Efficiency improvements with help from Big Data
In today’s world, corporations are trying to figure out how to organize many years’ worth of data into meaningful information for decision making purposes. The difficulty with turning this data into powerful decision making tools is that most employees do not have access to it. It often resides in big data repositories that are inaccessible to non-software developers or non-IT administrators. Or, if employees have access to the data, they lack the knowledge to analyze, organize, and interpret its meaning. Companies that are not collecting data may find this information daunting and would aspire not to fall into the same trap. What reason is there for collecting data in the first place if those collecting data are unsure how to organize it for use in informed decision making?
These questions were a problem for one of Radix's customers. The company was operating twenty power plants which were designed to start up quickly, but not run for long periods of time. Each plant was built to help with power shortages during the summer time. The plants’ efficiency was not the primary concern when the plants were designed since they were not supposed to operate for long periods of time. However, in recent years the economic situation in the customer’s country has changed drastically and the power plants are now needed on a 24/7 year round basis. Operating efficiency has now become a serious concern.
The customer engaged Radix in a three-pronged approach that would allow the company to operate its assets on a continual basis with maximum efficiency. "First, Radix automation team integrated all of their data collection systems into a single repository. Second, our software development team created a custom dashboard system with an integrated process simulator on the back end. Lastly, our engineering team used the process simulator and the streaming real-time data to calculate the theoretical and actual efficiencies of each plant so that they could be shown on the dashboards," said Radix Technical Manager, Justin V. Conroy.
This type of system makes it very easy for both operators and managers to visualize the ‘big’ data they are collecting in a meaningful way to support decision making. The Technical Manager noted, "in this customer’s case, there was one power plant that was operating far below the other plants. During an investigation of the problem, it turned out that the main condenser off the vapor turbine was dirty and had not been cleaned in a very long time. Cleaning it resulted in a 15% increase in efficiency across the entire plant."
To this day, the customer is still using these dashboard that draw from the data repository to monitor the plants and identify the highest priority areas for their resources to focus. "So for this customer – why collect the data? Simply put, to save money and solve problems," said Mr. Conroy.