Canadian Manufacturing

SPONSORED: Address market risk while documenting the ROI of analytics

CLPM and other data analytics solutions are transforming plant data into actionable insights

June 18, 2020  by Dennis Nash

The following is sponsored content from Control Station

What gets measured gets managed. For any manufacturer a great deal depends on the ability to monitor and evaluate the performance of staff and facility alike. In terms of assessing the performance of production systems, the plurality of facilities rely on KPIs that are trended by supervisory control platforms. While the analysis is essential, the metrics focus more on maintaining safe, consistent output and less on optimizing the underlying layer of regulatory controllers. As a result, the PID controller that’s responsible for regulating each of a facility’s many, highly interactive control loops is routinely overlooked until its performance is linked to a slip in production efficiency or throughput. Indeed, the typical DCS doesn’t include metrics for Stiction, Oscillation, or Output Reversals. Measurements that proactively assess the PIDs effectiveness have only recently been viewed as a means of both improving overall performance and avoiding costly downtime.

A central question to ask is: What’s the value of improving regulatory control? As with most questions related to industrial automation the answer depends. Clearly value differs from the manufacturer whose brand is based on the highest level of quality versus the producer of bulk commodities that sells based on lowest unit price. Similarly, the benefit of reducing energy consumption has a different implication for a steel mill that operates an arc furnace as compared to an average chemical plant whose energy bill is largely attributed to overhead lighting. What’s common across all segments of manufacturing is the steady appreciation in performance expectations – more output, less cost.

While regulatory control loop performance monitoring (CLPM) tools have been in use for two decades, published analysis of the associated ROI remains limited. Most information about the potential gains associated with improving regulatory control is generalized for the entire process manufacturing industry. The lack of financial data has stimulated a growing number of manufacturers to take matters into their own hands and to secure their own data and insights.

A short-term, highly focused evaluation can clarify ROI and eliminate the risk of inaction. An evaluation also illuminates how the CLPM technology’s KPIs align with a given facility’s annual production goals and allow management to remain on top of progress. Recent evaluations documented an array of performance gains:

Reducing Cycle Time in the Automotive Industry

The linkage between cycle time and output is obvious.  In the context of a multi-phase production process it’s the bottleneck that represents the single most relevant production constraint. For a manufacturer of automotive wheel locks and specialty lug nuts the value of CLPM technology was established through the identification and isolation of variability within various secondary loops. The disturbances hampered control of the facility’s primary multi-zone furnace application and extended production time unnecessarily. Refinements to the process strategy and tuning of the bad actors resulted in a 9% reduction in cycle time and a corresponding increase in output of >13%.

Eliminating Production Defects in the Semiconductor Industry

Every defective unit weighs on a facility’s production level. For semiconductor manufacturers those defects can be devastating due to the high cost of production inputs such as titanium. Control limits associated with ultra-purified water in particular are essential to the manufacture of complex chip sets and are extremely unforgiving. Even the smallest of impurities in the water can hamper the chip cleaning process and result in product that can neither be sold nor repurposed. With DCS metrics unable to assess control loop performance, CLPM technology was needed to establish the initial benchmarking and the continuous improvement of core processes including ultra-purified water. Regulatory control enhancements simultaneously improved quality and reduced defects, enabling Payback of less than one (1) year on the subsequent technology investment.

Decreasing Energy Costs in the Basic Materials Industry

Even with prices on a steady decline the cost of energy remains significant relative to a process manufacturer’s overall production cost. That is especially true for manufacturers of basic materials such as steel, cement, and others that rely on energy to transform raw materials into finished products. Maintaining effective control over furnaces and kilns can be challenging due to their high level of inertia, propensity to overshoot, and contributions to downstream variability. Manual control is often a consequence even though that approach routinely results in even higher levels of variability and energy consumption. An evaluation performed at a ceramic proppant mill uncovered issues ranging from manual control and mechanical problems to overly aggressive controllers – all of which impacted production costs. While only a portion of these issues were resolved during the evaluation the mill successfully reduced its annual energy consumption by over $100,000.

Avoiding Unplanned Downtime in the Oil & Gas Industry

Few things worry plant management more than unplanned downtime. When equipment fails unexpectedly production halts. Unlike traditional oil companies, energy producers in the Athabasca oil sands cope with equipment issues stemming from their steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) method. SAGD involves the continuous injection of high-pressure steam within the Earth’s substrata in order to liquefy petroleum captured there. Two concerns related to steam quality: 1) high moisture content results in premature valve failure, and 2) excessive variability causes water hammer which destroys the associated piping. Analysis performed on ~20% of the facility’s PID loops isolated valve Stiction that indirectly undermined steam quality and jeopardized uptime. Corrections immediately improved quality by more than 2.0% and mitigated the threat of downtime.

In its report published in January 2018, the global consulting and advisory services firm McKinsey & Company noted that manufacturing was amid the most significant disruption in decades due to the abundance of data and advances in data analytics. Citing the Industrial Internet of Things they wrote: “Competition is intensifying not just within industries but also between them.” In a way McKinsey’s report offered a warning: Those who ignore the importance of data analytics and who fail to understand their relative position in the market will be at risk.

A question all manufacturers must consider: Is the lack of public data putting your company at risk? An increasing number of technology vendors offer formal evaluations, providing hard evidence of ROI and resolving the risk of inaction.

To learn how a CLPM evaluation both documents ROI and addresses market risk, visit us at

Dennis Nash is the president of Control Station Inc., which solves difficult plant monitoring and controller challenges faced by process manufacturers with a broad portfolio of software-based solutions. Call (860) 248-2137 or e-mail