[Podcast] Delivering Next Gen IIoT: Refinery of the Future
Episode 2 – Connected Worker
With a robust team of industry-leading partners like HPE, Aruba and PTC, CB Technologies is helping Texmark Chemicals modernize their business with advanced Industrial IoT (IIoT). This Refinery of the Future podcast series is about the creation of the Refinery of the Future (RotF) and the development of its five core solutions: Predictive Maintenance & Analytics, Video as a Sensor, Worker Safety, Connected Worker, and Asset Integrity Management. Throughout the series, we’ll discuss how RotF delivers improved process analytics, up-time, customer satisfaction and worker safety.
Did you miss Episode 1? Here’s a link to get you all caught up.
Host Peter Moser, IoT and AI Strategist at HPE, talks with Stan Galanski of CB Technologies and Linda Salinas of Texmark Chemicals about the Connected Worker solution they integrated into the Refinery of the Future. Tune in to hear them discuss how this set of location-based, context-aware tools connects field personnel with the specific, personalized information they need to make fast, informed decisions.
Peter Moser, Host
Hi, my name is Peter Moser, Chief Technologist for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, here with connectivity becoming more pervasive and affordable businesses now are exploring how they can connect their workers in the field to improve collaboration, productivity, create new efficiencies, and more importantly, health and safety. Who better to have this discussion with me today than somebody that’s done it and has it in production. With me today have Linda Salinas, Vice President of Operations for Texmark Chemicals, and Stan Galanski, Senior Vice President Customer Success for CB Technologies. Linda, tell us what compelling business reasons led to Texmark embarking on this digitization journey and how connected worker fit into that journey.
Linda Salinas, Texmark
Well, Peter, there were a couple of business drivers for us. First, we had a need to upgrade our antiquated distributed control system. We have a vision for growth for the company and we felt like we were outgrowing our current system. And so we were looking for something that would grow with us. We’re looking at a five to six year plan for that, so we thought now is the time to begin. The other was the need to formalize our mechanical integrity program. There are a couple of reasons to do that. One is OSHA says so, that Texmark is a process safety management PSM facility. And, it’s a good idea to manage your assets so that they operate reliably for you. Kind of taking a step back and looking at these two business objectives, we realized very quickly that both of them are sources of information for our workers. So how better to provide them with the information that comes from these two systems, our distributed control system and our asset management system, then to find some way to connect them to that information. And out of that grew the connected worker use case.
So Stan as Texmark’s primary systems integrator what posted CB technologies take to successfully deploy the connected worker solution?
Stan Galanski, CBT
Thanks for asking Peter, because that’s a very important topic because for this project. We’re talking something that’s very complex; we had to take a non traditional approach and apply it because it’s not like another factory environment, it’s very hazardous. We had identified a set of partners that were both IT and OT oriented. We had to take into consideration that we were going to be working in a hazardous environment; we couldn’t have anything that would possibly spark and ignite a fire. And we had to schedule all our operations such that it would not disrupt the normal activity or create a safety hazard. So with all that in mind, we tried to keep existing IT functions operational, but at the same time, introduce these new changes, new adaptions of technology and make sure that the plant was able to continue to produce without hesitation. We started thinking about this program from a very broad level of what are we going to be able to deploy that would serve the entire mission of the business, but take it in chunks, or in steps, one small process at a time. And then from there, once it was proven, we would scale accordingly. Having done that, we then sought the available technologies that would fit into a functional framework that would support all the other RotF use cases here at the plant and work with the associated contractors that could produce those technologies needed.
So Stan that really does sound complex, you got 24/7 operations, you’re in a Class I Div I operating environment. So you have to make sure whatever solutions you deploy or save, and then there’s always the people on the two. So Stan, what does that solution look like?
Well, it encompasses multiple technologies. As I alluded to first, the customer came to us and said, we have to provide a solution that’s going to allow the worker to collect information, with the minimal set of mechanical tools and equipment at their disposal. They’re going to be in a hazardous environment; they want to minimize the things they’re carrying. So this had to do with looking at pumps; a typical day would have them doing rounds and examining the condition of the pumps. They needed to collect readings of temperature, pressure and fluid levels. So we needed to know what the data that was, which they gave us. We needed to know how to extract that data. We found out the best way to do that was to apply sensors. We could either do intrusive or non-intrusive sensors, but then the data had to be streamed from the asset to a compute platform, which has a ubiquitous Wi Fi system by Aruba, that brought the data into an edge data center that could be collected and stored in the database. Once the data was there, it would be triggered to be resent out to the worker upon request, the way it was triggered was through the use of a visual capture capability. And we were using a brand new technology from RealWear, called the HMT-1, that allowed the worker to have a camera on its helmet recognize its location or the object that it was standing next to, correlate that with an identifier in the database, and immediately grab the data and beam it back to his helmet and put it on a headset display. In addition, that tool also provided noise cancelling conversation between the worker and the control room operator.
