Electrocomponents plc buys Monition, adds to RS

Electrocomponents plc has today completed the acquisition of Monition, the UK-based pioneer in the design, development and application of condition monitoring systems. Monition is based in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and will become an operating brand within the RS Technical Services operation.

Monition provides managed services in areas such as condition monitoring, predictive maintenance and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to improve their customers’ reliability, operability and maintainability. Originally founded in 1988 by Ian Jennings, Monition has more than 30 years of operational knowledge and expertise in the reliability and condition-monitoring sector, developed in co-operation with European and UK governments, leading Universities and industry specialists. It has well-established relationships within the maintenance functions in a range of blue chip clients, particularly within the food and beverage sector.

“The acquisition of Monition supports our strategy of building a range of differentiated value-added solutions such as connected factory and IIoT solutions for our customers,” said Pete Malpas, Managing Director of RS Northern Europe. “Whilst we already have an extensive range of customer solutions including calibration, eProcurement and inventory management solutions, we believe that the Monition portfolio will enable us to provide our customer base with the intelligent solutions they need to maintain their operations more effectively and as such will bring us closer to becoming first choice for our customers. We are thrilled to welcome Monition to RS and the Electrocomponents Group.”

Mike Burrows, Managing Director of Monition, commented: “We are extremely excited to become part of RS and the broader Electrocomponents Group. We share a common vision to deliver high-quality, innovative maintenance solutions to our customers. Being part of a larger Group will bring Monition benefits of scale and additional resources, which will help us accelerate the design and development of cutting-edge maintenance engineering solutions to address Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing needs.”

Monition will retain its trading name and, as part of RS, will benefit from the financial strength, scale and international spread of the broader Electrocomponents Group.

Electrocomponents is listed on the London Stock Exchange and in the last financial year ended 31 March 2018 had revenues of £1.71Bn.

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The European Scene

The German organisation Profibus & Profinet International (PI) publishes annual statistics on the numbers of devices installed with interfaces equipped with their communication technologies, which also include ProfiSafe and IO-Link. The trend towards Profinet increased in 2017, with 4.5 million new nodes installed, an increase of 25% on the previous year figure, which brings the total number installed to 21 million. Possibly because of the rise in Profinet systems, the Profibus DP numbers added seem to have reached a plateau over recent years, with a population of 60 million.

Profibus PA and ProfiSafe node numbers are growing strongly in the process automation field, with the ProfiSafe adoption growing 25% in the year, adding 2m nodes to reach 9 million in total. Similarly IO-Link device numbers installed in the year increased 50%, adding 2.8m to achieve a population of 8.1 million, linking sensors and actuators to a PLC as a subsidiary network below the fieldbus/Profinet level. PI recently published an IO-Link wireless specification, and demonstrated the technology at the Hanover Trade Show earlier this year.

Government Interferences

Legislative rulings have affected businesses and consumers across the EU recently, with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) causing avalanches of email asking for a subscriber’s permission to be re-registered with every firm they have ever dealt with, to allow them to record the fact. Even companies from outside the EU will face financial penalties, if they send out emailed newsletters or promotional messages into EU subscribers, without having these permissions confirmed, registered and recorded!

In the USA, the EPA, under the Trump administration, has dropped most of the more Draconian measures that they had originally proposed to impose on chemical plants, after the explosion at West Fertilizers in Texas that killed 15 fire-fighters and injured 260 people. The CSB report on the incident also listed 19 other Texas facilities that store large amounts of Ammonium Nitrate fertiliser, and are located within half a mile of a school, hospital or nursing home. One regulation that will be introduced in Texas is that local fire marshals will inspect all sites storing ammonium nitrate, once a year. Hopefully this might help prevent any further explosions that might result in large off- site consequences.

The changes that were proposed by the EPA and that will not now be introduced include (1) the need to evaluate options for safer technology and procedures that would mitigate hazards; (2) the requirement to conduct a root-cause analysis after a catastrophic chemical release or potential release incident; and (3) performing a third-party compliance audit after an accident at a plant involving the release or potential release of chemicals.

In the UK, Barclays Bank, rather than the Government, is reassuring UK exporters worried about Brexit and trading afterwards, with a survey that shows 39% of International customers would be more inclined to buy a product if it displayed the Union Jack. This was especially true for consumers in Asia and the Middle East (India, 67%; UAE, 62%; China, 61%), and also for younger consumers generally, where nearly half said this would encourage them to make a purchase. For over 55 year olds (who maybe had more life experience) the figure dropped to a quarter. It’s all statistics!)

