Ideally, we all want our equipment to function just like it did when it left the factory, including process instruments. The reality is that a busy facility has environmental factors, equipment malfunctions, and more that make it impossible to keep everything in tip-top shape. Plants should consider an instrumentation calibration to meet the demand for stringent instrumentation verifications and certifications. These tend to work best during an annual shutdown and, if not done, could find the consequences annoying and even dire.
Safety, accuracy: Instrument calibration
Making sure sensors and instruments are correctly working affects more than just production and uptime; it can mean life and death. Without calibration, air monitoring, flow, level, pressure, and temperature equipment could create unsafe operating conditions, product quality issues, explosions, gas leaks, and more. Another benefit is for the bottom line. Accurate readings lead to better-functioning facilities and higher product quality.
Four instrumentation calibration best practices
Every plant has unique processes and applications, but the most common instruments checked are pressure, temperature, flow, level, and gas detection sensors. Listening to these four best practices can help keep plants running safely.
- Don’t wait to calibrate.
While you can determine calibration frequency, we recommend calibrating annually and quarterly for those who affect plant safety. It may also be worthwhile to calibrate outside of an annual shutdown. Doing so allows technicians to check the equipment during regular operation and gain helpful information from this testing.
- Keep checking the sensors.
The phrase “set it and forget it” is never a good idea when it comes to sensors. Many variables can affect a sensor’s measuring ability, causing issues for the facility. Calibrating sensors at timed intervals can help catch issues sooner and improve reliability.
- Document sensor calibration efforts.
Ensuring you have the proper paperwork is critical to meeting the necessary certifications and verification standards. Make sure calibration technicians accurately document their labeling and work.
- Choose an experienced calibration partner.
Taking the time to find skilled experts to do instrumentation calibration can ensure it’s done right. Your calibration partner should check each device against NIST-traceable reference equipment and adjust as necessary. Those that don’t require calibration or aren’t easily calibrated should be verified that it’s in good working condition.
Three instrumentation calibration benefits
Regular instrumentation calibration benefits a plant in three main ways:
- Compliance – Certain insurance providers, organizations, and governing bodies require certifications and verifications. This could be specific by state, environmental reasons, process safety management (PSM) requirements, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Safety – Regular calibration promotes a safe, healthy workplace for your employees.
- Quality – You need accurate measurements and data to make a high-quality, reliable product.
What the calibration process looks like
To give you an idea of what to expect, this is what an instrumentation calibration looks like at Interstates. Instrumentation technicians come to the site with certified equipment and walk the facility to determine instrument locations and begin removing them for calibration. The crew then checks all signals to the control system to ensure the system is properly reading and registering. Next, the technicians reinstall the instruments, ready to run again. This process typically takes under a week, depending on the facility size.
This small but essential maintenance task can make all the difference in your plant. If you’re looking for someone to support you in this effort, contact us.
Adam Dittbenner, Instrumentation Manager
This article was originally published in Control Engineering.