In an industry beset with debt, it’s no wonder that a specialty chemical company like Dow Chemical would want to institute a change in operations that could save it millions in costs. Now the company is being honored for efforts that provided benefits throughout the plant as it moved from reactive to proactive maintenance.
Dow Chemical’s plant in Deer Park, Texas, is the 2013 recipient of the HART Plant of the Year Award, an honor from the HART Communication Foundation that showcases ingenuity in the application of HART Communication for real-time operational improvements.
Engineers at the Deer Park plant are using HART technology as part of a reliability improvement program to monitor critical control valves connected to asset management software (AMS) for diagnostics, failure analysis, and preventive/predictive condition-based maintenance. Using the intelligent device information significantly reduced costs and improved plant operations.
“HART technology has helped reduce production downtime related to control valve failures. Through our reliability program, the plant has realized a 66 percent improvement in downtime reduction over a three-year period,” said Shadrach Stephens, I/E maintenance group leader for Dow Chemical. “Along with performing valve overhauls, we use the HART signal to monitor real-time valve conditions, which has helped with identifying problems before they could cause unplanned events. Combined with several improvement initiatives, this reliability effort has yielded significant financial savings, including millions of dollars in EBIT.”
According to Stephens, HART Communication helped Dow Chemical realize benefits and savings throughout plant operations:
• Changed the plant culture with regard to valve maintenance, diagnostics and troubleshooting.
• Identified the root cause of the problem; a short-term solution to fix the problem; and a long-term strategy to prevent it from happening again.
• Recognized the need for an equipment maintenance strategy and work processes so that the work could continue automatically based on established and new practices.
• Took two approaches for condition-based management—AMS and the data historian—instituting corrective action based on real-time data to prioritize and optimize maintenance resources.
“HART technology is a digital gateway that provides access to a new world of hidden potential,” Stephens said. “By using the existing HART tools and resources we had and engaging multiple levels of management and functions, we were able to change the process and the culture—for lasting benefits throughout the operation.”
The Deer Park facility has identified the future benefits of adding instruments to the AMS in order to monitor these critical instruments including transmitters, flowmeters and other high-maintenance devices.