Research projects

Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen was first demonstrated by Fujishima and Honda using a titanium dioxide electrode. Since then, scientists have been on the hunt for the ideal material to perform the task, as Hydrogen is a very useful, green fuel for portable power. Now, a team from Exeter University has made a significant hydrogen energy breakthrough, developing an electrode that splits water using only light. The photo-electrode, which is made from nanoparticles of lanthanum, iron and oxygen, absorbs light before initialising electrochemical transformations to extract hydrogen from water. The team is currently working on further improving this material to
make it more efficient, to produce more hydrogen.

At the Drives & Controls Exhibition in the UK this year all the motor manufacturers were showing the condition monitoring capabilities of their offering, usually measured by vibration monitoring sensors. Possibly ABB went one step further, showing a sensor assembly that can be attached to almost any low-voltage motor, existing or on a new project. Transmitting information over Bluetooth, the sensors require no wiring, and are attached directly to the motor’s frame. Within the unit, sensors collect vital data points like vibration, sound and temperature, and upload that information via an ABB gateway or Smartphone to the cloud, where it is analysed. The results are sent back for optimising performance and predictive maintenance, just like a roving maintenance engineer!

This article was written for the July issue of the South African Journal of Instrumentation and Control, published by technews.co.za

Sales and marketing people to admire

With the Farnborough Air Show coming over the horizon, in 2018, I thought it might be relevant to look again at the story first told in the SA Instrumentation and Control journal in 2016, just after the last Farnborough event.

First, the retail example

There is a family-run DIY shop in Winchester: it does not have the attractive displays of the DIY Supercentres, it is crammed with stuff in crowded aisles, and you have to ask where to look for anything. But then the staff know exactly where it is, are knowledgeable about how to use it, and make a good guess as to why you want it, and suggest two other things that might also be useful. So you come out with more than you wanted, but with reassurance. More important, they made the sale, helped the customer, and sold a few more bits. You have to admire their sales expertise, and their business just keeps on growing. Back in 2016, they proudly boasted that it was Rick Stein’s favourite D-I-Y shop!

A different approach, in industrial calibration

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The Trescal postcard give-away

Occasionally you recognize similar marketing initiative in industry. In the public display days at the Farnborough Air Show 2016 there were aircraft enthusiasts (like me) lined up along the barriers, all probably with jobs that impinge on aviation, or engineering, or similar. So while waiting all day for his 10 minute display slot, Jean-Marc d’Hulst, the pilot of a French Starduster SA300 aerobatic biplane, walked along the crowd line handing out postcards showing his aircraft, chatting to anyone interested, and listened to by everyone around.

Turning the postcard over you realize that it is advertising the Trescal Group – which explains the name painted on the side of the aeroplane. This group is a world-wide network of companies that provide calibration, repair and verification services, specialising in the requirements of the avionics industry. These days, with traceability and accountability paramount, such services are in high demand, not just from the aerospace industry, and are usually bought in from a third party, so the records can be seen as from independent inspectors, and the third party supplier takes on all the hassle of maintaining the traceability for their test equipment.

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My photo of his display, in a grey Farnboro sky

Jean-Marc d’Hulst is a VP of Trescal: the company news on their website shows they seem to acquire another laboratory in another country every few months. They now have 180 laboratories in 21 countries: these labs cover Europe, Asia, USA, South America and North Africa at the moment. Trescal also provide engineering training and consultancy on measurement problems to improve process performance for all types of industry. Jean-Marc has displayed this year at the Paris, Farnborough, Berlin and Marrakech air shows, and indeed his company expertise was also broadcast during the public commentary at each display. With these marketing skills also applied to the group acquisition and expansion strategy, maybe Jean-Marc will take his Starduster display to South Africa very soon!

2017 Update

While the comment about South African expansion was aimed at the readers of SAIC, the news this November is that Trescal has made another acquisition in South America, Trescal has acquired Teclabor, a calibration services provider based in Recife (Brazil). This is the third acquisition in Brazil, expanding their local geographical coverage into Pernambuco state.

Founded in 1985, Teclabor is an accredited one-stop-shop calibration laboratory, with strong capabilities in liquid flow, volume, mass (scales), temperature and humidity. Teclabor employ 30 people, generating a turnover of 3,3 million Brazilian Reais (approx 1,0 million Euro), and is mainly active in the Food & Beverage sector.

During 2017 Trescal has also acquired several other companies: Gebhardt Instruments in Germany, Acucal Inc in the USA, and Pyrometro Services in Malaysia.

 

The mystery of intelligent sensor diagnostics

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.

Yokogawa/Cosasco ISA100 deal

Yokogawa has signed a sales agreement with Rohrback Cosasco Systems, a US-based manufacturer of corrosion monitoring systems to distribute the Cosasco ISA100 wireless-based MWT-3905 and CWT-9020 corrosion monitors: also Cosasco will distribute the Yokogawa ISA field wireless system devices. Yokogawa systems operating to ISA100.11a-2011 include an application layer with process control industry standard objects, device descriptions and capabilities, a gateway interface, infrared provisioning, and a backbone router.

