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A Broken Gauge Could Blow Up a Plant

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Charles Murray
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Re: It could blow up a plant
Charles Murray   10/17/2013 6:14:31 PM
I believe the 25% figure. As much as we at Design News write about modern, networked, electronics technology, we often forget that not every plant is so up to date. Sometimes, if there's no reason to replace something, it gets old, and when it gets old, it often breaks.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Network those things
Rob Spiegel   10/17/2013 11:35:06 PM
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Good point Naperlou. A simple electronic signal -- setting off an alarm on the control side -- when the measurement goes into its red would seem enough, especially if it's backed up by scheduled visual checks to make sure the gauge is working.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It could blow up a plant
Rob Spiegel   10/17/2013 11:52:27 PM
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Yes, GTOlover, it's hard to replace a gauge under high pressure -- or, if the gauge is way below the water -- as in the BP spill. I can see the potential human error that happens then the engineer looks at two gauges and one reads that everything is OK. The difficulty of dealing with a problem may lead the engineer to assume -- wrongly -- that the gauge showing building pressure is the broken gauge. If the author of the book on the BP spill is correct, that judgment cost lives.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: No surprise.
Rob Spiegel   10/17/2013 11:58:30 PM
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I agree, Ann, you have to take the source of this data into consideration. But even if it's half of the 25%, it's significant. Wika also listed a handful of recent plant explosions and speculated they were caused by failed gaugues. Since it's just speculation, I left it out of the story. But it does make you think.

Car-Nut
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WIKA
Car-Nut   10/18/2013 8:59:41 AM
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As the Logistics manager for WIKA U.S., I must say it's nice to see an article about our organization. Thanks DN.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: It could blow up a plant
Rob Spiegel   10/18/2013 11:08:56 AM
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That's right, Chuck. Gauges are usually mechanical, and thus they break. When they break, they don't stop anything. All you lose is your ability to monitor what is happening out of sight. But that could be critical.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: WIKA
Rob Spiegel   10/18/2013 11:24:26 AM
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You're welcome, Car-Nut. This is an interesting subject, a weak spot at plants, and a dangerous weak spot at that.

Larry M
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Re: No surprise.
Larry M   10/18/2013 12:09:01 PM
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At the large manufacturing company where I have worked for 45 years, we have always had instrument calbration labs. Every piece of equipment has a sticker indicating when calibration is next due. Employees are not permitted to use equipment beyond the calibration due date or equipment which has bypassed the calibration lab.

Simply applying this process to gauges (and fitting a shut-off valve in series with each gauge) would solve this problem.

bob from maine
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Re: WIKA
bob from maine   10/18/2013 12:19:20 PM
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Rob; One issue about gauges is they are usually direct plumbed into whatever they are monitoring. Thus a broken gauge replacement requires shutting down that entire line and exposing the contents to contamination from outside or vice versa. Putting gauges on shut-offs that permit removal without leaks and making all gauges moveable such that the 'normal' is always in the same orientation. For most processes, gauges are 'trendicators' more than an accurate readout. The percentage of defective gauges is not surprising but what may be surprising is the number of gauges that no longer serve any purpose. 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: WIKA
Rob Spiegel   10/18/2013 12:25:54 PM
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Bob from Maine, I suppose one approach to this is to replace the gauge during scheduled downtime. That would mean some gauges would be inoperative during the wait for downtime, but that may be the most efficiently way to deal with this problem.

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