Actuator Monitoring and Control for Improved Performance

by , | Jan 24, 2022 | Valves, Actuators & Regulators | 0 comments

 Knut Riegel DCMLink podcastValves are the workhorses of industrial processes as they control and manage the flow of fluids. Information can be collected from the actuators controlling their movement to help drive improvements in safety, reliability and efficiency.

Emerson’s Knut Riegel joined me in this Emerson Automation Experts podcast to discuss motor operated valves and the information that can be extracted to improve performance.

Visit the Valves, Actuators & Regulators section on for more on the technologies and solutions to drive improvements in your manufacturing process.


Jim: Hi, everyone. This is Jim Cahill with another Emerson Automation Experts podcast. Today, I’m joined by Knut Riegel to discuss the role of motor-operated valves in creating value for manufacturers, producers, and distributors across the process industry. Welcome, Knut.

Knut: Hi, Jim.

Jim: Well, it’s great to have you joining us here today. Let’s open things up by asking you to share some of your background and path to your current role here at Emerson.

Knut: Yeah, thanks, Jim. It’s a pleasure to be here. So back in 2001, I started with three and a half years advanced dual apprenticeship as an electronic engineer. My first role was with a plant engineering company serving all P&I requirements. Through my activity as site service engineer, I was able to gain, first, experience abroad and getting a taste of sales, while also joining some service sales discussions.

And simultaneously, it was the beginning of my valve career. Even today, I can remember overcoming really a great challenge in my early days, or better to say I was thrown into the deep end doing my very first calibration of a combined DVC [digital valve controller]. I think it was a model 2000 and a limit switch box fitted on the fluid-powered butterfly. As I wanted to deepen my practical work experience, I went back to school for two years, learned PLC programming and visualization. And graduated then with a degree and process automation engineering.

After that, my decision was made. I wanted to do a job combining valve automation and sales. And a few days or a few years later, in 2010, after taking the chance with a flow control company as inside sales and application engineer, then after I part-time studied business studies, I became area sales manager. And was promoted to electrics products champion. My task during that time was, I was mostly on the road dealing with chemical process and oil and gas, and at customers, valve automation needs, including its integration with relevant network systems.

And what I noticed during that time, was the fact that with pretty much every automation package, Emerson was there. That would be a perfect fit for us, I thought. So I met with Emerson and me. And the good news, the interest was mutual. Based at our German headquarters, I started one and a half years ago, and really glad being part of something bigger. As Actuation Technologies Regional Sales Manager, I currently cover DACH [Germany, Austria, Switzerland] and Benelux [Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg] countries, which are really important key markets for our European organization.

Jim: All that’s a great background. I love that part about, you know, going back, getting the automation degree. So seeing the whole thing, the control systems, sensing devices, the valves, how it kind of all works together. So that’s a tremendous background to I think help with what we’re going to discuss today. So you’re very familiar with end-users in industries such as tank farms, refineries, chemical plants. What challenges do they typically face? And what role do motor-operated valves play in all of this?

Knut: Yeah, great question. Well, in summary, I see two challenges. Firstly, too many self-sufficient MOVs [motor-operated valves] are used. And secondly, and resulting in a second point, the gap between the field level where our field components, where our actuators are, and the PLC, SCADA, or even higher level of the automation pyramid is big. Too big. I need to elaborate a little on this. To mirror what has fortunately established itself today more than ever before, it’s all about plant safety and availability. And this is paramount.

That means that a product that is not 100% reliable, endangers the process, the environment, and ultimately, human life. I mean, each one of us is aware, a shutdown that is poorly planned can exceed its deadline, go over budget, and will negatively impact the bottom line. Therefore, I think in today’s time, there is no question that smart electric actuators are the future and offer significant advantages. The vast majority already used this latest technology as we offer it successfully with our Emerson Bettis XT multi-turn electric valve actuator, for example.

But in my opinion, there’s still an issue. One problem still exists. Some of them still work on its own, working autonomously, which means in reverse, all flow control data is collected and stored by the field component. But a percentage have no or a very insufficient connection to the distributed control system to the DCS.

Jim: So it sounds like some of that data just is stranded in that part of the device without that ability to, you know, take advantage of it.

Knut: Yeah.

Jim: So how would you sum up the return on investment value created by having more smart electric valve actuators installed?

Knut: Yeah, thanks for asking. But it isn’t that easy to answer. Again, it’s fact the launch and the successful launch of the smart electric valve actuators prove to be an important milestone in flow control. And its analysis of this data enables accurate plant asset management, enables reduction of failures, and unplanned shutdown. That’s a shorter ROI. That’s clear. That’s briefly touched before. That’s not a complete solution.

