At one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in the world, DC Water’s Blue Plains Plant’s Process Engineering Maintenance Group has a crucial responsibility of calibrating over 1,000 instruments to help ensure proper water treatment. The Beamex Integrated Calibration Solution, comprised of Beamex equipment and software, they have improved quality and accuracy implementing an automated calibration program. In result, they have achieved a 75% time savings on the entire pressure calibration process. Furthermore, using the Beamex MC6 field calibrator and communicator for pressure calibrations has decreased the time it takes to conduct the calibration procedure itself in the field by over 80%.

With the control system expansion and upgrades, there was a need for calibrating more instrumentation, competently calibrating smart transmitters with higher accuracy, and most importantly, better data for performance reporting was required by the Engineering Group. The Maintenance Group needed to make substantial improvements to the calibration program to accomplish these objectives while keeping resources at current levels. A key component for success was automation. They invested in the Beamex integrated calibration solution (ICS) comprised of Beamex CMX calibration software and Beamex MC6 advanced field calibrator and communicator, and pumps.

 

A foundation to the solution was defining and documenting the calibration procedures for all calibratable assets into a database inside of the Beamex CMX software. These centralized and well-defined procedures could now drive methods that ensured measurement data is captured, measurement errors are calculated and compared to defined tolerances, and data is organized for easy access and reporting. Building information assets provided the Engineering Group the information they needed for analysis, and the transparency and visibility greatly increased confidence levels for both upper management and third party stakeholders.

Through automated calibration, DC Water has been able to meet the increasing requirements associated with control system upgrades and evolving compliance. Implementing a paperless solution enabled the automation of manual work processes and these streamlined workflows enables them to accomplish more work with the same or less resources with a total return on their investment within the first year.

Achievements

75%

Time saved on pressure calibrations

With the MC6

80%

Time saved on conducting calibration test procedures

Using CMX calibration software

100%

ROI in the first year

Automating calibration with ICS

Overview

At one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in the world, DC Water’s Blue Plains Plant’s Process Engineering Maintenance Group has a crucial responsibility of calibrating over 1,000 instruments to help ensure proper water treatment. With the combination of Beamex Integrated Calibration Solution, comprised of Beamex equipment and software, they have improved the quality and accuracy of calibrations, while achieving a 75% time savings on the entire pressure calibration process. Furthermore, using the Beamex MC6 field calibrator and communicator for pressure calibrations has decreased the time it takes to conduct the calibration procedure itself in the field by over 80%.

All in all, the plant has experienced a dramatic time savings and implemented a more reliable calibration strategy while realizing a 100% return on investment in the first year. This short article explains how the Process Engineering Maintenance Group was able to achieve these accomplishments.

About DC Water Blue Plains

DC Water’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant opened in 1937. Currently it treats wastewater from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia and is considered the largest treatment plant of its kind in the world. On an average day, close to 300 million gallons of raw sewage flows into the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant to be treated. After treatment, the cleaned water flows into the Potomac River which leads to the Chesapeake Bay. To protect our waterways, DC Water is under strict requirements to dramatically reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the cleaned water we discharge into the Potomac. In fact, these permit limits are some of the most stringent in the country.

1,000+ instruments

Running a facility of this size is no ordinary task and ensuring proper maintenance of the plant’s process instrumentation is essential to operating the plant safely and efficiently. The Process Engineering Maintenance Group consists of 18 people who are responsible for maintaining approximately 5,000 assets and calibrating 1,000+ of the mid to highly critical pressure, flow, level, and temperature instruments. As a part of the preventative maintenance (PM) program, a portion of the 1,000+ instruments are calibrated weekly based on instrument criticality, which is vital to the PM program.

Quality control

Prior to implementing a Beamex solution, there were no standardized procedures or tools for calibration. The plant categorized technicians into 4 different levels, each using different equipment. Work results were inconsistent and the best calibration practice was based on the level the technician’s experience and their preferred toolset. These factors compounded into inconsistent quality of work and results. The lack of standardized practices also presented challenges to planning and scheduling activities because of the variability of man-hours required to perform calibration tasks.