Yokogawa therefore has now added corrosion sensors to its line-up of field wireless devices that help customers efficiently maintain facilities and ensure safety at their plants. For Cosasco, the ability to offer its corrosion monitors in combination with Yokogawa field wireless devices is expected to increase sales.

Yokogawa Objectives

With a field wireless system, plant field devices and analysers are able to communicate wirelessly with host-level monitoring and control systems. The rising need to improve productivity and enhance safety by collecting more data on plant operations is driving the demand for field wireless devices, which can be installed even in difficult to access locations. Field wireless devices have the added advantage of reducing installation costs.

Yokogawa has developed ISA100 Wireless-based technologies and products such as wireless access points and management stations, and Cosasco has a long global track record in supplying various kinds of corrosion monitors to the oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, and other industries. Through this agreement, Yokogawa aims to increase sales for its field wireless business by being able to offer a wider field wireless device lineup.

Cosasco Wireless Corrosion Monitors

Yokogawa IA - Cosasco MWT-3905 corrosion monitorCorrosion sensors monitor the thinning or deterioration of the metal walls of pipes and other installations. A variety of technologies are employed, including electrical resistance and ultrasonics. The Cosasco MWT-3905 and CWT-9020, the devices covered by this sales agreement, are direct measuring type corrosion sensors that use high speed electrical resistance and linear polarisation resistance (LPR) technology. This enables corrosion rate measurement at a low installed cost in all process environments, including hazardous areas. The units are particularly applied for the monitoring of corrosion in facilities at offshore platforms and other types of oil and gas installations, plus petrochemical plants, chemical plants, and water and sewage treatment plants.

Rohrback Cosasco is a part of Halma plc, a UK conglomerate.

Remaining Useful Life analysis via the Senseye cloud

Senseye, the Uptime-as-a-Service specialists, has launched a new version  of its automatic condition monitoring and prognostics software, which offers their ‘Remaining Useful Life’ calculations to all customers – whether they operate 10 or 10,000 assets. Senseye is unique in offering automated condition monitoring combined with Remaining Useful Life analysis.

Knowing the Remaining Useful Life of machinery helps their industrial clients to implement cost-effective predictive maintenance, typically leading to a 10-40% reduction in maintenance costs and a parallel downtime reduction of 30-50%. The software has already been adopted by a major automotive OEM, helping them to avoid their downtime cost – which is over $2m per hour.

Up until now, the Remaining Useful Life measurement has been an academic focus, accessible only to those with extensive data engineering skills.  The patent-pending Senseye technology makes it accessible to all. The automated analysis is designed to be easy to use by maintenance teams and managers and is backed by Senseye’s extensive background in condition monitoring, based on experience in the highly competitive aerospace and defence industries.

Robert Russell, Senseye CTO commented: “Being able to see the Remaining Useful Life of machinery – without requiring expert input – empowers site maintenance engineers to get maximum value from their condition monitoring solutions”.

Trusted by a number of Fortune 100 companies, Senseye offers a leading cloud-based condition monitoring and prognostics product. Their award-winning solutions are usable from day one and available as a simple subscription service, enabling customers to rapidly expand their predictive maintenance programs.

Noise mapping offshore using wireless sensors

Many of the latest technology developments in relation to offshore oil and gas production installations have emerged from Norwegian research studies, because that industry represents the major part of the economy in Norway.  Such research studies do not only relate to better and more efficient methods of working, but they also investigate the health and safety aspects of the industry: an area of particular concern has been hearing damage to workers offshore, which is the predominant cause of work related illness. At the Yokogawa User Group meeting held in Budapest in May 2016, Simon Carlsen of Statoil ASA in Norway explained the background to a recent project that was undertaken to improve the efficiency of the noise surveillance and monitoring systems Statoil use offshore. This was also presented to a Society of Petroleum Engineers International conference on Health and Safety in Stavanger in April (Ref 1).

picture-3-from-pdf

The main Health & Safety tool used for monitoring noise exposure is the ‘Noise map’, which provides noise level contours within rooms and around machinery where workers are active. These are used to establish a course of action where noise levels exceed allowed limits, whether this action is to reduce or remove the noise source (if possible), insulate the area, issue PPE to workers, and/or impose working time restrictions. Noise maps have historically been based on manual surveys that take single point readings, which are then plotted onto a site map, typically from CAD drawings. Manually taking and plotting these measurements is arduous and time consuming, and typically would be updated only on around a four year cycle. Plus the readings are (obviously) not continuous, only record the conditions when each reading was taken, and generally do not record the added effects from workers using different machinery and tools in the area.

