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How to Enhance Control System Efficiency and Reliability While Controlling Costs

Many power generation facilities struggle with control system maintenance, efficiency, reliability, and obsolescence issues, especially older facilities. Often, the challenge is to find a viable solution to enhance control system efficiency and reliability while controlling costs. The key to success is a process of listening, analyzing, developing an optimization plan, and implementing it.

This is a methodology EN Automation developed and has relied upon, a proven approach that has served our clients well. It has helped to improve the operation of their existing control systems while avoiding the expense and downtime associated with wholesale control system upgrades and replacements.

When issues arise, it’s not uncommon for them to not only be expensive, but it can be hard to find providers willing to take on smaller projects, such as incremental upgrades and maintenance tasks. As a result, operators often have no choice but to live with the issues and the challenges they present. We know how frustrating that can be and offer operators an alternative.

We begin by actively listening to our clients to understand their unique challenges and needs. This helps to ensure that we avoid making assumptions and have all the facts in hand before moving to the next step, analysis.

Analysis, Solution, and Implementation

Our team of experts have extensive experience with traditional power generation facilities, including coal, natural gas, and hydroelectric plants that typically utilize DCS and PLC-based control systems for operations.

Even more, our experience extends to nearly every software and hardware platform used. No matter which systems our clients have, or which combinations they use—and there are a lot of different types of systems, from different vendors, put in over the course of several years—we can take care of them. We understand all of these different systems, we can make them work together, make them talk, and we can make them function.

Once our team of experts has an in-depth understanding of our client’s needs, we perform a detailed analysis of the control systems and facility and then develop a solution tailored to each clients’ specific needs and fully test it in-house before it is deployed at the client site. Once that has been done, our automation team, who sees the project through from beginning to end, implements the solution.

Implementation is a critical step, and we work closely with the client to ensure that facility operations are not disrupted. The team installs the software or equipment solution at the power plant, makes any necessary minor adjustments, trains operating personnel, and fully tests it one more time—a site acceptance test. The final step is to commission it, making sure it functions as designed.

Just like Michael Jordan, everyone has a sweet spot, and this is ours. EN Automation offers a full range of consulting, design, and software development services that help our customers meet challenges head-on with efficient and reliable control systems in a way that controls costs.

Real-World Cost Savings

One example of this is the University of Cincinnati, Central Utilities Plant. As an EN Automation client, they are now saving millions in demand charges each year from the local electric provider.

The plant operates a 21-megawatt steam turbine that provides power to the university campus and affiliated hospital. The turbine was experiencing “phantom trips,” meaning it had frequent nuisance shutdowns that were a not due to a real problem. At times there was no indication given by the system of the reason for the shutdown.

As a result, EN Automation was asked to perform a thorough review of the turbine’s trip logic. Once the study was conducted, it revealed that the false trips were caused by intermittent or faulty signals from temperature, pressure and vibration sensing devices. The trip logic was revised to make the system less prone to trips due to intermittent signals by utilizing short time delays.

In some cases, the logic was revised to require that two independent sensors needed to indicate a problem before a trip was initiated. Finally, the logic was revised so that a sensor failure would not cause a trip, but instead generate an alarm message to notify the operator that the sensor had failed and needed to be replaced. These changes resulted in a much more robust and reliable system.

With this optimization set up, the steam turbine has been in operation for months with the same protection level, and no phantom trips have occurred. Not only was the university happy with the cost savings, but they also noted, “implementation of the recommended logic revisions was completed one day ahead of schedule before the summer peak season when steam turbine reliability is crucial.”

For additional information, contact Garett Williams at (314)496-3852 or email at gwilliams@enengineering.com.

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AVEVA System Platform, Querying your Galaxy Database

This video, featuring EN Automation’s Kevin Collins, technical director, and Brad Shade, senior principal control systems engineer, explains how to query a galaxy database in order to retrieve extra information and complement current capabilities.

They begin with a basic walkthrough of the tooling they display on screen, including a dev system and SQL server management studio. This is the tool used to connect to the system platform database that is created alongside your galaxy.

Next, they displayed a database called sandbox, the system platform IDE, and a sandbox galaxy that they did their queries against. They used a CQL server management studio to begin their change log query, which enables users to see what has happened in their galaxy or retrieve objects that may have changed.

One of the main tables used is the G Object Change Log. This table not only defines each object in the galaxy server, but it also contains all change log information for each one, including what was changed, when, who did so, and any comments made.