I don’t want to stray from the topic. But to illustrate this, let’s take a hands-on example. So we are all oil and gas people. Let’s have a look at a downstream process. Let’s take a quick example of the cracking process. A refinery’s FCC [fluid catalytic cracker] process is one of the most profitable processes and is essential to produce gasoline and diesel fuel, right? Where, for example, 10 people were in need just a decade ago. Today, one or two process plant operators must take all responsibility to monitor, to maintain, to plant machinery and equipment.

The question is, is it possible to read out the EEPROM where all the data from the process is stored in the actuator? Is it possible to read out the EEPROM of the MOV on-site with this limited manpower? No, it doesn’t work. Definitely not, right? It can only be implemented if all actuators transmitting real-time data to the control room where the operator sits.

I think return on investment values can improve and can only improve if the interaction of all components harmonizes, especially the motor-operated valve with the distributed control system.

Jim: Yeah, it sounds like, you know, a lot of these plants were designed when there were a lot more people working in them, and you have to take advantage of the data and the communications with the fewer people there in each plant. I’ve heard something about adding a master station being the only way to provide the high integrity link from a distributed control system to the smart electric valve actuator. Does this mean the problem of autonomously working actuators are solved?

Knut: Yes and no. We should briefly clarify what a master station is before I try to come back before I try to answer. A master station, or better known as network master, is one component of the automation, of the plant automation, but it is not the only solution. Jim don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against it since I have two superior solutions to offer with my own portfolio with Bettis controlling and DCM2 of legacy Biffi. But I have to tell you this statement is not quite right.

Just trying to express a neutral option on this, a master station is a simple yet intelligence motor-operated valve control and monitoring center to drive the portion of automation. For example, the plant part of the fermentation. Or option B, you can use it as a standalone system, and it acts as an interface between upper-level control system and MOVs to local control the electrics.

Actually, the advantage to using a master station is the connection of several hundred actuators, even without a standby option. Well, you know, all field device data is then stored in the CPU by a connection from the CPU or at least the physical rack to the actuator via a fieldbus or other cable must be made. The ring or the most common network topology used for master station is called E-ring. E-ring or when I speak of a ring, the installation of a cable for loop needs to be considered, and the speed will decrease the more MOVs are involved. That’s crystal clear.

I think that the costs for the master itself also play a role in the decision-making process, resulting in what many consider too late is the fact that every single network master needs to be added a dedicated unified software platform. In today’s industry 2.0, cloud computing and so on, is on everyone’s lips. So, why not use directly Bettis DCMlink, an open Windows-based software platform providing high integrity link?

Jim: Interesting. Yeah, I can visualize that topology a little bit. So what are some capabilities and advantages found in Emerson’s DCMlink compared to other technologies?

Knut: Yeah, let me explain some basics of DCM, of Bettis DCM in advance, so you understand what DCM is. DCM is a fully in-house developed Emerson software platform that unifies electric actuation diagnostics. DC stands for control, and M stands for monitoring. All in one central location, which enables actuator operation, condition monitoring, event logging, and prioritization of all actuated alarms in a combined and consistent user interface.

All of this status and performance are in real-time, live trending data, and allowing the operator to act before a fault occurs. Therefore, we can say that DCM isn’t in any competition to a network master, nor does it stand as an alternative to a fieldbus system. But it really represents a state-of-the-art solution.

Not to get too technical. DCMlink is a truly differentiated solution. And its added value, its benefits, and savings coming from improved plant productivity, not from engineering time. A few minutes ago, one question at the beginning, was about the challenge processing plants have, right? Looking back, I think it’s all about safety, availability, time and cost savings, and a straightforward integration to DeltaV or all of the DCS.

Coming back to your question to example, just three of many value propositions we have with Bettis DCMlink, safety, cost-effective, and easy integration. Firstly, safety, such as advanced remote valve diagnostics, WirelessHART communication, so-called all the predictive maintenance things, and the condition monitoring. Number two, time and cost savings. The solo version is free of charge. Once installed schedule and batch printout for maintenance events included. You can print out really all reports and specs without any limitation and it’s backwards compatible. This is important not only for brownfield projects.

And third and last point, integration. A very intuitive simplified menu. It has a really superb DCS integration and most of all, AMS. AMS means Asset Management System Device Manager and DeltaV Explorer System as a SnapOn application.

Jim: Yeah, so let’s explore this architecture part a little bit more. Where does DCMlink fit in a typical automation architecture? And how does it integrate with other supervisory level systems and even higher-level applications?

Knut: Yes. Yeah, thanks for asking. So we are all clear there is no going back on digital transformation. As the name suggests, the fourth layer automation pyramid begins at level zero, where our MOVs are and it ends up with ERP level five, the cloud. The PLCs and PIDs typically operate at a first level, level one. But DCMLink, it does cooperate through all levels. It does mean to fully integrate to our Plantweb digital ecosystem, the industry’s most comprehensive industrial Internet of Things platform.

