Understanding why we should invest in proper process control starts with understanding the costs of not having an optimised process control system. Process control is currently underused in most industries, potentially because the benefits of optimising the process is unknown, or we are unaware of the potential added costs an unoptimised process can lead to.
There is a potential cost of any controller that is not properly tuned. One of the biggest issues in the industry is that 85% of controllers are inefficient when operated in automatic mode. Knowing that about 30% of PID control loops are operated in manual mode, there is still an incredible potential to configure the controllers correctly in order to meet the desired objectives. However, optimised process control is less about avoiding incidents and more about increasing profits and decreasing energy consumption. It is very rare for a problem with a controller to lead to an accident or even production shutdown. However, it is still a risk in some extreme cases.
All assets require regular maintenance in order to run efficiently. An unoptimized process with poorly tuned controllers can increase tear on equipment, meaning higher maintenance and replacement costs as a result of equipment damage. Thus, having an optimised process control system is more cost effective in the long run.
Having an optimised process control system also means less hassle for the control room operators, as the process control system is behaving the way that the operators are expecting, and it is not necessary to manually check the controllers. Operator effectiveness can also increase plant performance.
Identifying issues and related costs
In process plants today, as many as 65% of the controllers are poorly tuned, possibly masking control related problems. As explained in our blog: “Do I have a problem with my control system?”, there are different factors that can help determine if you are currently having issues relating to a process control system that is not optimised. Finding poorly tuned controllers in process plants is in fact quite common.
The potential costs (ref. losses) are easily identified, as these can include potentially losing production from poor process control, but cost can also be measured in less throughput, lower quality of the product, and similar.
Big potential for improvements
We can’t get around only discussing the cost of a poorly optimised process system. Costs include identifying the potential issues and improvements. There are also costs associated with doing the optimisation. This includes the cost of tuning the controllers (that aren’t working optimally) correctly. Additionally, investing in a monitoring software can be a good solution if you want to make sure that your system is always optimised and that you’ll be made aware of any possible improvements to make in the future. These softwares will alert the operators if the system is working outside of the normal operation limits.
Performing process optimisation and investing in a monitoring software is a method to solving the issues permanently, as long as there is regular maintenance being performed and parameters are verified or updated on a regular basis.
In any case, maintaining and improving your process system adds value to your plant, the people that work there, your customers, as well as your stakeholders. Investing in a software to monitor loops can increase profits as you will most likely have a product with higher quality (to be sold at a higher price), you’ll increase throughput, and achieve higher return on asset.