A small valve can make a big difference when it comes to plant profits. As manufacturers work to improve earnings, they’re looking for ways to optimize their assets. Plant managers are turning to predictive maintenance to help reduce costs, improve safety, and optimize asset utilization. Intelligent field devices are key to implementing a successful predictive maintenance strategy.
According to ARC Advisory Group, the latest trend is intelligent valve controllers on critical automated on-off valves to bring some of the diagnostic benefits commonly available with control valves to automated on-off valves. Intelligent controllers provide improved control, and, more importantly, diagnostic features can help end-users move from reactive to predictive maintenance. Predictive valve maintenance can help plants avoid costly unplanned downtime and improve valve reliability. That can translate into millions of dollars in savings.
The majority of the automated on-off valves currently in service are actuated by "dumb" analog controllers. These controllers cannot provide asset health or connect to digital plant communications, such as Foundation Fieldbus, Profibus, or digital HART networks for online diagnostics. Consequently, plant managers have no visibility into the health of these automated on-off valves or the processes they control. This lack of real-time feedback can lead to a situation of the "blind leading the blind."
The lack of intelligent valve control can be costly. “Plants typically run valves to failure or schedule downtime to check the valve. Neither approach is efficient,” David Clayton, research director at ARC Advisory Group, told Design News. “Failure is unplanned downtime. That could be millions of dollars. To avoid that, they do a shutdown to check the valves. But that’s also costly. It takes time and money to check these valves.”
The problem with checking valves, is that the process can also produce valve failure. “The goal is for diagnostics to monitor the health of the valve on an ongoing basis. You get a warning far in advance of failure. Also, if you do have a shutdown, you know what valve to look for.”
Intelligent valves continue the trend toward increased safety, improved efficiency, and overall connectivity and communication at plants. “The goal of intelligent valve controllers is to reduce maintenance, increase safety, and lower the overall cost of ownership,” says Clayton. “This is part of the Industrial Internet of Things. If you have all the valves and you connect them, you get useful data. You can take the data, send it into the cloud, and monitor the health of your valves.”