30 Jan

The Four Main Causes of Nuisance Trips and How to Fix Them

The Four Main Causes of Nuisance Trips and How to Fix Them

Those who have worked in an environment plagued by high volumes of nuisance trips know all too well the chaos they cause. These disruptions to normal operating conditions cause unnecessary loss of employee time, asset reliability and business income. No system has to settle for the disturbance of these trips. Below, we’ll explore the most common types of nuisance trips, their causes and how they can be prevented.

#1 Power Faults

Power Faults are typically caused by at least one of three things: unreliable power, inadequate planning or poor quality of power. Poor planning in the design of power distribution can result in overloaded circuits. When the power supply hasn’t been properly conditioned, the quality will suffer and result in a fault.

The Fix
A system suffering nuisance trips from power faults needs to be reexamined and, likely, redesigned. Specific attention needs to be given to the distribution of power surrounding the plant. Depending on the unique issues causing power faults, power feeds may also have to be updated.

#2 Communication Faults

Faults due to poor communication between controllers share similarities with power faults in that one of their causes is inadequate planning. Overloads and hardware faults can result from poor communication between site assets. Today’s technology is meant to interact intelligently with other machinery in the system. It’s no surprise that a system with poor communication would be prone to nuisance trips.

The Fix
The communication design between site assets needs to be reevaluated. Wiring should be optimized to ensure each machine in the system is performing at full potential. Communications should be intelligently designed into your system. It should be a benefit, not a detriment. Optimization of asset communication design and layout can go a long way to eliminating nuisance trips.

#3 Process Alarms

This is another perfect example of an aspect of a system that should act only as a benefit. Process alarms alone do not cause faults. Instead, it’s how they communicate the health of the system and how plant employees react to them that cause problems. Typically, we see one of three things happening in regards to process alarms. The alarms fails to activate when needed. Too many alarms go off at once, preventing plant employees from identifying the main cause. Plant employees ignore the alarm. All of these have the potential to cause unnecessary trips.

The Fix
Alarms are there to alert plant employees of issues in the system so they can address them before they cause problems. If the alarm fails to appear, appears in a confusing fashion or frequently appears when there are no issues, employees are not going to be able to do their job properly.

An alarm management study is necessary to correct these issues. The exact remedy is dependent on the unique issues effecting the plant, but may include installation of alarm filters, time delays, priority ranking and reduction of duplicate alarms. With these fixes in place, employees will no longer need to ignore alarms or worry they aren’t addressing the correct alarm.

#4 Application Program

A lot can go on within the programming of a system, especially when multiple people have worked on it.  Lack of optimization within an application program can cause glitches that result in nuisance trips. Parts of certain programs may remain in the system even after they are no longer being used. Real confusion results when many people have added and removed various programs from the system. Imagine a cake being baked my various cooks. A different cook performs each step without communicating with the others. What you’ll end up with is a poorly made cake that may or may not be edible. Just as the disjointed process prevented the cooks from doing their job, confusion within the program can prevent site assets from acting properly. The unfortunate results is often a nuisance trip.

The Fix
Have the same person or company work with an application program throughout the duration of its life. A single cook making a cake is far less likely to be confused by the actions of others. This fix requires something unique from the automation world, which is why Synergy offers varying levels of support contracts. Included in each one is an annual maintenance and backup visit to ensure all programs are running as they should. More frequent visits are available depending on the level of support a client chooses. When one person or company has sole responsibility over the programming of an asset, optimization is far easier to achieve and nuisance trips less likely to occur.

23 Jan

The Effect of Industrial Automation on Job Growth

The Effect of Industrial Automation on Job Growth

Today’s news on industrial automation often revolves around the speed of growth. Similar to other technologies, automation has grown faster than we could ever have expected. Intelligent systems can measure almost any Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and predict future plant needs. The abilities of today’s industrial technologies are nothing short of astonishing.

The truly great thing about the evolution of industrial automation has nothing to do with its capabilities. Instead, it’s in how it effects job growth in industrialized nations. Martin Buchwitz wrote a column in Automation World crediting automation with the prevention of de-industrialization.

Before the rise of today’s advanced technologies, voices in the industrial world discussed automation as a job killer. We see today that advanced industrial automation has done quite the opposite. The catalyst of low job growth is not in the advancement of machinery, but in the competitive low wages of developing countries.

Industrial automation provides businesses and process industries significant monetary savings. As such, many do not feel a need to move out of industrialized nations. Buchwitz speaks about this effect on Germany, but the same can be said for the United States. Those businesses who may have considered moving production out of our country have the superior alternative of adopting money-saving technologies that allow them to stay right where they are while still competing in the global market place.

The influence of advanced automation in the job market is especially evident to Synergy, as we reach out to people with an interest in automation technologies. We’ve even created a job posting on LinkedIn. Industrial automation will only continue to benefit future businesses and economies. Perhaps it will even play a role in the return of industries which, until now, had to rely on cheap labor to save money.

15 Jan

Updates to EEMUA 191 Alarm Systems Guidelines

This photo, “209/365/329 Red Alert!” is copyright (c) 2014 Alan Levine and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

The Engineering Equipment and Materials Users’ Association, or EEMUA, has revised their alarm systems guidelines. According to a Control Engineering article on the subject, the association has added an additional 80 pages to the original publication and has expanded upon the industries addressed to include those associated with gas and water.

Of particular importance for the revision was what they call Human-Computer Interface (HCI) management. Even the world’s greatest technology can be brought down by human error, making human interactions with alarm systems crucial to any industry.

A healthy alarm system and a method of management is essential for business asset reliability. Synergy has the expertise to create systems with predictive alarm capabilities. This specific information is useful to the human element of a plant. The staff, notified before any real problem arises, then has the opportunity to be proactive. Such alarm systems can dramatically reduce down time and prevent damages.

The updated EEMUUA guidelines also goes into alarm suppression; that is, when should and shouldn’t an alarm be ignored? With predicative technology, it’s important to recognize which alarms should be addressed right away and which can wait.  Safety is always key, which is why Synergy makes a point to provide training to our clients on any new system we install.

08 Jan

PRESS RELEASE: Synergy Systems Inc. Earns CSIA Certification


For Immediate Release

The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA)

Synergy Systems Inc., Chicago-based provider of plant automation services, has earned CSIA Certified status in the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) “Best Practices and Benchmarks” certification program.

Synergy earned the certification following a successful audit – administered by an independent consulting firm – that assessed its performance against client-centric criteria in a wide range of business, project management and system development areas:

  • General Management
  • Human Resources Management
  • Financial Management
  • Marketing, Business Development and Sales Management
  • Project Management
  • System Development Lifecycle
  • Supporting Activities
  • Quality Assurance Management
  • Service and Support

“CSIA Certification is the gold-seal mark of a professionally managed control system integration business,” says Robert Lowe, CSIA executive director. “Certification reassures clients that Synergy Systems is an established professional services firm that wants to develop and successful, long-term partnership with clients.”

Mark Urda, president of Synergy Systems Inc. adds, “CSIA is the premier benchmarking organization in the control system integration industry. Recognition as CSIA Certified is a testament to our commitment to CSIA’s value proposition of ensuring that industries everywhere have access to low-risk, safe and successful applications of automation technology.”

About CISA
The Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) is a global non-profit professional association that seeks to advance the industry of control system integration for the success of members and their clients. For more information, visit www.controlsys.org.