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The Heartbeat of Plants’ Processes

Self-diagnostics and predictive maintenance

Imagine a production process where devices can diagnose themselves: They would realize when something is wrong or unusual and send an alarm. When, for example, excessive build-up occurs in silos and tanks the devices with this capability would just signal the need to clean a process. A Endress+Hauser customer in the Copper Mining industry, experienced the advantages of self-diagnostics.

It’s as if your field measurement device has a heartbeat: It will react like an additional member of your workforce with specialist knowledge to steer the process in an effective way so that you avoid costly downtime. You just run the plant and the processes and do not have to spend time checking how the instruments are working. The devices would tell you directly if a problem occurs.

Processes that can take their own pulse are already a reality with Heartbeat Technology in many level, flow, temperature and analytical instruments. Since 2012, self-diagnostics has been standard in several Endress+Hauser flow devices, and the portfolio has just been expanded to include level, temperature and analytical devices. Instruments with Heartbeat Technology excel by permanent process diagnostics and extensive in-situ diagnostic functions. Processes are no longer interrupted if verification is needed; it happens directly in the measuring point without any dismantling.

The advantages of instruments with self-diagnostics are evident: Plants run more cost-effectively and safely without any interruptions. You are always in control of your measuring point, and verification efforts are significantly reduced with documented in-situ verification. A simple, predefined procedure guides the person responsible for maintenance through the verification procedure and, at the end, the verification results are documented in an unambiguous manner. The SIL test according to the safety manual and documentation saves time and reduces costs, too. An automatically generated verification protocol supports the evidence demanded by regulations, laws or plant standards.

The data acquired through self-diagnostics facilitates trend recognition for predictive maintenance. A combination of instrument and process parameters provides all the important information for the next steps in maintenance or targeted process optimisation. It is a prerequisite to finding the right strategy for predictive maintenance.

The challenge at the Copper Mine

The Copper Mine wanted to test a smart sensor. They had two clear objectives for their changes in level measurement: to increase production by higher ROM bin capacities and to reduce maintenance costs. To do so, the Copper Mine wanted to use the maximum fill heights of a ROM bin used to store unprocessed copper ore. To accommodate this increase in fill heights, the existing radar level sensor had to be relocated to a new position, where it would unavoidably get covered in dirt. The danger was that the strength of the measuring signal emitted and received by radar level transmitters – a critical factor for precise measurements – would diminish. Under these conditions conventional radar and ultrasonic level transmitters would need to be regularly cleaned, sometimes as often as every hour. It would be time-consuming for the maintenance personnel and the ROM bin would be stopped, which leads to costly downtime.

The copper mine wanted to avoid expensive mechanical changes and decided to use the Endress+Hauser Micropilot FMR67 radar level transmitter with Heartbeat Technology. This function monitors the extent of dirt build-up, and reports it back to the control room to alert the personnel of the need to clean the transmitter. The FMR67 also features a PTFE horn protector that reduces the rate of build-up. This means cleaning is required less frequently. The Copper Mine reached their objectives with the Heartbeat Technology devices.

Heartbeat Technology, as Endress+Hauser calls the intelligence, tracks the performance of the device to ensure it is not adversely affected by abrasion, corrosion or sticky build-up at the copper mine. Standardised and clear diagnostic messages are sent regarding what needs to be done to maintain the plant economically and as a matter of priority. As the devices run their own diagnostics, proof tests are only necessary in maximum extended cycles. Furthermore, the automatically generated protocols provided by Heartbeat Technology without process interruption support the documentation according to international standards requested by institutions. For future-orientated predictive maintenance the instruments offer parameters to monitor the performance for process optimisation. Heartbeat Technology is accompanied by two wizards for easy commissioning of foam- or build-up detection.

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