Wireless technology enables chemical plant's ‘Project Zero' 

Chemical manufacturer Huntsman wanted a system to give personnel real-time access to information needed to operate the plant as safely and efficiently as possible - no matter where they were. The result is one of the largest and most ambitious industrial wireless application networks to date.

11/03/2009


Huntsman chemical plant Pt Neches night

An aggressive manufacturing excellence program at Huntsman, manufacturer and marketer of differentiated chemicals, required "one of the largest and most ambitious industrial wireless application networks to date," according to those involved. Wireless technologies are helping Huntsman in its goal of zero product defects, zero safety incidents and injuries, zero environmental releases, and zero unscheduled downtime.

Located in Southeast Texas about 100 miles outside of Houston, Huntsman's Port Neches site has more than 500 employees, 100 contractors, and 16 operating units. John Prows, Huntsman's vice president of manufacturing excellence, and his Port Neches team sought to design and implement a system there that would improve safety, environmental performance, and processes at Port Neches, a four-square-mile chemical facility.

Huntsman wanted a system to give personnel real-time access to information that they need to operate the plant as safely and efficiently as possible - no matter where they were. "As operators make rounds and identify hazards, they should immediately address them," says Kim Hoyt, director of manufacturing at Huntsman. "If something is operating outside of a safe range, they can immediately take action to prevent it from turning into a process incident.

As the units perform more consistently and reliably, we expect the financial performance of that unit to improve as well. Ultimately, we expect safety incidents and environmental incidents to be completely eliminated."

To help deliver on the objectives of Project Zero, Huntsman partnered with Industrial Mobility, Apprion, and Motorola. Industrial Mobility contributed its MobilOps field mobility software that enables field operators to execute electronic "smart" rounds and checklists, enter real-time defect elimination work requests in the field, monitor and control standard operating conditions (SOCs) for each piece of equipment, and access the most up to date standard operating procedures (SOPs) for execution in the field including consequences of deviation (CODs) and corrective actions (CAs).

One location for safety

Managing safety critical information in one place is more effective than building nested safety data into each round, checklist, or procedure, Huntsman suggested. The MobileOps solution contains an SOC database engine that provides safety critical data to operators and mechanics at the point of decision making in the field. Handheld field executable procedures, rounds and checklists pull safety critical data from the same source. Streams of legacy information (process and instrumentation diagrams, process flow diagrams, drawings, procedures, incident reports, etc.) also are available on demand in the field.

Motorola MC-9090 wireless computer

Apprion selected Motorola's MC9090 rugged mobile computers as the platform to run MobilOps. Using these, Huntsman personnel connect within the four-square mile plant via the Apprion Ion System-a Class 1, Div 2 rated wireless application network.

For the mobile platform to run MobilOps, as part of its Ion System, Apprion selected Motorola's MC9090 rugged mobile computer. Using these, Huntsman personnel connect within the four-square mile plant via the Apprion Ion System-a Class 1, Div 2 rated wireless application network. Apprion's Ion System provides wireless application deployment (applications include video, voice communications, energy efficiency and condition monitoring) and a central dashboard that integrates application data, wireless regional maps, and equipment status and maintenance views and reports.

At Huntsman, Apprion's Ion system includes:

• 50 Motorola MC9090 handheld computers with radio frequency identification (RFID) readers;
• An 802.16 WiMax radio network for backhauling data from isolated sections of the plant; and
• Passive RFID tags placed on thousands of pieces of equipment for automatic identification during rounds.
• Safety incidents fall 75%.

As of October, Huntsman's Mobility Solution is in three units at the four square mile Port Neches site. Initial results show significant improvements and indicate the goals of Project Zero will be achieved. With real-time wireless tracking of the rounds activity, the number of pumps requiring daily inspection has been reduced by 50%, allowing more time for other, more crucial inspection areas. Tracking work requests initiated in the field automatically identifies redundancies, makes work planning more effective and will lead to significant reduction in the average "time to closure" for each request. Real-time monitoring of SOCs has led to significant process improvements and cost savings due to increased uptime and longer equipment lifetime. Because all data points are captured electronically, new workers who replace retiring veterans have ample and accurate data for training.

Apprion Huntsman Wireless IONizer

Results include:
• Greater equipment reliability and process improvements by putting accurate and reliable SOCs into the hands of operational personnel;
• 75% decrease in safety incidents, with additional reduction expected. Driving safe operating data to the operators in the field ensures that the safest approach to each task is followed. Access to operating data will also ensure that steps are taken according to safe choices;
• Increased effectiveness in defect capture and providing accountability at all levels of the organization, including operations and maintenance personnel, managers, and executives responsible for providing a safe and efficient work environment;
• Reduced maintenance costs; and
• Increased uptime from the improvement in overall equipment effectiveness that increases production quality and quantity.

Prows says, "The operator scans the RFID tag with the handheld, pulls down a defect pick list, and punches the enter button. It is that quick."

Initial results suggest a strong return on investment with positive effect on Project Zero objectives. Similar initiatives are now underway at other facilities, said Prows.

www.industrialmobility.org (See a video on the project.)

Also read from MBT: Wireless demonstration project at Arkema .

- Edited by Renee M. Robbins, managing editor, and Mark T. Hoske, electronic products editor, MBT www.mbtmag.com