Plant Safety Focus of Smart Manufacturing Conference

By Rex Sun


plant safetyMICONEX held its 27th exhibition from September 21 to 24, 2016 in Beijing. As a leading process automation exhibition in China, MICONEX also organized a half-day Smart Manufacturing Conference that had a strong plant safety focus on September 21. The conference, sponsored by the China Instrument and Control Society (CIS) and SUPCON, drew approximately 150 participants from design institutes, and EPC firms, plus technology end users and owner-operators such as Sinopec. ARC Advisory Group was also invited to attend the conference. Mr. Wu Youhua, Vice Chairman of CIS and Mr. Jin Jianxiang, President of SUPCON opened the event with comments addressing the conference theme, “Intelligence and Safety.”

Key takeaways from this conference include:

  • Smart manufacturing can support both business and environmental sustainability by helping companies conserve energy while minimizing negative environmental impacts, enhancing asset performance, and helping ensure human safety.
  • Benefits of intelligent remote monitoring and Industrial IoT-based predictive maintenance include improved efficiency, asset availability, and risk mitigation.
  • Conference sponsor, SUPCON, a leading automation supplier in China, is actively involved in a government-funded smart manufacturing pilot program.  The company has developed a holistic safety approach to help protect plant assets, people, and environment.

Safety Consideration in National Policy

Smart manufacturing as a national policy is a key element in the country’s "Made in China 2025" initiative. Mr. Liao Kai, Division Director, Department of Software, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of China, explained the smart manufacturing program and addressed the importance of safety in manufacturing in his speech.

Also, as discussed in a previous ARC Insight, both functional safety and cybersecurity standards were included referenced in the “Guidance on National Intelligent Manufacturing Standard System Construction,” issued by MIIT last December.

SUPCON Announces New Plant Safety Solutions

As ARC research indicates, it’s very important for industrial organizations to conduct a thorough mechanical-, process-, and automation-related risk assessment that extends to technical, behavioral, and organizational elements.

Dr. Yu Haibin, Vice President of SUPCON, began his presentation with a detailed analysis of the serious accidents in process industries that occurred in China and elsewhere around the world in recent years.  He then announced the introduction of the company’s “Rainbow Defense Solutions” for building safe plants at the conference for the first time.

According to Dr. Yu, “Rainbow Defense Solutions” are designed to protect the plant assets, people, and the environment.  In addition to integrating functional safety and cybersecurity, the solutions consider all the risks across the three phases of planning and design, production safeguarding, and crisis response. Finally, the solutions address seven key elements across all phases of the plant lifecycle: intrinsic safety, process safety, safety operations management, inherent safety and defense-in-depth, product lifecycle management, safety emergency response management, and hazard and environmental monitoring.

Following the 2015 Tianjin incident, it’s likely that China will mandate greater safety compliance for the country’s chemical production units, manufacturing complexes, and storage facilities. In addition to automation systems’ reliability and risk analysis, it’s also important to have emergency response systems in place.  These include safety and firefighting procedures and training of emergency personnel.

Several smart manufacturing pilot projects that help address improved plant safety are already under way in China.  These include the Sinopec Jiujiang Pilot Project, for which SUPCON is a major supplier.

Sinopec Jiujiang Plant Smart Manufacturing Case Study

In July 2015, the Sinopec Jiujiang Petrochemical Plant was added to MIIT’s smart manufacturing pilot program, the first for the plant safetySinopec group. Mr. Wang Min, Safety Director from Sinopec Jiujiang Branch, explained how smart manufacturing systems help improve the plant safety and health, safety, and environment (HSE) management.

In this project, CCTV video surveillance systems, 1,300 gas detectors and 1,400 fire alarm controllers are connected to the smart manufacturing systems and the control systems integrated into the emergency command center.  To further enhance safety during maintenance activities, the work permit system has also been digitized and connected to the smart manufacturing system.

Typically, cross-discipline collaboration is challenging in a traditional plant, hampering effective emergency response.  But in Sinopec’s connected Jiujiang plant, intelligent information from all disciplines is instantly available at the emergency command center to help avoid or enable faster and more effective response to abnormal situations.

Risk Mitigation through Intelligent Remote Monitoring

Today, many process units in China still operate with low efficiency, often at well below their designed capacities.  Many plants also lack adequate safety mechanisms, since these were not considered during the design phase.  At the same time, the installed automation systems often lack the intelligence, production management functionality, or advanced control capabilities needed to help overcome these problems.  As we learned at the conference, while it would be difficult to cost-justify a complete revamp of these plant safetyplants, in selected cases, it appears that remote monitoring has proven to help underperforming plant assets in China improve their overall performance.

Professor Gao Jinji, Fellow of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and Director of the Plant Diagnosis Engineering Center at Beijing University of Chemical Technology, shared the results of a remote monitoring project for compressors and pumps at China National Petroleum Company (CNPC).

To avoid the cost and effort required to perform a failure modes and effect analysis (FMEA) on a large number of assets, as typically required for traditional risk-based inspection (RBI) and reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) initiatives, CNPC used an IIoT approach employing smart sensors and advanced analytics to support real-time conditioning monitoring and predictive maintenance for the company’s large fleet of critical compressors and motors.  This provides early warning of impending problems and, in some cases, also supports self-recovery from faults.


To achieve both business and environmental sustainability, today’s manufacturers need to look beyond traditional metrics such as earnings and profit margins.  Today, criteria such as environmental performance, energy and resource efficiency, and process and worker safety have gained increasing importance, particularly in China. 

As a result, industrial companies need to embrace emerging smart manufacturing capabilities, including IIoT-enabled remote monitoring and analytics, to help improve process, plant, human, organizational, and safety performance.  In China, companies with under-performing production assets can take advantage of smart manufacturing models, approaches, and best practices developed in government-funded pilot projects such as those discussed at the 2016 MICONEX Smart Manufacturing Conference.


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Keywords: MICONEX, Smart Manufacturing, Safety, Cybersecurity, Functional Safety, Remote Monitoring, SUPCON, ARC Advisory Group.

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