a low-cost own-brand hob to many retail outlets in the UK. The 90 degree bend that failed was supplied as a part of the hob, the gas inlet port. It is not steel, it could be an aluminium or zinc alloy. It appears the design was such that this port could be stressed during installation or tightening, as the bend itself would not rotate to suit the angle of the delivery pipework. It seems the break was on the hob side of the fitting. A combination of a poor quality fitting and a poor design.

The flammable gas alarm seems to work OK in detecting natural gas, but is even more sensitive to alcohol vapours, bread and dough making, and using any window cleaning spray that has any hydrocarbons in the fluid. So beware of using them in a brewery, distillery, bakery, bread shop, pub, restaurant and so on!

There was undoubtedly a small gas leak, around the hob, which has now stopped. Possibly this was from the 90 degree bend fitting, which then completely broke apart on tightening the joint. It remains possible that this failure was an accident waiting to happen.

The domestic plant manager is none too pleased at the moment. So do I leave the sensors installed, take both or one of them away, or fit switches to suppress the noise and turn off the alarm(s)?

Postscript

The supplier of the unit is surprised and upset. He considers these sensors do not give false alarms, when exposed to wine fumes from simmering a paella, or from baking bread in the oven. He has asked me to return the newest one to allow him to test it.

This has been done so we will see what results!

SolutionsPT adds SCADA and HMI – from Citect – to its Wonderware offering!

SolutionsPT have issued a press release covering an expansion of their Wonderware offering from Schneider, to add SCADA and HMI Solutions. This reads as follows:

Industrial IT solutions specialist SolutionsPT has become the UK and Ireland distributor for world-class automation solutions provider Citect, strengthening its SCADA product portfolio.

Renowned for the development and application of SCADA and HMI solutions, the Citect brand is owned by Schneider Electric, and its range of products includes CitectSCADA, CitectHMI and CitectHistorian.

Schneider Electric already has a longstanding relationship with SolutionsPT, which has been the sole UK and Ireland distributor for its Wonderware suite of products since 1991. As a result, SolutionsPT was seen as the logical choice to take on the distribution of Schneider Citect software in the UK and Ireland because of its existing focus on, and technical expertise in, the automation sector.

To support the new product offering, SolutionsPT has promoted Anne Fletcher to the role of Citect Product Manager. Anne has been with SolutionsPT for six years, most recently working as Channel Relationship Manager.  Anne will be responsible for championing the Citect product set amongst SolutionsPT end users, OEMs and System Integrators to enhance the profitability and penetration of Citect products.

Martin Walder, VP Industry UK & Ireland, Schneider Electric, said: “Collaborating on sales and utilising SolutionsPT to support our Citect product will allow us to improve the service to Citect customers and enhance the breadth of our software offering. This deal will allow us to offer Historian, Batch Management and MES functionality as well as our targeted SCADA and HMI offerings. SolutionsPT is a well-established distributor and the right partner to work with to develop the overall market for Schneider software products.”

The press release ends there.

The outsider view

It is interesting to consider the background to this release, which on the face of it, is a little confusing, when you try to see it from the Schneider viewpoint. SolutionsPT is a long term independent but major Wonderware distributor and installer into UK and Irish industry. The relationship with Schneider only commenced after Schneider acquired Invensys plc: the acquisition process started with the takeover offer made in July 2013. This deal was not finalised until later in the year, after September.

In September 2013, Invensys plc, already subject to the acquisition offer from Schneider, acquired US based InduSoft, which was quoted as “a provider of HMI and embedded intelligent device software for the automation market”. This did indeed seem surprising, since Schneider had acquired a major HMI/SCADA software supplier when it bought Citect, many years before, in 2006. So why would the fairly inevitable Schneider/Invensys combined operation require two such similar companies?

This exercised several reports and analysis presented in the Industrial Automation Insider in late 2013, and some similar blog posts on http://www.ProcessingTalk.info.

However, today, in 2016, the InduSoft website promotes their Web Studio 8.0 as SCADA/HMI software for Intuitive Dashboards, OEE and the Internet of Things, under the brand of Wonderware InduSoft. Their UK distribution is quoted as dealt with by the InduSoft office in Germany. The original UK agent for InduSoft prior to 2013 was a private company, AdProSys, run by Mike Bradshaw, an ex-Wonderware employee, who then joined InduSoft as an employee in September 2013 to promote direct and channel sales of InduSoft throughout Europe. He then left InduSoft in July 2104.

With the InduSoft product being Wonderware branded, surely SolutionsPT would be selling it, as a part of their Wonderware package:  but the SolutionsPT website solidly refuses to recognize InduSoft as a search term….