Based on NAMUR open architecture, it includes data management, scalable analytics. It includes Plantweb Optics, digital twin solutions, and connected services. Vice versa, thanks to Bettis DCMlink, the motor-operated valve is a part of the whole ecosystem, supporting companies to improve earnings as much as 15%.

Jim: Okay, so let’s start winding things down a little bit. I always like to put our experts on the spot. What haven’t I asked you that I should have asked you?

Knut: Oh, yeah. It sounds like a typical recruitment question. So, spontaneously, perhaps the question to investigate a crystal ball and industry outlook. I recently read an article in the “Time” magazine stating that more than, I think it was 70% or 75% or whatever, stating that more than 80%, the industry had just confirmed, they were compelled to accelerate the adoption of driving digital transformation faster because of pandemic, because of the COVID situation. That means the change of thinking is there. On the other hand, our resources are limited, and we all must make our contribution to energy efficiency, safety, sustainability, and so on.

Digitalization at a smart factory advanced even more, I would say. And in plain language, I mean, a bare valve is what it is. A pipeline itself is what it is. But I think the development of the valve operating system, among most of all, the electric valve actuators, technologies, and system, haven’t been completed for a long time. And the automated valve will proceed having a large share in the complete electrification. I’m sure, especially these so-called MOVs, motor operated valves, will be able to capture and store even more relevant data, and they will be used as a mixture of gateway and edge device for process data acquisition.

I personally see the trends are clearly moving in the direction to lower carbon emissions power to hydrogen applications by using more efficient brushless DC motor technologies. Flexible products that offer all options via small activations, such as multiple loops, topology filter, adjustable stroke, speed control, and much more. Only, by the way, we have already introduced such technologies to the Bettis RTS product line. I’m very sure sustainable products, or better known as circular economy and reduction of maintenance costs, move even more into focus.

And in my opinion, also, digital twins, Ethernet-APL in conjunction with single per Ethernet SPE, HARTIP, and Wi-Fi technology, will be even more prioritized in MOVs developments, even short-dated. All available on apps and cloud-based with widgets, so-called crafts for visualization. And resulting in, for example, DCM software requirements will grow steadily. I personally feel it will move more from products, from black to light products, to complete solutions. Keyword product as a service, an example, MOVs as a service business model will be in greater demand.

The interplay between the MOVs and the DCM for machine learning is the logical future, Jim. And I’m blessed that Emerson is the solution provider, is a pioneer, and global industry partner supporting this in a great way.

Jim: Well, yeah, when you visualize a company trying to undergo a digital transformation, one, you got to have the data. And valves play such an important part in that, in the motor-operated valves and the data they can collect in there. And then of course, the analytics to make sense of that and help make decisions is part of it. So you can see how it’s just a critical piece of what needs to happen for people to operate more safely, efficiently, reliably, and all the rest of it. That’s a great summation. I’m glad I asked that of you.

I guess finally, where can our listeners go to learn more? And how can they connect with us on specific questions they might have?

Knut: Oh, there are many possibilities here. For initial information, I recommend our webpage. I recommend visiting We’ve also made a YouTube playlist of quick, less than two-minute videos that show the capabilities of Bettis DCMlink. Jim, your blog called Emerson Automation Experts is another great chance to get in direct contact with the relevant subject matter experts and an extremely good, free-of-source information. I think, Emerson, we have a large global network with multiple sales and service channels such as direct contacts, distributors, Impact Partners, or other partners.

We’re happy just to discuss specifically with customers for each area and region. And, of course, I’m happy about a direct contact through writing an email to me, which is [email protected]. I also welcome on social media, welcome on LinkedIn. It’s clear, in case of another World Area or cross-BU (business unit) question, I will of course get you connected to the correct teammate.

And finally, another great opportunity to meet my colleagues and me personally, are the upcoming Central European Innovation Days held in the spring, where we are doing some live demonstrations, showing the added value of Bettis DCMlink. Oh, by the way, moreover, I would be very blessed to meet all of you at the Valve World Exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany at the end of November this year, where Emerson Activation Technologies exhibits, of course.

Jim: Well, I think you provided a real comprehensive list from, you know, information available on the website to connecting with all the Emerson people in different ways to personally connecting with you, whether it’s through the social channels, your email, or even live at some of these events coming up here. So that’s just great. Well, Knut, I want to thank you so much for sharing your expertise with our listeners today. Thank you so much.

Knut: Likewise. Thanks. It was a pleasure. Thanks, Jim. Bye.

-End of transcript-

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  • Knut Riegel
    Sales Manager, Business Impact Partners-DACH Region

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