Process Control - What Are the Potential Gains Through System Upgrades?
Posted: 04/09/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
Despite operating in a turbulent global economy, sometimes it is often wise for mining companies to speculate to accumulate and pay for improvements which will boost their output and final profits.
One area where this is true is through system upgrades of process control. This is especially apparent where aging technology is still in place and a jump to modern equipment is a must in order to compete with rival companies.
This in turn will help to optimise flow, boosting production and return on investment that the organisation has ploughed into their new control system.
There comes a time when aging systems are no longer fit for purpose, where repairs and tinkering will not suffice. Microprocessor-based units are all the rage these days, there may come a point where a company's hand is forced because old models can no longer be fixed as parts are not available anymore.
Another benefit of performing a system upgrade is improved reliability. Downtime for mining companies means that machinery stops and productivity slows to zero. However, units which run without problems will lead to an improvement in product quality and production capacity.
This will allow companies to meet orders from suppliers and even boost their offering when it comes to negotiating new contracts and deals.
Savings can be made on maintenance and repair, allowing money to be spent on other areas of the business. This can include communication channels and data streaming so that organisations can see where production line improvements can be made.
Javier Gutierrez, senior product manager, control design and simulation for National Instruments, told Control Engineering that one of the areas where the cost of control systems can be reduced is in cutting down the number of variables.
"Although many ideas may come to mind, the possibility of using advanced process control (APC) is more easily attainable due to the power of computers and new strategies that are now feasible. But what if we reduce the number of variables to be controlled? With fewer variables, less hardware is needed, the process is simpler, and it is easier to teach to others," he noted.
A modern control interface can benefit companies which are upgrading their process control system. This will add to the user interaction, while also help to flag up potential problems with machinery. Vincent DiGangi, a senior partner at Connell Industries, told Automation.com that continuous retrieval of information will keep the interface updated with automation and other device activities.
"So, when any equipment malfunctions or even becomes exposed to a potential problem, an alarm can be communicated in the form of a text message, email, voice mail or any appropriate combination of alarms," he said.
Mr DiGangi described today's process controls as "intelligent" and that they are able to tell the relevant personnel what the problem is with any given bit of machinery and even relay the sequence of events which led to it occurring – enabling the company to prevent it happening again and therefore increasing uptime and production flow.
Advanced process control systems have the ability to cut costs for businesses. They can be implemented to reduce energy usage, while also limiting emissions of damaging gases into the environment. This can benefit a company in a number of ways, such as cutting fines which might be imposed for poor practice when it comes to emitting dangerous chemicals.
When all things are considered mining organisations need to consider what they have to do to bring their operation up to speed with competitors. In an environment which is fiercer than ever before and big-money deals being like gold dust, upgrading process control systems could be the move to make.
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