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Diagnostics software powers the bottom line

High operations and maintenance expenses can quickly eat away a company's profits. On the flip side, finding a way to keep equipment running efficiently can improve productivity and greatly reduce costs.

With that in mind, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory developed a system that can reduce a facility's life-cycle operations and maintenance costs by 25 to 50 percent. DSOM, short for Decision Support for Operations and Maintenance, is an intelligent diagnostic operations and maintenance software program.

"This system takes facilities beyond the realm of routine maintenance," said Don Jarrell in Pacific Northwest's Energy Technology Development group. "Instead, it moves them into condition-based management, helping operators spot early signs of problems."

The web-based DSOM software integrates data input from a sensor network that constantly monitors the performance of a facility's numerous components. Driven by a customized facility database, it then diagnoses the data to let operators know in real-time if a system is malfunctioning or running below expectations.

"DSOM helps improve process efficiency and extends equipment life," Jarrell said. "If operators can recognize stresses on equipment, they can make changes to avoid failure," Jarrell said.

DSOM also identifies conditions that could lead to a problem, determines the root cause and suggests how to fix it. This information is displayed in different graphic formats according to the needs of the people in the organization. For example, one view is meant for operators, while another depicts information that would be of interest to plant engineers.

Under a contract with the New York City Housing Authority, DSOM is being installed at a central boiler plant that serves 4,500 residents in a Manhattan housing complex. It is expected to reduce operations and maintenance expenses by 37 percent.

DSOM was originally developed for the U.S. Marine Corps and was first installed in 1994 at the central heating plant of the Marine Corps' Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Since then, the facility has reduced its operations and maintenance expenses by 33 percent, saving about $450,000 a year. DSOM also is installed at the Marine Corps' Parris Island cogeneration facility in South Carolina, where annual savings of more than 35 percent are predicted.

In addition to power plants and central station heating and cooling, DSOM could be used to improve physical asset management in pulp and paper processing, pharmaceutical production, chemical plants and other operating and production industries.

Pacific Northwest is looking for new customers interested in applying this technology at their site.

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