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June 13, 2006

Headlines from Today's Activities
• 'Panelman' gives way to 'wireless worker' in refinery of the future
• Genentech, Abbott explore possibilities of POMSnet
• Aztec grass-roots mill pushes envelope of automation, integration
• Hurricane Katrina teaches Mississippi Polymer some tough lessons
• HPS President Bolick honors user group leadership

From "Panelman" to "Wireless Worker": the refinery of the future
"Everybody starts from a different place," noted Michael S. Sarli, ExxonMobil's plant automation technology program leader, as he began to paint a picture of the "Petroleum Refinery of Tomorrow" at Honeywell Process Solutions' User Group Americas annual symposium, being held this week in Phoenix.

"Much of the productivity gains," Sarli said, "from new plant automation systems will be in the ability of an operator to do work remotely—to do calibration, diagnostics, loop checks, and so forth. And we're going to be inundated with data from all these new data sources. We have to understand what to do with all that data."

"We'll be making approximately the same products in 2020 we are making now. There will be lots of 2006 cars running in 2020, and we'll have to make gas for them just as now," Sarli said, "although there will be some shifting fuel slates." He went on, "Refining is a commodity business. It just isn't possible to differentiate products anymore," Sarli said. "We are seeing strong cost pressure."

There will be further environmental mandates, and there won't be as much new refinery construction as you'd think, he contended, because of the phenomenon he called "capacity creep." Refiners keep on getting more out of the refinery they have...sometimes as much as 100% more than rated capacity!

Workforce issues will not go away, Sarli said. "Half of the refinery managers I talk to say that the operators of the future will all be chemical engineers with PhDs, and the other half think that operators of the future will look about like, and have the same skills as they do now." Demographics, meanwhile, clearly indicate that there will be fewer operators to man existing posts.

Technology drivers include process technology improvement, and the accelerating pace of change in automation, along with the ability to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) hardware and software, "and that will drive the rate at which we deploy automation systems," he noted.

The real technology challenge is knowing what is coming—and, above all, when. "We'd like to have modeling platforms with unlimited numbers of components, and computer speeds that enable us to take advantage of higher and higher precision models," Sarli dreamed. "We'd like to have operator tools that enhance the operator's ability to be vigilant and control the unit. These tools should give precise, contextual and vigorous advice—not half hour tutorials—and that provide model based advice for all time ranges from seconds to days."

"What we are aiming for is 'Continuous Constraint Busting,'" Sarli said. "Refinery availability is in the low 90s. So, if you operate 'perfectly' you can perhaps reach another percent or two of increased availability. What we want to do is to give the operator a clear picture of the constraints he's operating under. We distill all the data we have down into what we call an operating window, and we tell the operator to do what he needs to do to keep the plant operating inside that window."

"It is not technology that drives the future," Sarli added, "but a valid business model. You need to have a vision, one that puts business first, and that is robust in dealing with the uncertainties of the future. You have to decompose that vision into action items, intermediate milestones, and carry them out, year after year.

"Above all," he finished, "don't fall into the technology trap!"

ExxonMobil's Michael Sarli on tomorrow's plant operators: "We need to do more to empower and enable them to increase the operating window and increase the profitability of the plant."

 

Genentech, Abbott explore possibilities of POMSnet
Day Two at HUG featured presentations and lessons learned from control and automation experts at some of the leading life sciences companies running Honeywell systems. Two speakers, Genentech's Chris Schreil and Abbott Laboratories' David Kircher, championed the importance of manufacturing execution systems and discussed dramatically different POMSnet applications.

Genentech has taken a bold approach to the control and automation architecture at its new, 25,000-square-foot CCP2 (or second cell culture plant) addition to its Vacaville, Calif. site. With Honeywell, it is pioneering what it terms a Manufacturing Control System (MCS), a hybrid of sorts between Honeywell's POMSnet and Experion PKS that will serve as the cornerstone of what Genentech hopes will become a fully integrated plant architecture.

