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Reliability and System Transparency

Compressed air management system

What IS reliability?  Here at Case Controls we specifically explore what we mean by reliability by addressing terms such as uptime and downtime, as these are the key considerations or outcomes desired by the operators.  Metrics for understanding reliability have been long discussed, understood and widely taught throughout different industries largely intended to provide clairvoyance for failure mitigation. Many industry professionals go on to achieve certifications required to be a reliability professional (CMRP). We won’t get into the weeds on that here. What I am addressing is topical and applicable viewpoint of what reliability and system transparency provide in regards to a plant utility compressed air system.

Machine Reliability

To understand what can go wrong we must look at the failure of the parts, individual machines, and the complete system with respect to available backups and redundancies.  So, what is machine reliability – it is the metric used to understand the performance of a machine with respect to its likelihood of experiencing a critical failure. Generally, this is determined by the total number of failures divided by the total running time or uptime of the machine. Terms such as MTBF or mean time between failures is a calculated value usually expressed in hours. It is the time it takes before the likelihood of a new part until its failure. Several factors such as proper and timely maintenance, environmental conditions, and operation influence MTBF. There are other metrics such as MTTF and MTTR but I won’t digress on those now.

The Tiers of Machine Reliability

Part failure, machine failure, and system failure are the three tiers of what constitute complete reliability for a system. Take for example a pressure transmitter (PT) that is critical to the operation, its failure could result in the failure of the machine but not the complete system. Perhaps there is a standby machine ready to take its place, or production can get by with some adjusting their process. Now consider the same PT with a secondary redundant PT. The machine won’t be completely at the mercy of a single critical device, therefore drastically improving the reliability of the individual machine and allowing it to remain online. Although failure may have occurred on the first PT, from the viewpoint of the “system” nothing has changed. Now there are certain limitations where redundancies are viable. Obviously, should an airend on a compressor fail there isn’t a redundant airend available and the machine would have to be taken offline. This is where having a redundant machine would prove beneficial to the overall system reliability.

Improving Machine Reliability

To augment the reliability of a system it is imperative to be able understand and monitor the conditions of the equipment. Without proper monitoring surprises are bound to arise. Just because you monitor a process, machine, or instrument doesn’t guarantee you will catch a failure before it happens. It does, however, yield a better approach and diagnosis for actionable steps.  Data is knowledge and knowledge is power. When the proper and correct monitoring of a system exists, faster action can be taken to address the failure ultimately leading to less troubleshooting and a greater uptime. While monitoring for reliability is a valuable tool it is only as strong as the data collected and then represented. If the information is there but isn’t easily understandable, retrievable, or lacks visibility then once again the likelihood for missing critical actionable steps and experiencing a failure rises.

Case Controls Provides Tailored Solutions

Case Controls addresses these reliability concerns by offering custom tailored controls solutions designed to provide our customers with different levels of reliability important to their process and goals. We implement redundancies of different levels from the instrument device such as a PT to the overall control system such as a redundant PLC. Our goal is to minimize the risks critical to the operation by building a robust and therefore reliable product. We then supplement the system by providing the best of data collection, monitoring, and visual representation of this data, neatly packaged and served to the applicable personnel i.e. control room operators, maintenance departments, etc. Equipped with this information precise steps can be taken to correct the problem and get back up and running with less guess work and headaches.

If you’re looking to build a robust and reliable compressed air system with the benefits and advantages of today’s technology give us a call at 812-422-2422!