The logic of this suggest that SolutionsPT have done their homework rigorously, and have decided that the Wonderware-Citect combination is the best match, to meet their market requirement for HMI/SCADA in Wonderware based applications.

©Processingtalk.info

Wonderware demo in Telford UK

Industrial IT software solutions provider, Wonderware UK, a division of SolutionsPT, is to host a two day event at which it will exclusively reveal the next generation of Wonderware industrial automation software, including updates to its HMI and SCADA offerings.

For 30 years, Wonderware has led the way with the world’s most innovative industrial software. On Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th November at the International Centre in Telford, UK, SolutionsPT will unveil ‘what’s next’ from Wonderware, showcasing the new software it believes will set the bar in industrial automation.

As well as allowing delegates an exclusive first look at Wonderware’s groundbreaking new SCADA release, the conference will also reveal the latest ‘Software as a Service’ offerings and will unveil the ways in which manufacturers can take a pragmatic approach to the Industrial Internet of Things with networking, data collection and cyber security solutions. The conference will also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the exclusive software distribution partnership between SolutionsPT and Wonderware in the UK and Ireland.

Conference timetable

The first day of the event will feature presentations from international keynote speakers, including a product representative from Schneider Electric, and Marc Van Herreweghe, Associate Vice President at the International Data Corporation (IDC), who will provide an industry expert perspective on the future of industrial automation. Attendees will also have the opportunity to listen to presentations from experts on topics including line performance, cloud solutions, disaster resilience and cyber security.

The conference’s Expo area will feature demonstrations of the next generation Wonderware software in action, as well as demonstrations by a number of the SolutionsPT partners, including ACP, Citect and Stratus Technologies. Other partners confirmed to appear at the Expo are ecom instruments, MDT Software, Ocean Data and WIN-911.

On the second day, SolutionsPT will host multiple training workshops, giving guests the opportunity to get hands-on with a variety of systems, including Wonderware Line Performance Suite, Next Generation HMI/SCADA, Wonderware Online and ACP ThinManager, which have all been designed to help build smart and connected industrial environments.

Hosted by SolutionsPT

Sue Roche, General Manager at SolutionsPT, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be able to unveil the next stage of Wonderware software, and demonstrate how the ‘factory of the future’ can become a reality.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAgMAAAAJDE0N2FlYzEwLTMwMzUtNDVkOS04MzgyLWM4MWIzMGRlMTJhNQ“Delegates will be able to experience the next generation of industrial automation and get a first look at cutting-edge software solutions that are making connected, future-proof manufacturing environments a reality. We’re also looking forward to raising a glass to the long-standing relationship between SolutionsPT and Wonderware, and preparing for many more successful years to come.”

The event runs from 9:15am until 5:30pm and includes an evening gala dinner. Overnight accommodation is also available. Those interested in attending should register here:

http://wonderware.co.uk/events-webinars/next-generation-conference

Dynamo passes 100 applications

Honeywell Process Solutions announced today that its DynAMo alarm management technology is improving safety and productivity at more than 100 process plants and pipelines around the world by helping operators better and more quickly evaluate alarm situations in control rooms.

Plants and pipelines are increasingly relying on numerous automation systems, which can produce more than 1000 system alarms in a given day. The number of alarms can often overwhelm operators, a problem that leads to lower production and increased safety incidents that cost the process industry billions of dollars every year, according to the Abnormal Situation Management (ASM) Consortium, an industry group dedicated to advancing process technology.

“The Dynamo solution, which was launched in November 2013, allows plant operators to tune out noise and focus on critical situations by more efficiently managing and evaluating alarms,” said Ali Raza, vp and gm at Honeywell Process Solutions. “This allows operators to more easily detect and prevent problems, and to develop and implement effective alarm management strategies aligned with industry-recognized guidelines and standards.”

Dynamo is based on Honeywell’s 20-plus years of alarm management experience in the process industries. Dynamo reduces control room alarms by up to 80% by allowing operators to create customized dashboards on computers or mobile devices that allow them to view the alarm system health at a glance. This allows operators to better and more quickly diagnose alarms and their causes and consequence on one console.

Honeywell has licensed Dynamo technology at plants in Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom, among others, as companies work to increase the efficiencies of their control rooms.

Richard Wawrzon, process engineering and control team leader for Qenos Pty Ltd, Australia’s leading supplier of polyethylene and polymers, said, “High quality tools to manage and maintain process alarm systems are critical to running petrochemical plants. The Honeywell Dynamo Alarm Suite has sensibly integrated analysis, documentation and notification tools to provide support engineers with an efficient way to stay in control of process alarm systems. Once process safety is being looked after, key resources can focus on production efficiency.”