The MCS is truly a first, said Chris Schreil, senior manager for automation engineering for the CCP2 project. To build the system, Genentech and Honeywell added more than 100 new functionalities to POMSnet, Schreil noted—to manage assembly, integrate HMIs and unit graphics, and view controlled documents within a single environment, for example. Honeywell will make all of these functions available in its next generation MES.

A day earlier, POMSnet product manager Carey Clements and applications consultant Steve Zarichniak had presented Honeywell's vision of MCS. The system provides the user with a single uniform interface, but with the functionality and diversity of the MES/DCS combination behind the scenes, they said. Such a solution also greatly enhances electronic batch recordkeeping capabilities, and provides a more robust support structure for advanced wireless solutions or process analytical technology (PAT) implementations, Zarichniak noted.

MCS' key benefits, according to Schreil, include: a safer work environment; a single electronic view into "Truth of Operations"; increased efficiencies in product and operational scheduling; automated lot review; reductions in cycle times and product variability; and, incremental product improvement.

David Kircher, manager of global manufacturing execution systems for Abbott Laboratories, dispelled myths about MES systems and shared experiences from Abbott's POMSnet implementation in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico.

The project, which went live in 2005, was the first POMS installment based fully on Microsoft's .NET platform. Prior to implementation, Kircher's superiors shared many of the common concerns or criticisms often levied towards MES: that it works only for single-product plants, that implementation should not coincide with plant start-up, and that an ERP/PCS combination can substitute for MES. MES is a unique solution, Kircher argued, and is best implemented as soon as possible during facility construction.

After one year of operation, Abbott has been able to quantify the benefits of the MES. POMSnet has helped to eliminate approximately 40% of documented exceptions at the plant, leading directly to $1.3 million in savings annually.

"The MCS is truly a first." Genentech's Chris Schreil on his company's joint development with Honeywell of a Manufacturing Control System that include some 100 new functionalities layered onto Honeywell's PKS and POMSnet systems.

 

Aztec grass-roots mill pushes envelope of automation, integration
A clean sheet of paper is a terrible thing to waste.

Or so goes the thinking of Aztec Pulp & Paper, as it undertakes the design and construction of a brand new $300 million tissue mill in uplands of Arizona near the Colorado border. The mill, which will include a de-inking unit for recycled pulp, six three-headed tissue machines, five fiber lines as well as six converting stations, represents only the fifth tissue mill to be located in the Southwestern United States.

The mill, which is intended to set new standards for automation and efficiency, will redress a longstanding mismatch in local supply and demand. "Because of growing population and tourism, the Southwest accounts for 20-23% of tissue consumption, but only 2-3% of production," said Luther Bruce of consulting firm Trinity Enterprises, which Aztec has retained help in the plant's bottom-up design.

The company is betting that a locally based, highly automated, flexible and efficient plant will be able to deliver finished tissue products and parent rolls to other converters at an 8-10% savings over current alternatives that incur significant transportation charges. "We believe that incremental changes can have a positive cumulative effect," Bruce said. "This philosophy is driving our project strategy as well as our operational strategy."

But that doesn't mean they're building on the cheap. "We believe that to build efficiencies into the system, you have to spend capital." Indeed, the planned mill will feature an unprecedented degree of automation and integration—much of it based on Honeywell technology.

The scope of Honeywell systems includes Experion PKS and DaVinci quality control systems as well as field instruments, security, building and fire controls. Honeywell applications will optimize business operations and guide automated vehicles through the hands-free management of inventory. The goal of this unprecedented level of automation and integration was to empower the employees to run the business," added Honeywell's Gary Thompson, who detailed the project's ambitious plans.

"Rather than go for multiple bids, we chose to partner with Honeywell to improve our economic performance," Bruce added.

"We believe that to build efficiencies into the system, you have to spend capital." Luther Bruce of Trinity Enterprises on Aztec Pulp & Paper's highly automated tissue mill planned for Arizona's uplands near the Colorado border.