The query was organized into two columns and includes the ability to filter for the specific information being searched for. These built-in capabilities allow for plenty of flexibility, whether users are searching for a timestamp, undeployed changes, or other items.

Queries such as this have been used at several clients’ facilities and allowed them to see changes made in their galaxy during a particular time frame. This can help to show that their system has stabilized from development or troubleshooting.

Another feature of a galaxy database is the ability to look at IO references and query against a table or tables that provide a parent template and IO mapping.

Taking advantage of this allows users to pull IO mappings directly from the galaxy database, search for an input source or wild card, and even run stat. This information means users can use the IDE to reference them.

When it comes to uses for this type of query and resulting information, some examples include updating references, moving register mappings, and searching for a specific object, OPC client object, or scan group. These, and others like them, narrow the scope.

Another tool is the orchestral object attribute, update load builder. It was built to expedite EN Automation’s development projects and allow for quick updates to specific attributes in the system platform galaxy. These include alarm priorities, IO mappings, and auto IO binding. It’s a very efficient way to pull IO information from the database.

The last query discussed in the video is the ID’s security models. This is used to answer client questions about the security configuration in their galaxy and which objects are in each security group. This query is a huge time-saver compared to paging through the ID in a large system with many objects.

Using these types of queries creates an environment in which users can do a little more and dig a little deeper. It also helps to answer questions when a client is upgrading or would like to better understand how things such as security are configured.

A word of caution: One important thing to remember is to not modify tables in the galaxy base with queries you’re doing. Modifying directly within tables is not a supported feature; instead, select statements without making changes.

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Blog

Benefits of Modern MES – Getting Started with Your MES Journey

EN Automation has put together a series of topics focused on the benefits of Modern MES.

Starting the Journey

Digitalization

Using the Data

Scaling Beyond the Plant Level

Manufacturing Execution System ––MES software––enables manufacturers to gather and analyze digitalized information to optimize plant operations. The best MES software enhances the monitoring of the manufacturing process from raw materials to finished products. Having that data readily available allows managers to see what is happening in the manufacturing process in real-time. Data delivered by MES system software sorts according to quality metrics from the line and shift level up to enterprise analysis and overall company output.

MES software comparison allows managers to draw correlations between successful operations and problem areas to troubleshoot and make corrections in real-time. This capability can be translated into a “live picture” dashboard assessment of productivity and efficiency projected on monitors in numerical and graphic form. That instant feedback gives line managers the information needed to control processes from the granular level through to the desired manufacturing outcome.

That level of control empowers line managers in many ways, enabling real-time decision making while simultaneously storing data for future comparative analysis and process improvement. These capabilities are proven motivational tools as managers learn to identify and prevent problems rather than allow line shutdowns or other manufacturing interruptions.

The most vital benefit of MES system software is tailoring its use to your specific facilities. Whether existing problems are known, need to be identified and solved, or continue to mystify all involved, our manufacturing and software engineering team respond to your enterprise at the level appropriate. We collaborate to identify where manufacturing processes and operations are failing, aren’t up to speed, or exist across a series of functionalities. Our team analyzes and recommends solutions even when performance data resides in pen and paper mode, or existing software systems use is ineffective. Those are all situations that MES system software can fix. But fixing problems isn’t the sole purpose of an MES system.

Even manufacturers operating with sophisticated SCADA and PLC software do not always recognize what modern MES software can do to maximize operations across multiple facilities. Having a unified MES system software in place delivers a vital abstraction layer and a common language to meld varying data interfaces, drive paperless workflow, save time and money in staff utilization and asset usage, and create growth and expansion opportunities using well-documented hard data for wise decision-making.

This capability eliminates interpretation conflicts and provides for clear communications across multiple platforms and operational systems. Along with line system management, MES software, when properly employed with ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), broadens the capability scope by relating daily manufacturing outcomes to all phases of company operations and profitability, including accounting, procurement, project management, safety, risk management, compliance, supply chain direction, and year-to-year reporting.

That type of insight is what companies need to drive their vision for the future. The benefits of MES manufacturing software extend far beyond the plant floor to the performance and image of your company as a quality operation. Investors and stakeholders of all kinds benefit from the clear picture of resource management and operational efficiency developed using MES software.

For more information, please contact:

Garett Williams, Director of Business Development