How to Understand and Use a Great Tool: Instrumentation Diagnostics

by | Apr 29, 2024 | Chemical, Food & Beverage, Life Sciences & Medical, Measurement Instrumentation, Oil & Gas | 0 comments

In a Process Instrumentation article, Emerson’s Kelly Albano looks at a powerful but often underutilized tool, instrumentation diagnostics, and shows how you can use them to improve operations.

Recently, while loading some software onto my computer, I saw a message at the end: Software Installed Successfully! Maybe this doesn’t sound like much, but it’s always reassuring when something has worked as it’s supposed to. I don’t have to wonder if there’s something wrong because the software itself is able to perform its own diagnostic and warn of a problem.

We tend to overlook the importance of this kind of capability because we see it in many forms. For now, let’s apply it to a specific area: process instrumentation. If you’ve worked in process manufacturing for a while, you’ve probably seen the term device diagnostics. But many people that I’ve encountered in typical process plant environments don’t take advantage of these capabilities to the fullest extent, so Emerson is producing a series of articles on the topic. The first article, an overview, is in the April issue of Process Instrumentation, and it’s titled Understanding and Employing the Benefits of Instrumentation Diagnostics.

The first widely used diagnostic capabilities analyzed the health of the instrument itself and were characterized as device diagnostics. If an internal component was behaving erratically or had failed entirely, the transmitter would send a message via HART, Foundation Fieldbus, or some other digital protocol to warn the reliability team of a developing problem or outage. This capability became the basis for many reliability and maintenance management programs. Technicians were able to identify and deal with a problem before a full outage might interrupt a plant’s production.

Once clever instrumentation engineers realized how they could use these new diagnostics, they wanted more capabilities, along with more intuitive ways to use this information. Emerson has obliged over the years, creating new methods to gather and process diagnostic information, making it more instructive and directly applicable to decision making.

A key example is Emerson’s Smart Meter Verification, providing deep device diagnostic information from Coriolis, magnetic, and ultrasonic flowmeters. The flow transmitter uses on-board diagnostics to monitor key performance indicators continuously. This maintains measurement accuracy and meter integrity, reducing maintenance and calibration costs through early detection of issues.

Learning about the individual instruments’ status is a huge advance, but it is only the beginning. Diagnostics performed by advanced instruments can tell operators and reliability teams about the process itself. The article looks at several key areas with previews of what will come in future installments. These future articles will go into greater detail on how to apply these capabilities, and how a variety of companies have realized the benefits.

Processing facilities are becoming more complex and tightly regulated, while the number of staff overseeing the operation is declining, so automation is necessary to make up the difference. Front-line teams, including maintenance and instrumentation technicians backed by operators and process engineers, find their day-to-day responsibilities more demanding. The only way to keep up is by using new technologies able to perform repetitive tasks. Diagnostic capabilities of today’s instrumentation provide this capability to bridge these operational gaps.

For more information, visit Emerson’s Advanced Diagnostics pages at You can also connect and interact with other engineers at the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.

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