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Predictive Maintenance

Increasing Efficiency and Reducing Resource Needs with Predictive Maintenance and Process Automation

October 6, 2022

 In today's economy, expectations for plants are becoming increasingly high: improve process performance with fewer people, increase reliability with a reduced maintenance budget, and maintain quality despite changing conditions. Process automation can meet these demands by performing tasks efficiently and autonomously with minimal employee intervention. The result is increased business productivity and efficiency.

A major paper company was experiencing too many maintenance interventions, which had a considerable impact on its production rate. The efficiency of its planned downtime was not optimal, resulting in increased maintenance costs and downtime caused by unnecessary interventions. The company needed to find a solution to optimize its maintenance systems and practices.

As a result, after a thorough analysis of its needs, Laurentide Controls, an Emerson Impact Partner, proposed a two-step solution. The first step was to add 50 of Emerson’s Fisher™ intelligent positioners on the paper mill's critical control valves. These positioners control the position of the valve as well as various variables such as level, pressure and temperature. This step was crucial in order to guarantee precision in the control signals and to identify deviations in behavior, such as air leaks, increased pressure or friction, etc., as well as to automatically regulate the passage of a fluid through the pipe. These deviations, detected at an early stage, can also be included in a maintenance program to prevent possible imminent failures.

Laurentide Controls also implemented a predictive maintenance program by integrating valve signatures with the positioners to compare them to their in-service behavior. In the highly competitive paper industry, it is critical to develop ways to increase production and quality while reducing costs. Predictive maintenance enables this by detecting machine anomalies before they become critical. A predictive maintenance program can therefore anticipate breakdowns and avoid costly production line-stop.

The second step then consisted in collecting continuous data using a software that allows to monitor the state and performance of the valves without disturbing their process, that is, without removing them from the line. This software, Fisher FIELDVUE™ ValveLink™, allows maintenance personnel to monitor trends that provide predictive maintenance insights and detect problems before they affect their process. This data was then fed back to an Emerson DeltaV™ automation system to set automatic and regular task runs.

Implementing these changes in a gradual, step-by-step manner has resulted in significant savings in time and money for the plant. The optimization of resources alone translates into annual savings of over $50,000. The plant has also seen a 50% reduction in the number of repairs required. Thanks to its proactive approach, this paper mill is now reaping the benefits of operating more efficiently. And it all started with a commitment to change and collaboration with Laurentide Controls.