Nine billion dollars… that’s the value of the 761 million gallons of architectural coatings the paint industry shipped in 2006 — but suppliers would be nowhere without valuable enterprise information systems.
Valspar Corporation is the third largest paint and coatings company in North America, and the sixth largest in the world, with plant production totalling near 250 million gallons of paint annually. For all plant design, integration, measurement and control, Valspar uses Meter Maintenance & Controls Inc (MMCI).
MMCI is a system integrator and technology supplier in Redlands, California, that specialises in true turnkey liquid measurement solutions. The company has set-up or retrofitted Valspar plants in Wheeling, Illinois, Sacramento, California, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Statesville, North Carolina, and Garland, Texas to name a few.
New plants receive a top-to-bottom paint blending and batching system, with everything from the piping and electrical, to the process equipment and programming gear being supplied, installed, and programmed by MMCI.
To handle the paint blending process in each of these plants, MMCI uses Emerson Process Micro Motion flow meters. These flow meters measure mass flow, volume flow, density and temperature variables, and provide precise control measurement of the various ingredients that are blended together to create a given batch of paint.
From a management and operation standpoint, Valspar wanted a system that would allow the entire enterprise to be integrated — from the plant floor controls to the information systems. Plant operators need diagnostic information for process monitoring and for identifying maintenance needs or problems on the line, without requiring that the operator is trained on the control system. The laboratory also needed access to this information for quality control and trending.
MMCI chose to use a Rockwell Automation Process Automation System (PAS) to extract data from the flow meters. As each flow meter batches a raw material into a mixing tank, the process variables are recorded by RSSql and ultimately present to the Valspar operators in a Rockwell Automation RSView Human Machine Interface (HMI).
In RSView an alarm system is implemented with predetermined set-points that, when triggered, alert the operator and provide cues indicating the proper action can be taken. These process variables are also pulled into RSSql to give Valspar’s laboratory access to historical data for all past batches.
With the ideal equipment selected for the plant, what remained was a networking problem.
Emerson Process developed the HART (Highway Addressable Remote Transducer) Multi-drop protocol in the 1980s, so naturally the Micro Motion systems are programmable and communicate via the protocol. The HART protocol is ideal in process industries due to its robust design, but to push this diagnostic information through to the HMI, MMCI needed to convert the data somewhere along the line to Rockwell Automation’s EtherNet/IP protocol.
“Rockwell Automation Ethernet communication is like the golden child. With other providers of HART interfaces we have used, we have needed to use an OPC server to collect and distribute the information, which required that we write our own code,” said MMCI programmer and systems engineer, Mike Smith.
“We just needed a way to communicate between our ControlLogix PAC (Programmable Automation Controller) and the flow meters.”
MMCI president, Terry Davis, approached Royal Wholesale Electric Riverside, California, branch manager, Tom Thuerbach, to help him find a solution. Thuerbach recommended ProSoft Technology’s EtherNet/IP-to-HART multi-drop communication gateway (5207-DFNT-HART).
“I know Terry Davis demands high-quality, reliable products for his customers. It was an easy decision to recommend Rockwell Automation and ProSoft products,” said Thuerbach.
Rockwell Automation business manager — process automation, Som Chakraborti said: “EtherNet/IP is core to Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture that helps end-users like Valspar Corp converge industrial and business technologies plant-wide. ProSoft’s gateway offering leverages the EtherNet/IP backbone to create a powerful process control application that can easily communicate with other plant-floor and information systems.”
According to Davis of MMCI, his company has been using Rockwell and ProSoft products for years. “Possibly since we first started as a company in 1989,” he said.
“We use ProSoft’s Modbus ControlLogix cards all the time, so it was a no-brainer. Now we try to use their HART gateway in all the paint plants we work in; and have plans to apply it in many other industries we serve. Just recently MMCI replaced a Pepperl + Fuchs HART Multiplexer system with ProSoft’s in the Statesville, North Carolina facility. We were glad to find a modern solution for an old communication platform.”
In all, MMCI has set up five plants for Valspar, with each project involving anywhere from 30 to 50 flow meters. In a general application, MMCI has all HART flow meters linked up to a single ProSoft gateway. The gateway routes the data over Ethernet to the Rockwell Automation ControlLogix PAC. The ProSoft module acts as a bridge, allowing the Process Automation System to communicate seamlessly with the flow meters. Once data is extracted from the meters it can be distributed to RSSql and RSView.
The greatest benefits of the new system are streamlined efficiency, simplified monitoring and operation, and the creation of a quality control process for preventative and predictive maintenance.
“Our plants are happy with the feedback that we are now receiving from our meters,” says Valspar director of engineering, Mike Dimaggio, based in the North Carolina facility.
“Using this information we have been able to modify our preventative maintenance plans to stay ahead of any issues before they occur. For example, we began changing out filter bags before the pumps and meters. In the past if the bag wasn’t changed out we would reduce the flow to the point that we would have meter inaccuracies. Now that the system tracks this data, we have been able to see how often we should be changing these bags to avoid any errors when batching, and are able to act before an error occurs.
“Also, in the past if someone had a theory that a metering problem causes a quality issue with a batch, we could not prove or disprove them. We had to look at the meter the next time it was used. Now, with stored data several times per minute for each meter charge, we can go to the real data from the questioned charge and either prove or disprove this theory. The ability to avoid meter inaccuracies will definitely help us from a quality standpoint.”
Valspar lead engineer, Dale Simmons, working out of the Wheeling, Illinois facility, said: “With the HART system we can track and standardise flow rates of materials between sites. We also use the density outputs to monitor solids levels in our slurry tanks. Logging the history enables us to track line cloggages and take preventive action. In several situations we have used the historical HART data in conjunction with RSSql to troubleshoot issues that have occurred within the batching system itself… meters faulting out, misdirected flows, incorrect RSSql transactions, and more.”
From a monitoring and operations standpoint, the process allows any person in the plant at any given time to view activity on the floor, the Watch Dog Timers set up by MMCI, and any other critical information. This saves money and time for Valspar associated with hiring and training employees, plus the rework and maintenance that would otherwise have to be done by a technician. The system is user-friendly and because the measurement system is so accurate, the system nearly runs itself and downtime is mostly eliminated.
“I know Valspar appreciates not having to call us out there every time they run into a maintenance hickup, though the systems still operate without issue today,” said Davis.
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Adrienne Lutovsky, public relations