 

Katrina teaches Mississippi Polymer some tough lessons
Mississippi Polymer Technology in Bay St. Louis, Miss., faced two crucial challenges when Hurricane Katrina hit its plant last year. Not only had winds of up to 160 mph and a 15-20 ft. storm surge caused extensive damage to the site, but it also put a tentative agreement for the sale of the company to Solvay Advanced Polymers up in the air.

The general situation in the area was grim: no electricity, water, sewage, or communication. In addition, 26 of the company's 54 employees had lost their homes completely.

About ten days after the storm, key staff and consultants were able to inspect the site, which manufactures proprietary self-reinforced polymers. They found that much equipment had been submerged in flood waters and a residue of slimy smelly mud was everywhere in the plant, with minnows swimming in the containment ponds, Joe Gibbons, the company's engineering and maintenance manager and Steve Knott of R-S-H Engineering told Honeywell User Group Americas attendees in a morning session.

The company reassured Solvay that production could resume by November 1st—then got down to work. The building first had to be gutted and pasteurized. All electrical receptacles were replaced. Titles and regular job responsibilities didn't matter; everyone stripped sheetrock and cleaned electrical contacts.

Saltwater corrosion had done a number on cabling, motors, and electronics. All ac motors were replaced, while a large dc motor was repaired. Busses were cleaned and breakers replaced.

The plant had an Experion PKS control system with four operator stations, redundant R201 servers and two pairs of redundant C200 controllers. The operator stations had survived but their LCDs were casualties. One server had been submerged, as had much instrumentation and wiring. Even some wiring that had not been submerged needed replacement, because wicking of salt water had caused corrosion well above the flood level.

Of course, procurement was a challenge. Some parts were in nearby offsite storage, but these had been destroyed, too. Most supplies were a five-hour drive away. In addition, the person most familiar with the Experion PKS system had left the company a few months before the storm, and much of the documentation at the plant had been destroyed. The plant had been planning to migrate from DeviceNet, and used the rebuild to do that. And the new server wasn't installed on the floor as before, but 3 ½ ft above ground level. Electronic copies of documentation are now being created for storage at headquarters.

Despite the challenges, the plant was able to run its reactor on November 1st and resumed production campaigns just after Thanksgiving.

And Solvay bought the company in February.

Gibbons and Knott also offer some general advice: Never procrastinate about doing backups, and make sure that offsite storage of parts is a good bit farther offsite.

Joe Gibbons of Mississippi Polymer Technology explained how his plant overcame the aftermath of Katrina to become operational before a November 1st deadline.

 

HPS president honors user group leadership
Reflecting the importance of its user community in directing the development of new solutions as well as enhancement of existing products, services, and applications, HPS president Jack Bolick raised a mimosa toast to the leaders of the company's end-user community at an early morning breakfast celebrating their contributions.

In addition to a range of industry- and solution-specific Customer Advisory Boards, the Users Group Steering Committee and User Input Subcommittee provide critical feedback that helps Honeywell to drive greater value to its customers businesses, Bolick said.

"The time you commit is what makes this the best event in industry," added Jon Lippin, vice president of sales excellence for Honeywell Process Solutions.

Bolick and Lippin went on to present plaques honoring the leadership of the User Input Subcommittee, including Georgia-Pacific's Kerry Sartain, customer co-chair emeritus; Dow Chemical's Reggie Barnett, customer vice-chair; and Shell's Heinz Janiec, newly appointed customer co-chair.
Customer Advisory Board chairpersons acknowledged included DuPont's Bob Greer of the Continuous Web Solutions Advisory Board; Marathon Petroleum's Tom Kindervater and ConocoPhillips' Jason Bottjen of the Experion Advisory Board; ConocoPhillips' Bob Dillman of the Oil & Gas Industry Advisory Board; MeadWestvaco's Thomas Holcombe of the OptiVision Advisory Board; Tri-State Generation's Barry Ingold of the Power Advisory Board; Syncrude Canada's John MacGowan of the Profit Suite Users Forum; ConocoPhillips' Alan Carter of the Safety Management Advisory Board; Lyondell's Lee Swindler of the Service Advisory Council; and Worsley Alumina's Angelo D'Agostino of the Uniformance Advisory Board.

 
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