Hulamin saves money and increases customer satisfaction with help from Wonderware

MINING, MINERALS & METALS

Goals

  • Increase customer satisfaction through product quality, reliability and traceability
  • Elimination of water contamination of the air supply system
  • Drastically reduce energy costs

Challenges

  • Immediate solution and its implementation was required which involved new monitoring protocols

Results

  • Dew point values are tracked in real time
  • The ability to react immediately to negative trends
  • Immediate improvement in efficiency with respect to air usage
  • Better air quality supply improves product quality
  • Further potential energy reduction and cost savings opportunities identified
  • Compressors, power and gas are monitored in real time
  • Immediate decision making
  • Proper tolerance and alarm management

“This system was initiated by a customer requesting Hulamin to address a quality issue. We soon saw its potential and immediately took advantage of growing it into a mature solution that will eventually control essential resources of the plant.”

Leon Potgieter, Project Manager – Specialist: PLC

Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa

A global player in aluminium rolled products, Hulamin uses Wonderware solutions to monitor their usage of gas, air, power and water to reconcile vendor billings.

But the system does much more than that. It’s highlighted poor air quality, helped improve final product excellence and, as a consequence, improved the satisfaction of the company’s customers – and this was all done while also reducing production and maintenance costs.

“While attending Wonderware Southern Africa’s X-Change 2015 conference, I got a call to come up with something that would monitor and implement a dewpoint monitoring solution because we apparently had water in our air system. This was an urgent customer request that had to be implemented immediately since leaving things as they were wasn’t an option,” says Leon Potgieter, Project Manager – Specialist: PLC.

That was the start of a project that would see Hulamin re-examine its production processes and implement solutions that would not only benefit its customers through improved product quality but that would do so while increasing profits through improved utilities management.

Background

Wonderware’s System Platform and server infrastructure was introduced to Hulamin’s Edendale site near Pietermaritzburg in 2015 when the company decided to modernise one of its coating plants. They have since built on this foundation using InTouch Access Anywhere which provides SCADA/HMI capabilities to qualified personnel no matter where they may be or what device they’re using.

“System Platform has replaced some of the standalone InTouch stations and we aim to move all our InTouch applications to this platform,” says Potgieter.

“The day after the conference, we met with system integrator Convenient Software Solutions (CSS) on site and, by involving all parties, devised a plan of action,” says Potgieter. “Despite the urgency, we decided that an implementation based on standards would be the best way forward.”

Overall project goals

  • Increase customer satisfaction through product quality, reliability and traceability. With the use of Historian, some of Hulami’s customers have recourse to a ten-year history of product quality.
  • Elimination of water contamination of the air supply system is only one aspect of overall product quality.
  • Drastically reduce energy costs (power, gas, water and air). Power costs Hulamin approximately R15 million per annum while compressed air costs about R45 000 per Nm3 / minute annually (figure 1).

“In order to achieve these goals, we would need to implement a proper industrial network based on standards,” says Potgieter. “We decided to continue with the Wonderware suite of solutions because they fell in line with Hulamin standards and also because their object-oriented structure would facilitate future additions and implementations.”

The standards had to be agreed upon by all involved and were drawn up by the PLC specialists and Project Manager. “Together with CSS, we made sure that we covered everything from the software, infrastructure and Junction boxes to the industrial IT design,” adds Potgieter.

The selected solutions included System Platform (including full redundancy), InTouch (HMI/SCADA), Historian, InTouch Access Anywhere, Top Server from Software Toolbox (PLC and other connectivity), MDT AutoSave for System Platform (automatic PLC and HMI software version backups and disaster recovery), ACP Thin Manager for the management of thin clients (get PCs off the shop floor) and Win-911 for communications.

Implementation

Phase 1: Dewpoint monitoring – When the emergency regarding water in the air supply arose, immediacy was the name of the game because it was discovered that this situation had been present for 19 days. Presence of water in the air supply causes unacceptable and permanent water stains on the aluminium.

Phase 2: Compressor monitoring and control – Previously, Energy Cybernetics, an EOH company, had been contracted by the NCPC-SA as part of the IEE programme to undertake a Compressed Air System Optimisation assessment to recommend compressed air system energy efficiency opportunities for implementation at Hulamin’s Edendale plant near Pietermaritzburg.

Phase 3: CNG and utilities monitoring and control – This includes:

  • CNG – monitoring of the natural gas system.
  • Monitoring of the water consumption.
  • Monitoring of the power consumption.
  • Monitoring and controlling the bulk water storage system.

The basic system was implemented in two weeks but this is an on-going project with new functionality being added on a monthly basis. It was developed on System Platform while the network and remote I/O stations were being installed.

The system is Internet-enabled for remote monitoring purposes. Once the power monitoring system is fully integrated, Hulamin plans to implement remote control facilities in order to override automated processes if necessary.

“This will interface with our maximum demand system that will be developed alongside the next phase. We are able to monitor the utilities application using InTouch Access Anywhere, which is especially useful for the Plant Engineering Manager,” says Potgieter. “Since getting the right information to the right people at the right time is crucial to the running of the plant, we use situational awareness graphics on the HMIs and use SMSs and e-mails (Win-911) to alert relevant personnel if tolerances or alarms are breached.”

Previously, Hulamin had never had a separate industrial network but this project pointed out the need for separate PLC, HMI and management networks. The company is fortunate to have a very good Industrial IT department who were engaged from the start and assisted with the entire network layout and IT implementation.

“During this implementation, we became aware of the capabilities of System Platform, especially when developing a new application running parallel to an existing system,” says Potgieter.

The old system relied on maintenance personnel filling in checklists and doing paper reporting that could only be verified by physically checking the equipment. Once the new system was introduced it immediately became evident that the maintenance personnel had not been reporting and completing maintenance tasks correctly. The new system, on the other hand, could immediately identify the faulty equipment without wasting time walking around the plant which freed personnel to focus on real issues.

With regard to change management, MDT AutoSave for System Platform proved invaluable since previously, the engineers and technicians were not documenting changes to the PLC software which meant that there was no control or log of software versions and also no accountability for the changes.

About Hulamin

Hulamin is a leading South African manufacturer and is listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. The company has carved out a niche in the global aluminium rolled products market.

Hulamin manufactures and markets high-quality rolled and extruded aluminium products for local and international customers. It is the only semi-fabricated aluminium plant in the country.

The Aluminium Rolled Products Company manufactures a range of sheet, plate and foil alloys and focuses on high-specification, tight-tolerance products, which it supplies to customers throughout the world.

A multi-billion Rand major upgrade was undertaken in 1999/2000, adding new hot-rolling, cold-rolling, casting and finishing equipment. This project has successfully transformed Hulamin into one of the most modern and capable rolling mills in the industry.

This state-of-the-art operation at Hulamin is backed by ISO 9001 and ISO/TS 16949 accreditation.