Asset Performance Management
Optimizing Chemical Plant Maintenance with APM
WACKER's use of APM from GE Digital extends pressure vessel scheduled maintenance from every two years to a maximum of every 10 years, saving millions of dollars annually.
Chemical processing is a highly regulated industry. A variety of national laws and international initiatives govern everything from chemical use, handling, and transport to labeling, storage, and disposal. Safety is the goal of these regulations – with employees, local communities, and the environment comprising the focus.
Operating and maintaining chemical processing equipment is not cheap, but it keeps plants running and people safe. And while scheduled maintenance on critical equipment is important, unnecessary or premature maintenance results in longer lead times and higher prices for customers. So, the goal for plant owners and operators is to find an operational cadence that maximizes maintenance intervals – safely and within compliance – to optimize performance and drive down unnecessary costs.
A chemical company making proactive moves
WACKER Chemical Corporation is a global manufacturer of highly developed specialty chemicals. The company’s North America operation, WACKER, has six production sites that manufacture and distribute some of the company’s 3,200 product offerings. In Charleston, Tennessee, WACKER produces up to 20,000 tons of polycristaline silicon each year, a critical component for the solar photovoltaic and wider electronics sector.
By law, critical assets, such as the pressure vessels WACKER uses in their manufacturing process, must be maintained every two years. But maintenance outages significantly impacts productivity, as proper service on each vessel can take up to six weeks. With 1,500 pressure vessels in Charleston alone, maintenance and lost time quickly account for millions of dollars of spend each year.
In 2015, WACKER decided it was time to ask: how could they reduce the cost of maintenance at Charleston without risking a compliance issue or the safety of their workforce? They turned to GE Digital to optimize the site’s pressure vessel maintenance schedule.
A fast-track to predictive analytics
GE Digital deployed Asset Performance Management (APM), a suite of software and service solutions designed to optimize asset performance. APM can connect data from hundreds of assets, spanning multiple locations. Data is displayed on a single, customizable screen – with predictive analytics to enable data-driven decision making for six indicators.
In Charleston, APM connects data from WACKER’s pressure vessels and additional critical equipment . GE Digital’s software solution allows plant operators to anticipate any required maintenance on an asset and recommends the optimal time to take the equipment offline for servicing.
In 2019, WACKER completed a fast-track APM upgrade for next generation architecture, user interface, and feature enhancements. Meeting WACKER’s tight deadlines and minimizing disruption to operations, was critical to the project, which took place during an enterprise-wide upgrade of the company’s ERP systems.
A commitment to safety with money saved
In the State of Tennessee, pressure vessel inspections must be performed every two years, but with API 580/API 581 certification – earned by Charleston after applying GE Digital’s APM – assets can now go up to 10 years in between inspections – the maximum allowed by the state.
APM optimized the site’s pressure vessel maintenance schedule. With longer maintenance intervals, total cost of ownership dramatically reduced and productivity for the facility significantly increased.
GE Digital’s APM solution enables WACKER to better manage its compliance processes, increasing safety and efficiency of operations through diagnosis of asset abnormalities and assessment of inspection and compliance needs.
Christian Strasser - IT project manager, WACKER
“Within the heavily regulated chemicals industry, the system also helps detect and avoid any future asset incidents or unnecessary plant shutdowns,” said Christian Strasser, IT project manager for WACKER.
With upgrades complete, WACKER can continue its commitment to workplace safety, reduce risk, and continue to deliver competitive, high-quality polycrystalline to its customers.