Insights from industry

Industrial Performance Improvement and Plant Optimisation

AZoM talks to Iain Crosley, Managing Director of Hosokawa-Micron Ltd, about their approach to performance improvement and industrial plant optimisation.

Could you please give a brief introduction to Hosokawa Micron and the industries that it works within?

The Hosokawa Micron Group is a publicly traded corporation, headquartered in Japan and working from a number of regional bases with customers across six continents to develop processing solutions in a range of industrial sectors.

Hosokawa Micron has a global reputation for expertise in delivering a total engineering solution from initial design concept to final commissioned powder processing plant and is a recognised leader and pioneer of containment technology, advanced materials science and nanotechnology.

Hosokawa Micron’s industrial experience includes: Pharmaceutical, Chemical, Agrochemical, Cosmetics, Food, Confectionery, Pigments, Plastics, Toners, Minerals, Metal Powders, Ceramics, Nuclear and Recycling.

In terms of performance improvement, what are the key areas that Hosokawa can help achieve results in?

The key to success is working in partnership with our customers.

We can help customers in a range of industries to operate their plant at full potential, exploit production opportunities, identify potential equipment failures before they happen and achieve a rapid return on investment. In today’s competitive environment we see that companies are particularly keen to gain a market advantage and potential boost to profits through increased production yield; improved product quality; energy savings and to improve their green credentials and obligations with reduced emissions.

What are the three stages that are important in Hosokawa’s approach to performance improvement and plant optimisation?

Our three stage approach to performance improvement and plant optimisation is designed to give engineers and production managers a step by step solution to strategic improvement, guiding them through UNDERSTAND, MONITOR and CONTROL modules. This modular approach allows companies to achieve a progressive improvement, that they themselves can control to meet specific targets and within budget parameters. Throughout that improvement progression engineers and production managers are given clear indicators and defined actions for continuous improvement. For many companies, whether they are operating large scale processes or lab and R&D plant, this modular approach to performance improvement has the benefit of being self funding.

Could you explain the concept of Data Mining using Advanced Data Analysis software in the ‘understand’ stage?

Data Mining is a technology to access the knowledge contained within the volumes of data provided by the control and monitoring systems in your manufacturing processes. It has been defined as ‘the semi-automated process of discovering non trivial, implicit, previously unknown, potentially useful and understandable information from large, historical and disparate data sets’.

In order to make better use of this information, automated processes using Advanced Data Analysis software are applied in order that we might UNDERSTAND your production processes involved in producing the end product, the parameters affecting it and the interaction of one parameter on the others.

Advanced Data Analysis software enables the vast volumes of data to be handled and displayed as a series of understandable patterns and rules or knowledge that then allows us to identify new opportunities for improvement.

Could you briefly explain how this was used by Cleveland Potash to improve process control and energy management?

ExpertRule Software, Hosokawa’s performance improvement partner company, undertook an extensive data mining project across the company’s potash extraction and refinery operations in particular focusing on the energy intensive operations relating to the drying of the refined potash. By analysing dryer operations and working closely with Cleveland Potash we were able to establish the best operating conditions to minimise energy costs while still meeting production and quality targets.

As a result dryer product temperature control has been significantly improved following implementation of the new control system with fuel cost savings of £47,000 a year for Dryer B (one of three).

The new control system can easily be incorporated onto Dryers A and C which should lead to a net saving in the region of £110,000 per year.

How is in-line particle analysis equipment utilised in the ‘monitor’ stage?

In-line particle analysis equipment, such as the affordable Optisizer, developed by partner Xoptix, measures the particle size distribution of a product during the production process allowing engineers to quickly assess the effects of any process change on the finished product.

In-line analysis eliminates human error associated with manual sampling and allows understanding of infrequent events which would not be detected by periodic sampling for laboratory testing. This sampling technique ensures real-time measurement under isokinetic conditions and thereby a full and accurate characterisation of the particulate which results in a better understanding of the overall process, which leads to improved plant performance.

Could you summarise how this particle analysis was utilised by Nexpress, UK?

Through particle size analysis and the identification of patterns in particle size we were able to establish links between two parameters and thereby determine influencing factors in particle size results. For example the pulveriser rotor speed and feed rate of the starting material both affected the eventual particle size.

This recognition allowed Hosokawa Micron to identify improved control strategies to control the targeted particle size of the powder and thereby achieve one of Nexpress’s key objectives; a tightened particle size distribution.

How is optimisation then achieved at the plant using Key Performance Indicators?

It is important that we work closely with the client to achieve the desired process improvements. The best way to achieve this is to define some specific and measureable KPI’s. These can be based on short term gains and longer term objectives.

These measures are vitally important at each stage of the process. At the understand stage it defines the interacting parameters that affect that particular attribute. As we then go through the process it defines the parameters that we need to monitor, and ultimately control.

Can you explain how IntelliMill and IntelliPlant are utilised at the control stage of proceedings?

Hosokawa Micron’s intelligent control systems, powered by XpertRule patented IntelliPlant technology deliver a control solution based on data derived models. These are built using data from actual plant operation data or from a library of and ensure that the plant operates within the parameters that give the optimum solution to the KPIs set for the plant.

We turn your data into control models based on specific KPIs. The models are either custom built for integrated plants – IntelliPlants or are from a library of standard solutions for simpler systems know as IntelliMills. The actual data can be augmented by the addition of data derived from theoretical models that can then be tested against actual operation and due to the self-tuning algorithm can improve the plant operation and increase the operating window.

How do you feel that Hosokawa Micron will continue to improve their services in the future?

The technology that allows us to deploy our solutions is moving on at a rapid rate, for example we can now deploy our monitoring solutions by use of GPRS telemetry, allowing remote access via smartphones, tablets, laptops or remote PCs.

This allows us to be able to provide some cost effective solutions to our customers. For example plant data can be accessed by our service department and process engineers from the office and they can provide real time advice, avoiding the need to send an engineer to site, assess the problem and then deploy the relevant solution which may need a subsequent visit.

We are constantly working with our partners and customers to improve the functionality of the technologies to give them added benefits; one example is the remote monitoring app that is available as a demonstration from the Apple store.

About Iain Crosley

Iain Crosley

Iain Crosley is the Managing Director of Hosokawa-Micron Ltd, based in Runcorn Cheshire, UK. He has over 25 years experience in the Powder and Particle Processing Industry.

He previously held positions of Technical Centre Manager responsible for application testing and process design; progressing to Technical Manager for the UK Group of Companies and then to Head of the Technology Unit responsible for R&D of new products. In 2000 he was appointed to the Board of Directors, and in 2006 became the Managing Director.

His experience is both hands on and theoretically based, having conducted in excess of 30 tests per month in the role of Technical Centre Manager, and having led commissioning teams on the majority of major projects delivered by the company over a 10 year period.

He was also the inspiration behind the development of the advanced process control and process optimisation and monitoring solutions offered commercially by Hosokawa Micron.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

G.P. Thomas

Written by

G.P. Thomas

Gary graduated from the University of Manchester with a first-class honours degree in Geochemistry and a Masters in Earth Sciences. After working in the Australian mining industry, Gary decided to hang up his geology boots and turn his hand to writing. When he isn't developing topical and informative content, Gary can usually be found playing his beloved guitar, or watching Aston Villa FC snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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