As a global alarm management solution provider, Honeywell recognized the severity of alarm problems at industrial sites and delivered an effective tool for assisting in optimizing alarm management programs, which are intended to prevent alarm floods and reduce operator loading. With the Dynamo Alarm Suite, personnel can monitor alarm issues based on their specific roles and take action before abnormal situations escalate. A new, customizable, role-based dashboard enables operators, engineers and managers to view the health of their alarm system at a glance. The software has added mobile device compatibility for viewing alarm metrics at any time, from almost any location.

Chris Lucas, gas control team leader for Alliance Pipeline in Canada, said, “We chose Honeywell to provide our alarm management solution because its Dynamo Alarm Suite will help us meet our alarm philosophy and control room management plan objectives. Honeywell’s involvement with the ASM Consortium and the American Petroleum Institute also weighed into our decision, as did integration with the control system of our choice.”

Dynamo Alarm Suite works with any control system as well as complementing the Honeywell Experion PKS system. The alarm software provides a single window into alarm system performance and regulatory compliance, helping companies adhere to industry standards such as ISA 18.2, EEMUA 191, API 1167, and PHMSA.

Honeywell also provides a variety of services to help customers get the most out of their alarm management strategy. This includes alarm rationalization, alarm philosophy and strategy, workshops, best practices training and other services to enable customers to focus on alarm management priorities.

ABB concentrates on safety

The last four years has seen a major investment by ABB, growing their network of Safety Execution Centers to number thirty, located within every region to support the major high hazard industrial sectors. These centers provide ABB customers with in-country dedicated and competent functional safety resources for safety instrumented system (SIS) project execution, design, engineering, modification and maintenance. ABB has more than 700 TÜV, CFSE-certified and ABB technology-certified safety engineers.

ABB claims to have more safety centers than any other supplier in the industry, providing individual third-party accreditation (by either TÜV Rheinland or TÜV SÜD) for each country for Functional Safety Management System (FSMS) delivery, implementation, operations and maintenance. With the strong local business presence provided by ABB, these TÜV-certified Safety Execution Centers provide local assurance and knowledge of local legislation and standards: local clients have a higher degree of confidence in local teams, with better site knowledge than remote ‘experts’, and prefer the local safety certification, in contrast to one overriding global competence certificate.

ABB’s strategy is held up by Heinz Gall representing the Certification Body of TÜV Rheinland for FSMS Certification: “We definitely support the approach of ABB having individual worldwide FSM Certification. We from TÜV Rheinland do not recommend a single ‘global’ FSM certificate for multisite-multi-country certification. Our safety philosophy requires an in-depth judgment of each single location in order to confirm correct understanding and application of expected safety requirements.”

From ABB, both John Walkington and Stuart Nunns say “ABB is committed to providing our customers with the resources, technology and tools they need to help them operate their plants more safely, as well as protect their employees, the environment and the surrounding community. The depth and scope of our regulatory, technical and project execution knowledge provides our customers with the trusted expertise they need to successfully protect the integrity of their process, plant and people.”

E-learning for IEC61508

The ABB Safety Lead Competence Centre, and Engineering Safety Consultants, have partnered to develop an e-learning technical training course on “Failure Mode & Effects Analysis in the context of IEC61508”. This addresses the need for an adequate level of competence to be able to achieve compliance with IEC 61508 and IEC 61511, when applying the many devices now available for use within safety instrumented systems. The course will meet industry needs to ensure engineers receive appropriate training and mentoring for the challenges in compliance with IEC 61508 requirements.

Enter DynAMo man

The Honeywell User Group meeting held in Nice this month for customers across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region was in fact the 25th anniversary of this annual get-together, and as usual featured a review of their current developments from both Darius Adamczyk, the president and ceo of Honeywell Process Solutions, and from Jason Urso, his chief technical officer. Several new product launches were featured, in various different ways! For more information on that you need to consult the INSIDER Newsletter for November, being dispatched today, which carries an extensive report.

But perhaps following the tradition established by Jason Urso with his “Starship Enterprise Orion” rôle plays, there was a brief glimpse of a new character at the end of his presentation, “DynAMo man”. On December 4 HPS will launch a new suite of workflow processes and procedures to assist operators of process plants, in order to increase plant reliability and uptime, by supporting the operators in their decision making – since process upsets are reported to be caused 42% of the time by operator error or incorrect actions, after alarms are raised.

DynAMo man was much in evidence at the HUG meeting in Nice, in his hunky “Spiderman” type uniform, and may possibly be the image that is attached to helpful hints on the operator screens in the near future. In the picture below DynAMo man is entering into the spirit of the HUG too, with your long suffering Editor, and also Liliana Pereira, from HPS Advanced Solutions marketing communications, the force behind DynAMo man’s Alarm Suite.

Capt Dynamo

It’s a hard life doing all this reporting and things.