SCADA/HMI


The viable end of the 'food chain'

April 2000 SCADA/HMI

The old adage "running lean and mean" could not apply more aptly than in the processing of waste. This is an industry characterised by low value-add and yet of critical strategic importance in a sub-continent where water shortage demands the efficient high-quality re-cycling of waste and the extraction of its co-products.

Bioprocessing and waste treatment lies at the end of the commercial "food chain" and, as such, relies on efficient processes to keep it viable. Its ability to generate income is limited by the efflux of other sectors and its viability is highly dependent on the efficiency of its continuous processes.

All this can only happen with the help of systems that accurately model the bioprocessing and waste treatment pro-cesses to provide operators and management with the decision-making support they need. These systems must also accurately mirror the maintenance needs of a great deal of plant managing a high throughput and working under less-than-ideal conditions.

The ability to accurately model the characteristics of output products based on the input of wide raw material variances is one of the first cornerstones to bottom-line improvement. The second is the cost-effective maintenance of the machinery that will make all this happen. The third is combining the two to provide an accurate real-world picture of complex processes in action.

"Panelbeating standard solutions to address the problem has simply never worked," says Ian Huntly, Business Development Manager at Futuristix-Wonderware. "What is needed are solutions that recognise the complexities of continuous flow processing and that can deal with such things as inverted bills of materials where a few inputs give rise to multiple outputs. When such solutions are linked to realtime monitoring facilities, it's then possible to model processes based on reality and to optimise yields - a crucial necessity in any low value-add industry.

"Many companies now see their plants as integrated entities where production solutions all have to work in harmony if business targets are to be met and sustained. Plant maintenance, for example, is rapidly becoming part of the production process. Through the on-line monitoring of equipment behaviour and performance, it is possible for EAM (enterprise asset management) systems to schedule maintenance only as and when needed rather than simply on planned intervals. This reduces unnecessary and expensive decommissioning while providing ample warning of potential malfunctions.

"Since planning, production and maintenance systems can all operate in real-time and in an integrated manner, it is now possible for bio-processing and waste treatment companies to have the edge in an environment where sustaining profitability is becoming increasingly difficult", concludes Huntly.



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