Corn Processor Employs Xylem Technology for Predictive Condition Monitoring

When the largest corn processor in Canada decided to improve the predictive monitoring of the pumps used in its operation, they turned to Xylem for PROsmart™, the latest technology for maintaining uptime on rotating equipment.

The processing and refining of corn into its various mass-market products such as starch, high fructose corn syrup and glucose requires a large investment in plant and equipment. As the largest corn processor in Canada, Casco Inc. has a substantial investment in pumps and other rotating equipment. Since their founding almost 150 years ago, Casco has been consistently looking to improve the effectiveness of plant operations by effectively controlling their maintenance costs.

Casco’s primary product is high fructose corn syrup, which is used as a sweetener in a variety of consumer food products such as dairy, carbonated beverages, breads, cakes, and low-calorie products. Other Casco syrups are used in brewing beer and providing functionality to candy and ice cream. They also provide dextrose products used by the pharmaceutical industry as well as starches for varied industrial applications such as adhesives, papermaking, plastics, water filtration and oil and gas drilling. Their three manufacturing plants in Ontario run 24/7/365. With such around the clock operations, Casco can’t afford plant downtime.

Predictive Condition Monitoring – a View From the Stone Age

To be successful today a company must be able to plan better for the future, and be proactive in their maintenance and repair operations. Until recently, most industrial operations relied mainly on the knowledge and expertise of veteran operations personnel. Just as you get used to the sounds and feel of the automobile you drive 365 days a year, operators know their equipment. As they do their walk-arounds, they can distinguish minute changes in motor pitch or an unusual rattle in a pump casing. By touching a bearing housing and sensing the heat, they can tell you a bearing is wearing and may fail. In these cases, maintenance would be alerted, they would turn- off the affected pump (and the process), and the pump would be inspected and repaired.

Unfortunately sometime the warning signals are missed resulting in a catastrophic failure. Instead of planned maintenance a much more extensive repair or even replacement might be required. The possible cause for all of these problems could have been a simple bad bearing. Personnel walk- arounds are always important, but as a method of monitoring equipment condition, they are “hit and miss”. They waste valuable man-hours, cause system downtime, lost production and result in increased maintenance costs. With attrition eating away at valuable manpower assets, there had to be a better way.

Maintenance Meets the 21st Century.

Most equipment failures give some warning that they are about to occur. What industrial plants need is a way to head off a catastrophic failure before it has a chance to happen. The answer lies in a technology called predictive condition monitoring. With a predictive condition monitoring (PCM) system, a problem such as a worn bearing can be picked-up by vibration and temperature sensors to avoid a system shutdown. The repairs can be scheduled at a convenient time to minimize downtime and lost production. With predictive condition monitoring a plant’s assets are maximized. Casco had looked at predictive condition monitoring in the past but were turned off by both the cost and technology limitations. Recently, however, when Casco revisited the possibility of utilizing predictive condition monitoring as part of their plant asset improvement program, they found a major advancement had been achieved by Xylem in the predictive monitoring arena for pumps and other rotating equipment.

New Breakthrough Technology with PROsmart

PROsmart from Xylem encompasses state-of-the-art, patented technology in its predictive monitoring system. It provides a cost-effective solution to maintaining uptime on all of rotating equipment. PROsmart continuously monitors, analyzes (to pre-stated parameters) and annunciates an alarm when critical criteria are not met. By identifying and diagnosing equipment problems before they have a chance to manifest into unexpected downtime or catastrophic failure, operational costs are dramatically reduced.

PROsmart is powered by locally available power (or a self-powered option is available), working 24/7 with alarm and alert capabilities. Individual computer formulas (algorithms) have been created based on testing. These are used as the basis for evaluation and are stored on the PROsmart central computer. PROsmart continually monitors for changes in bearing vibration, temperature, speed, cavitation, etc. The monitored information is fed via wireless transmitter through a protect- ed Wide Area Network to PROsmart’s central computing server where the data is analyzed and compared to the diagnostic rules based program for that particular piece of equipment. Failures can be predicted based on the analyzed information.

Alerts are sent when problems are detected. Problems might include abnormal flow – high, low, or shut-off. With flow shut-off, the resulting dry running can cause extensive damage to the pump. Bearing distress is detected by the rates of change in vibration and temperature levels. Early bearing fault technology is patented. Another patented technology is early cavitation detection.

Alarms are sent when preset parameters are exceeded. These conditions can include either High Vibration, High Temperature, High/Low Oil Level, Seal Leakage, or Seal Flush Stoppage.

Casco is presently using PROsmart in three different areas of the plant. Jeff Benson, Maintenance Coordinator at Casco notes that, “Results to-date have been excellent. The fact that we can go on- line at any time to check readings is a real plus. And, it has delivered peace of mind to both our maintenance and operations people.”

It’s Time to Catch-up With the Future, Today

Acceptance and installation of predictive monitoring technology improves plant efficiency while saving substantial dollars in operational costs. Good management, just as good maintenance practices, is proactive, not reactive. There are many operational benefits of adding predictive monitoring to a facility’s uptime strategy. With the competitive environment that exists in today’s global economy, preventive monitoring will become a business requirement.

Xylem manufactures pumps and accessories for industrial applications including chemical processing, pulp and paper, power generation, oil refining, gas processing, mining and mineral processing and general industry.