Missing documentation

Furthermore, hand-written documentation was generated only for the assets with the highest criticality factor and calibration of non-critical instruments had no written record. The lack of documentation led to calibrations being mistakenly re-scheduled, which resulted in duplication of work and diminishing productivity of maintenance resources. Conversely, some instruments weren’t being calibrated at all and ran to failure, which adversely impacted reliability.

A better way with Beamex and process standardization

With the control system expansion and upgrades, there was a need for calibrating more instrumentation, competently calibrating smart transmitters with higher accuracy, and most importantly, better data for performance reporting was required by the Engineering Group. The Maintenance Group needed to make substantial improvements to the calibration program to accomplish these objectives while keeping resources at current levels. A key component for success was automation. They invested in the Beamex integrated calibration solution (ICS) comprised of Beamex CMX calibration software and Beamex MC6 advanced field calibrator and communicator, and pumps.

Documenting calibrations

A foundation to the solution was defining and documenting the calibration procedures for all calibratable assets into a database inside of the Beamex CMX software. These centralized and well-defined procedures could now drive methods that ensured measurement data is captured, measurement errors are calculated and compared to defined tolerances, and data is organized for easy access and reporting. Building information assets provided the Engineering Group the information they needed for analysis, and the transparency and visibility greatly increased confidence levels for both upper management and third party stakeholders.

Better planning

Planning calibration work is now streamlined using CMX, yielding substantial time savings. The Maintenance Group uses fully electronic and paperless workflows by utilizing the MC6. Established procedures are downloaded to the MC6 directly from CMX for in situ calibration work. Procedures are programmed into the MC6, measurement errors are calculated and presented in real time, and all measurement data is captured electronically, providing completely automated calibration workflows. This level of automation closed the gap between junior and senior technicians allowing them to re-deploy senior technicians to QA/QC activities that include reviewing the calibration work of the more junior technicians. When performing calibrations in the field, the time savings has been over 80% from automating calibrations using the Beamex MC6 field calibrator and communicator.

Quality improvements

In addition to time savings, there has also been substantial improvements to the quality of calibration. Prior to implementation of the Beamex ICS, a calibration test strategy was based on a simple 2 or 3 point test up the span. With the more streamlined workflow and automated documentation, they could now justify a more thorough strategy consisting of additional test points, as well as up and back down the span. This allowed them to now identify and capture critical hysteresis errors indicating potential instrument failures that they were unable to identify before.

Documented results

Previously, for documentation, they had to hunt down whoever performed the calibration last to find the paper records. With the CMX software, they have automated calibration. They can automatically generate calibration certificates and attach these certificates inside of their maintenance management system, Maximo. This provides transparency and visibility to management. The electronic documentation also minimized the opportunity for human error. For instance, when they hook up to a HART or Fieldbus instrument they can easily identify the instrument and link the results to it, where as in the past, some records were mixed up or missing altogether. In result, when calibrating a pressure transmitter, for example, the entire calibration process, from planning, to performing calibrations and finally documenting the results, the Beamex ICS solution has generated a 75% time savings.

Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Another area of savings realized is in the cost of ownership for measurement standards. There were many different tools in service as each technician employed their tool of choice for calibration work. Standardizing on a multi-functional tool like the MC6 allowed them to reduce the number of tools to maintain and certify each year. Configuring the MC6 units with HART communication capability also improved reliability of new instruments. New instrumentation is now calibrated prior to installation and some have required trimming to improve measurement accuracy provided to the control system.

Reliable Commissioning

Beamex ICS has also improved their process when installing new instruments. For example, for a pressure ring assembly, prior to Beamex, the units were specified and installed. There was no verification or calibrating at all—they just relied on the manufacturer’s word. Now, they test new instruments prior to installation. They have found that some out of the box were not meeting their specifications, so they were able to correct the instrument or replace it before installing it into the process.

Summary

Through automated calibration, DC Water has been able to meet the increasing requirements associated with control system upgrades and evolving compliance. Implementing a paperless solution enabled the automation of manual work processes and these streamlined workflows enables them to accomplish more work with the same or less resources with a total return on their investment within the first year.