That’s exciting Stan. But you know, Linda, when I heard all those capabilities that Stan just described, you know, what kind of business benefits you seeing from it today and what kind of benefits you think you get to see in the next say, three years as you brought more capabilities?
Well, the first thing, of course, is going to be efficiency. But what does that really mean efficiency? What are we doing now versus the direction that Stan and CB Technologies are taking us? Today we have an operator with a clipboard and a two way radio and a valve wrench and his own PPE personal protective equipment, doing the rounds that Stan talked about. And so to provide that connectivity today, the operator will stand in front of that piece of equipment and take make some observations, maybe write it down, maybe not. There, all the information may not be there local standing in front of the pumps. So then the operator will need to radio back to the control room and ask for additional data that would be on the control board. And then they have a conversation back and forth, an exchange of information. So that the operator standing in front of the pump can make a decision and then make a move, take some action. All that stuff takes time. And if you caught on, it takes two people today. The solution that CB Technologies and HPE and the other ecosystem partners are bringing to us is efficiency so that one worker can do the job that two are doing today. Standing in front of that pump, getting the information that they need that’s either available locally, or from wireless sensors or wired sensors, and then make a move. It can happen more seamless. more quickly. What does quickly equate to? Quickly equates to efficiency, higher yields, savings and more profits. And even more importantly, it equates to safety. Things are happening more quickly, you’re spending less time in the field, near the equipment and in that Class I Div I area that Stan talked about. And then it frees our operators up to go do other things. When you can make decisions more quickly, especially if you’re in an emergency type situation, then time is of the essence.
Thank you Linda. Stan, we’re talking about this one particular use case, but there’s actually five going on simultaneously at Texmark. And with CB Technologies being the primary integrator of those five use cases. I know that you mentioned earlier, Stan, that you’re doing kind of minimally viable solutions right now with each of these use cases. But eventually, they’re all going to come together into kind of more of an integrated set of workflows. Can you tell us a little bit about that next stage or phase coming where you’re going to start bringing all these different use cases together?
So probably the next phase is we’re going to scale what we’ve done. And as we’re scaling, we’re looking at how the five use cases are going to start connecting and overlapping. Right off the bat, connected worker is dealing with what I would consider dynamic performance of an asset, it’s collecting real time data of a moving pump. That’s very important to be able to determine whether there’s going to be a pending problem, imminently. But there’s also the data that’s being collected in solution 500 mechanical integrity, and that is looking at corrosive conditions of piping and instrumentation, and various radio metric readings that are collected over time. So the maintenance worker who cares about that degradation of static equipment might also be interested in what’s happening with the performance of a dynamic piece of equipment that connects to it. So with all that said, bringing solution five, which is collecting maintenance information on static versus connected worker, which is acquiring data that is dynamic. Putting that together gives a more holistic picture to the worker and to the operation center control later.
So, Linda with all this change, you know, it’s exciting. Where do you see Texmark, three to five years from now, with this digitization journey and when these use cases are deployed and integrated. How do you see things changing?
Well, before I get into the future, let me tell you about what we do today. Our operators are mechanics, walk around the plant and they are way down. They’ve got tools, they’ve got a pipe wrench, a clipboard, a handheld radio, they’ve got their personal protective equipment, and then whatever diagnostic tools they might carry with them. And in the case of the operator, they’re walking around the plant looking for and making observations about normal operations to make sure that things are on spec. The millwright and the mechanics are doing routine rounds, doing diagnostics on our equipment and taking notes. So when our mechanics are out in the field, they might hit seven to ten pumps in any given day. And as you’re inspecting those pumps, you might find something that needs a little further research. And so the mechanic would go back to the office, dig out our mechanical integrity records, perhaps call a vendor to do some research. And that then diverts his attention from the typical rounds. You might not just blast through and in a week, catch all the pumps. So now the maintenance team is focused on this one anomaly and those things take time. In the future, I see the millwright, making his rounds using technology. He’s got a hands free device and his own dashboard persona that will direct him in the areas of the plant that need his attention the most. We sit on eight acres. I know that a lot of the super majors that we deal with are probably on 8000 acres. And I could see a real benefit for them just like we’re seeing today. Through his handheld device or through the helmet, he can call up the data that he needs while he’s in the field. There’s no walking back to the office to look on the database. He can collaborate with his other workers wearing the helmet and make real time decisions.
