Valve suppliers just joined the digital revolution in their quest to drive down total cost of ownership through performance-related monitoring solutions. What is surprising is that it took so long. After all, as final control elements, valves have earned a reputation as the ‘bad actor’ in many process control loops.
The problem is twofold. Firstly, the valve often operates unattended under extremely harsh process and ambient conditions with little (or often no) warning of problems that may be starting to appear. And secondly, the valve is often the last place anyone thinks to look, as when processes do become unstable, often the first ‘solution’ that comes to mind is that the loop needs re-tuning.
With the emergence of IIoT-enabled remote management platforms, process industry end-users can now begin to take advantage of the monitoring and analysis services provided by valve suppliers. In theory this was all possible before, but practically it was too expensive to commercialise because it involved close cooperation between the valve suppliers, IT service providers, analytics experts and the end-users themselves, who were often unwilling to make the raw process data available.
The recent advances in secure cloud-based IIoT platform offerings, along with wireless communication networks, Big Data analytic packages and advanced visualisation technology, has changed all that. But where does one start?
According to the ARC Advisory Group, end users are well advised to develop a phased approach, which includes measurable goals for each step in the process. To avoid getting caught up in the hype surrounding digital technologies, the first step should be to focus on an existing valve-related process problem that is negatively impacting day-to-day operations. Plant owners should begin by identifying their most critical assets that are prone to frequent instability or failure, and deploy feasible monitoring solutions for the valves in those crucial control loops. Severe service valves with their typically higher failure rates offer the most significant potential for cost saving, making them obvious candidates.
The latest generation of valve actuators make extremely accurate position sensing and direct measurement of valve stem travel and thrust possible. This data can be transmitted over a wireless or traditional fieldbus link, and because the information is directly measured and not interpolated, it is an ideal fit for asset management and predictive maintenance planning.
Leveraging the expertise that valve manufacturers have built up over decades just became more reachable than at any time in the past. Industrial facility operators can now have access to actionable control valve health information whenever and wherever they need it. The ARC Advisory Group’s David Clayton has more in ‘New performance management solutions for intelligent valves and pumps’.
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