Moving to an Automated Manifold System with Emerson’s Technological Expertise

Author photo: Sharada Prahladrao
BySharada Prahladrao
Project Success Story

Emerson participated as a Platinum Sponsor at ARC Advisory Group’s 21st India Forum titled Driving Sustainability, Energy Transition, and Performance through Digitalization on July 12th and 13th, 2023. The 300+ delegates at the Forum networked, shared best practices, and got an overall view of market trends and requirements. In the Forum session on Advanced Automation Enhancing Operational Excellence, Emerson’s customer S.N. Vijayakumar, Chief General Manager (Lube Complex), Indian Oil Corporation spoke about snakepit replacement with an affordable automated manifold system for base oil transfer.  The snakepit in the lube oil blending plant is the hub for all transfer activities for input materials and finished products and is considered to be the heart of the plant. When the customer speaks about how the vendor’s solutions have benefited and streamlined their operations it creates an indelible impression on the audience. Sachin Bhogale, Senior Manager Sales from Emerson Automation Solutions joined him for the panel discussion at the end of the session. This blog captures the salient points of Vijayakumar’s presentation. It can be watched in entirety here. 

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Voice of the Customer

Giving a brief overview of the company, Vijayakumar said that the lube oil blending plant in Chennai is one of India’s biggest manufacturing facilities with an average throughput of 120 TMTPA of finished lubricants with grades to the tune of 200. The company’s marquee list of clients from both the public and private sectors supports and ensures knowledge transfer for mutual benefit. 

How the Idea was Conceived

The convergence of multiple factors gave birth to the idea of replacing the snakepit with an automated manifold system:

  • Need for digitalization of records and processes to enable tracking and resource monitoring.

  • Performance enhancement.

  • OEMs expressed the need for enhancement of facilities and infrastructure with automation.

The lubrication formulation process was explained diagrammatically and the problem points that made it imperative to opt for an automated manifold system were manual operation, slop generation, time consuming, and tedious operation. This was the process that was followed for close to 50 years, but it was time to migrate to a more efficient and automated process; and for this the expertise and synergic collaboration with Emerson was selected.  

Challenges and Benefits of Moving to the Automated Manifold System

The schematic layout of the manifold system was discussed and dedicated efforts were made to install the new system. Post completion the new system enabled real-time monitoring control and safety, and records could be stored and maintained. The tangible benefits include enhanced safe and clean operations, process efficiency and accuracy, reliability and error elimination – and all these boosted overall productivity and operational control. Vijayakumar played three brief videos for the audience. The first was an AV of the process, the second showed happy operators relieved from the tedium of manual and error prone operations, spillages, etc., and the third showed the replacement of the old manifold with the new automated manifold at the same place. This was a first of its kind brownfield project in India and posed various challenges due to the space constraints, technological and implementation difficulties owing to limited scope of shutdowns in the running plant and so on. As a strategic move an integrated FAT (Factory Acceptance Testing) was arranged by Emerson at their Pune facility and that proved advantageous as it reduced the installation and commissioning time at the site. Despite the challenges, IOCL’s dream turned into a reality with Emerson’s technological expertise and solutions.  The pictures below say it all.

From then to now…


Automated Manifold System

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