Automation Insider: Automation’s Focus On Helping Maintenance

EP Editorial Staff | September 14, 2012

garymintchellYou’ll probably read this column around the time of ISA Automation Week, in Orlando, FL, Sept. 24-27. This annual conference is a gathering of automation, controls and instrumentation engineers, managers and technicians in the process industries. Among the highlights of this year’s program is a demonstration of data interoperability from the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) functions on through, ultimately, the Operations and Maintenance functions. The Open O&M group ( has been working toward this event for several years.


The demonstration involves the design, construction (virtual), operation and maintenance of a debutanizer. Three major design suppliers—Aveva, Bentley and Intergraph—are all on board with the project, which will be designed by the EPC WorleyParsons. Note that this demo is being run the same way a “real” industrial project would run. If all of the project work comes to fruition, the benefit to end-users will be improved maintenance response. Owner/operators will be able to get up-to-date P&IDs with truly digital links to actual equipment specifications. Thus, should a pump or motor go down in the middle of the night, a technician would be able to call up the information on a computer and drill right down to the model and spare-parts list to obtain a replacement or have a repair done more quickly than has typically been possible.

Last month was also a busy one for automation in the U.S. 
National Instruments’ annual developer and user conference, NI Week, drew 3400 people to the Austin, TX, heat, Aug. 6-9. I had several conversations with product managers and application engineering managers during that event. Improving the speed, accuracy and visualization of condition monitoring was a major point they all wanted to get across to me. Incorporating digital technologies such as condition monitoring, advanced networking and visualization—especially on new mobile platforms like iPads—will improve maintenance effectiveness and responsiveness. Leveraging these types of advancements (i.e., moving from preventive to predictive or model-based maintenance) is sure to make your life easier.MT

Gary Mintchell,, is Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Automation World magazine and blogs at


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