TAKING ANOTHER LOOK - The Value in Reassessing Old Solutions

During a period of economic slowdown, many process plants prepared for unfavorable financial conditions will use the opportunity to conduct much needed maintenance, repair, operations upgrades, and new installations. Upgraded process instruments (sensors, controllers, etc.) may only get considered at that time, due to holds on major new products. However, regularly evaluating your daily processes during normal maintenance and repairs can lead to immediate opportunities for improvement that will have a huge impact on the capabilities, efficiency, and effectiveness of a plant's procedures. Don't wait for something to break down before replacing outdated equipment when you can proactively modernize your process instrumentation.

Installing new, advanced products for your application would add previously unknown functionality that helps improve your process solution. For example, my flip phone did everything I wanted it to do seven years ago. It could easily place calls, was small, and could send text messages. I was not in the market for a new phone. It wasn't until I was on a trip and kept utilizing someone else's modern smartphone that I realized what a difference the features available in the smartphone made, and how they could be of use to me. This same concept applies to the components of your process instrumentation. Software monitoring and setup, more informative displays, more accurate readings, wireless capabilities, throughglass buttons, and so much more are available in modern systems. Evaluating the new features now available with modern equipment for existing processes may yield a solution you never considered possible with your original system.

Upgrading to newer systems simplifies operations, maintenance, and repair while enhancing accuracy and usability. Efforts to streamline maintenance can have a big return on investment. Using Modbus devices to replace dozens of 4-20 mA loops, or replacing long and complicated wiring in conduits with a simple wireless device can make future upkeep, as well as process automation, much easier. Updating your facility with modern instruments that can be programmed or monitored with software or serial communications will greatly reduce the time to set up replacement equipment, speed up data collection, and reduce troubleshooting time. These kinds of onetime upgrades pay off quickly, given the cost of troubleshooting and repairing a process that has been shut down.

The user experience may also be improved significantly by updating the system components that the operators interact with daily. Though often overlooked, the

display and user interface of a process can be the most critical. A simple, intuitive front end makes a process safer, less prone to error, and easier to comprehend. A good example of this is tank level monitoring. Top of tank level transmitters may have a display, but adding a remote indicator at grade level will reduce operator time spent monitoring level and improve safety by reducing the need to climb the tank. An update to just the user-facing equipment can have a major impact on the ability of operators to use the equipment for a fraction of the cost of an entire system upgrade.

There is inherent value inreassessing existing process solutions. This reevaluation must occur proactively and continuously in order to have the most efficient solution for your needs. Modernization of existing equipment can be a cost-effective way to see dramatic improvements to the reliability and efficiency of your processes.