Linda brings up a point about work the workers that I didn’t necessarily elaborate earlier when I talked about our approach. And that was, we took an approach that proved most successful, which was integrating the worker into the process of deploying these new tools and technologies. We tried to take it incrementally. We brought them in, showed them the tools, showed them exactly how things were going to be presented. We asked for their opinions and integrated it. And then we went to the next stage. So along this path, we include the operators, the plant workers, so that they felt invested and understood what was coming their way. So none of this happened abruptly or all at once. In fact, having them involved was very helpful because they gave us some ideas. Not only do we want to see the real time data, but also I need to know the history of that pump, what’s happened over the last week, 10 days or a month. And we incorporated that, we went into the historian database, pulled that up, and they were able to see both in lickety split time. That helped make their decisions more complete and direct. And right now, they find themselves on a daily basis asking us when’s the next solution? How can we help
And you know, Stan, just kind of building off of that, just like our cell phones today are very intuitive and we don’t even think twice about using it as a camera or to take notes. We’re seeing our workers do the same with the helmet. They’re in the field and they navigate home and they say take photo and all hands free, they’re able to take a picture of something in the plant that they need to then transmit to other workers, or they might use in a meeting, or use and talk directly with equipment vendors. It can also record video so if they wanted to take notes and dictate some notes and take a video of whatever it is that they’re seeing – I’m noticing that there’s excess vibration, I see here that the temperature or pressure is this – and then send that short video clip to the manufacturer; and we found that is very valuable. And just using that technology, just like it’s intuitive with our phone, is becoming more and more intuitive for our workers.
Peter, I want to make a point regarding the comment I made earlier about the data flow and how everything is captured, moved, stored and then redistributed to the user. This is a very complex operation and I don’t want the listener to think that it happened simply. But there are a couple of things that I think I’d like for the listener to understand and appreciate. And that is one, we use some very qualified partners. For instance, PTC was brought in, because they had a very good visualization tool. They allowed us to take an agile approach to do cyclic design collaboratively with the user and the worker. So we would show them how the data would be presented, we would ask for their comments, they would make recommendations, and we would feed that back to PTC. And because of the flexibility of the Vuforia studio, we could make those changes in 24 hours, have it back in front of the customer, and get their buy in, which help to speed development. RealWear was a fit for purpose product that was able to work in a Class I Div I environment right off the bat. We didn’t have to pre qualify it, wait for testing, or anything like that. And the fact that it brought noise cancelling audio and video and picture capture and geolocation with it was all the better. Using the Aruba ubiquitous Wi Fi was critical to establish the foundation. It was flexible, we were able to switch frequencies in different parts of the plant, to increase signal strength where we needed to, and that just made the data transfer that much stronger. And then lastly, the use of the edge data center from HPE enabled us to store the information in a mobile, environmentally secure cabinet that can be located almost anywhere on the campus. This way we could put our servers, our storage, and our network components all in one location and one facility. It was environmentally safe, we could monitor it and move it in any location of the facility as needed. Because of its simplicity, we could also purchase another one and have disaster recovery on the same plant site.
Wow, this is exciting. You know, when I think about Linda, your vision for Texmark, and where you’re going to be three to five years from now, and just how far along you’ve come. You know, as I mentioned earlier, there’s really five use cases that you’ve been working on simultaneously. You know, we’ve just talked about connected worker today. But you really think about how those are all going to come together how it’s going to transform Texmark. I really have to take my hat off to Texmark and your refinery the future vision, how you’ve done like no other chemical plant I’ve ever seen. You know, not just try to attack one use case and pile it, but five simultaneously. I think this is a testament to CB Technologies to help you do that successfully without any impairment to your production or operations, and without any injury during the course of this journey. This is phenomenal. And for our audience, I’d really like to encourage you to consider visiting Texmark, the refinery of the future in Galena Park, Texas. And while you’re here visiting Linda and Stan, consider a 40 minute drive to the Hewlett Packard Enterprise discovery lab. We have many of the same use cases and others on display and we can have a deep conversation with you and CB Technologies, and how we can help you during your own digitization journey. If you’d like to learn more about Texmark and the refinery the future you can visit www. cbtechinc.com. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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