Connected Calibration Maintenance Management Systems

Online Editor

Heikki Laurila explains the benefit of uniting calibration and maintenance management systems

For process manufacturers, having reliable and integrated IT systems across a single plant or multiple sites is critical to business efficiency, profitability and growth. Although many manufacturing companies understand that maintenance management deserves enterprise-wide attention, it is still often viewed as nothing more than a necessary cost of doing business. However, integrating maintenance management systems more closely with plant processes – for example, by connecting them with a calibration management system – can improve operational efficiency while saving costs.

The rise of maintenance management systems

Maintaining plant assets such as production-line equipment, boilers, furnaces, conveyor systems or hydraulic pumps is critical in process industries. This is particularly true if the company is part of an asset-intensive industry where equipment and plant infrastructure is large, complex and expensive. 

Production outages caused by breakdowns are costly, so implementing a modern digitalised calibration and maintenance management (CMM) system can save time and money. Organisations may also have their own in-house software systems for maintenance management.

The importance of calibration management

In process industries, a small but critical part of a company’s asset management strategy should be the calibration of process instrumentation. Manufacturing plants need to be sure that their instrumentation devices – temperature sensors, pressure transducers, flow meters and the like – are functioning correctly and measuring to specified tolerances. If sensors drift out of their specification range, the consequences can be disastrous, perhaps resulting in costly production downtime, safety issues or batches of inferior quality goods that then have to be scrapped.

Calibration management software helps companies document, schedule, plan, analyse and optimise their calibration work. Communication between the software and smart calibrators means that companies can automate predefined calibration procedures. As well as retrieving and storing calibration data, the software can also download detailed instructions for operation before and after calibrating.

The limitations of standalone systems

There are some limitations to using a standalone maintenance management system. Although plant hierarchy and work orders can be stored in the CMM system, calibration cannot be automated because the system cannot communicate with smart calibrators. This leads to duplicated effort and re-keying the same data into multiple databases, reducing efficiency and increasing the risk of human error in the process.

Because the CMM system is also likely to have been implemented before the calibration management software, it will normally be the first port of call for maintenance staff and for generating work orders.

How integration works in practice

An integration project for a CMM and calibration management system will normally involve three parties: the customer; the CMM system software partner; and the calibration management software partner. The calibration management software created by technology and service company Beamex can be integrated with commonly used CMM systems, including Maximo, SAP and Datastream. Beamex offers a standard integration package that can be customised to suit each customer’s existing software and maintenance strategy.

To connect CMM systems and calibration software management systems, the integration interface relies on Extensible Markup Language (XML), which enables the sharing of structured data across different information systems. Data fields such as position ID, device ID, location, serial number and work order number can be transferred from the customer’s CMM system to the calibration management system. Similarly, data can be transferred the other way, including work order numbers, position ID, maximum error, pass/fail notifications, calibration date and time and the name of the person who carried out the calibration task.

One example of a successful integration is the Salt River Project in Arizona, USA. The organisation was able to save about 30 minutes per calibration using an automated approach. “We were able to realise a significant return on investment during the first unit overhaul,” comments Jody Damron, business analyst, Salt River Project.

Braskem – the world’s largest producer of biopolymers – also chose to integrate Beamex calibration software into its plant maintenance management software to ensure its critical plant instruments are functioning properly. “We save about 20 minutes per calibration/work order with this integration,” reports Patrick Zhao, corporate instrument & analyser SME, Braskem America.

The benefits of integration

Integrating a calibration management system with a CMM system means that the plant hierarchy and all work orders for process instruments can be generated and maintained in the customer’s CMM system; calibration work orders can also be easily transferred to the calibration management system. Once a work order has been executed, the software sends an acknowledgement order back to the customer’s CMM system. Detailed calibration results are stored and available on the calibration management software database.

The benefits of this kind of integration come from streamlining processes and combining data in one easily accessible location and enabling companies to automate their calibration management process. Managers can make more informed decisions as all necessary data related to compliance reporting and overall calibration is in one place. In addition, the audit process is easier and more stress free as the needed information is readily available.

Heikki Laurila is with Beamex

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