Statoil R&D on wireless & noise instrumentation

Simon Carlsen of Statoil joined the R&D Department in 2006, bringing expertise in wireless instrumentation, and started investigating the feasibility of using wireless sensors and software techniques to create a real-time noise map. The system subsequently commenced became known as WiNoS, for “Wireless Noise Surveillance”, when formally initialised in 2013. This will consist of a network of wireless noise sensors, continuously monitoring the noise in the process area, using sound pressure level (SPL) measurements of four types: A-weighted SPL (I.eqA), C-weighted SPL (I.eqC), peak SPL (I.peak) and thirty one separate third-of-an-octave frequency band measurements from 25Hz to 16kHz. This data is much more comprehensive than the simple noise level measurements used to establish the noise maps, but will superimpose this data onto the historically available maps. These readings can then be used to update the map in real time, and create alarms available to operators.

The WiNoS sensors then use an industry standard wireless network infrastructure, which transmits the data into the control system, where special software produces the updates to the noise maps – typically on a one minute update rate (ie almost continuous). This live information can be used to create alarms to report back to workers in the area, to control their noise exposure. The objective is to reduce work-related hearing damage, by knowing the actual on-site conditions; to optimize operator time working on/near tools, to reduce daily exposure; and to provide instant feedback on the effect of noise reduction measures. In addition WiNoS allows for time synchronized measurements amongst the sensors in the network, and also allows the control room operator to trigger a download of a high resolution frequency spectrum waveform from any sensor of particular interest, to analyse the signature of the noise. This latter is a major part of the future development of the monitoring system, which will feed into plant condition and process performance monitoring studies.

noise-map-3

The WiNoS project development employed the expertise of the Norwegian companies Norsonic AS in the microphone design and the sound level measurements, and the Department of Acoustics at the research company SINTEF to develop the PC software that records the data and creates the noise maps. The software was also required to conform to the Statoil qualified communications protocol.

Choice of wireless network

A major part of the research feasibility study that preceded the WiNoS project was devoted to the choice of the wireless network to be used to efficiently and reliably transmit the data, relatively continuously from multiple sensors. The two suitable networks that were emerging at that time were WirelessHART and ISA100.

The WirelessHART system is now well-known and fairly widely used in Statoil facilities, but the early research trials showed mixed experience with the system and the relevant vendors – some of this was related to the lack of specification details written into the WirelessHART standard. But there were also challenges with achieving the power efficiency in the transfer of all the data required, and the requested large data transfer of the high-res waveform was not readily achievable.

The ISA100.11a wireless transmission standard was also in use in Statoil, and had been adopted for the wireless flammable gas detector pioneered by GasSecure in Norway – Statoil had been involved with the prototype field trials offshore. The initial trials on ISA100 equipment from Yokogawa provided high flexibility for the different application demands, allowed all the 31 one third octave values to be packed into one transmission telegram, and allowed a well-defined block transfer. The sensor could also achieve the two year life required from the installed battery pack, at the 1 minute update rate.

The decision was made that ISA100.11a was to be the preferred protocol for WiNoS, from a technical and project model perspective. Based on the earlier experience of development co-operation with Statoil, it was decided to invite Yokogawa to join the WiNoS project as a Co-Innovation partner, a role that they were keen to develop. In addition to providing the ISA100.11a wireless interface electronics for the sensor, and the interface into the third party control system, Yokogawa worked with Norsonic to develop the mechanical housing for the microphone sensor, and the electronic hardware to process the sound measurements using the Norsonic software, with the whole sensor assembly meeting ATEX requirements.

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A Yokogawa wireless temperature transmitter adapted to include the Norsonic microphone

Full system test

In March 2016, a network of 7 off Yokogawa ISA100 enabled wireless noise sensors were tested within the (land-based) industrial lab hall at Statoil Rotvoll, in Trondheim, which has dimensions 35x25x15 metres – and contains various pumps and process equipment. Further synthesized test noise sources were created using loudspeakers. The wireless sensors, the noise mapping software and the IT backhaul architecture all operated reliably and successfully.

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Dynamic noise map generated with the system test

 

A further test, offshore on an operational Statoil platform, is planned and scheduled for Spring 2017, for which Yokogawa will supply 20 production sensors and the ISA100.11a wireless system. A typical platform deck of 50×50 metres might in practice require around 12 noise sensors for effective coverage.

isa100_yta-a-xx

Possibly future noise mapping sensors will be added in high noise plant areas

The Statoil WiNoS system is now ready for development into a commercially available product for use as an offshore platform noise mapping tool. Future research on this system will involve investigation of 3D noise mapping systems. Statoil consider that the equipment application has potential for expansion into machinery condition monitoring, to include automatic process upset or fault and leak detection.

© Nickdenbow, Processingtalk.info, 2016

References