Should You Outsource Control Valve Diagnostics?
Even a seemingly minor issue with a process control valve can lead to significant problems. Those problems, at best, might involve reduced output or inefficient performance. However, you always run the risk of costly downtime and repair costs. Faulty valve performance can also place the security and safety of your facility and staff at risk.
These are just some reasons why monitoring valve performance is critical to your operation.
Obtaining critical information regarding valve health and performance is vital to your success, but it can be challenging to determine the best way to accomplish that objective. One option is to outsource your valve diagnostics to a third party. But is this the best way to get the actionable information you need?
The Role of Diagnostics in Control Valve Performance
Valve controllers play a critical role in process performance – virtually no matter the specific process—unfortunately, the very nature of any ongoing process places valves and controllers under constant stress. Time and environment both result in wear and tear on equipment.
Without predictive diagnostics, process engineers cannot identify any potential issues that might arise. Even a minor unaddressed issue can lead to significant problems over time. And those problems inevitably lead to shutdowns and the need for costly repairs or replacements.
Automatic control loops make detecting issues very challenging, which can compound problems. The reason for this is that controllers are programmed to compensate for degradation. As the valve continues to fail, you cannot identify the phenomenon – unless you have a way to diagnose the valve in action. Ultimately, complete failure will come as a surprise once it occurs. By that point, you have complete process interruption.
In the time leading up to the valve’s failure, you have likely seen sub-par (and declining) performance, compromising process output and preventing you from achieving your established goals. The irony of this situation is that all of these results could easily be avoided, given a means of obtaining predictive data from valves and controllers. With the correct data, you can perform necessary maintenance on your terms, scheduling it so that processes are not interrupted unexpectedly.
Obtaining Data from Valve Controllers by Outsourcing
Assuming you are not content to wait for total failure to disrupt your processes – or to lose output when you don’t need to – you need a reliable means for obtaining valve performance data. In the past, you might have had to decommission a valve and send it out for testing. However, the drawbacks to this approach are virtually too numerous even to consider.
Another option is outsourcing your control valve diagnostics to a third-party testing company. Periodic valve inspection and testing can go a long way toward providing you with actionable information. However, the schedule upon which you bring in a third-party valve testing expert is critical to providing the data you need for planning.
Budgetary considerations are always at the forefront of your mind – as they should be. Third-party testing consultant fees can quickly increase if you frequently have them onsite. However, unless you schedule valve diagnostics testing frequently enough, you risk missing critical clues that can predict impending failure.
Consider, then, the option of purchasing your own valve diagnostics equipment.
Using Valve Profiler Equipment to Monitor In-House
The preferable alternative to outsourcing valve testing and diagnostics – at least for many organizations – is purchasing a valve Profiler system to obtain actionable information in-house.
SofTek Engineering produces industry-leading advanced control valve diagnostics equipment. We customize our systems and services specific to your needs, ensuring you get the capabilities you need – and that you have those capabilities whenever you need them.
Purchasing a Profiler or Profiler Mini system puts control squarely in your own hands. You can perform testing for troubleshooting anytime, obtaining actionable data in real-time and when needed. Our systems design is extremely rugged and versatile for the harshest environments.
Contact us now to learn more about our company and how we can help you obtain the critical control valve diagnostics you need.
Profiler Training Courses
We want to thank Control Valve Services Ltd for sending another group to our facility to participate in our automatic control valve diagnostic training course.
Companies that provide valve repair services to their customers and routinely train their personnel and new hires grow their service and repair businesses much faster than their competition.
Valve diagnostics are becoming increasingly important for valve manufacturers and valve repair facilities and are crucial to your customer’s lifecycle management programs. The data generated by the Profiler system is vital in determining deterioration within the valve that impedes performance and ultimately impacts plant processes and products.
SofTek Engineering’s training courses receive exceptional reviews from our customers who participate. All of our training is hands-on, yielding the best information retention and overall understanding of our test systems.
Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I remember.
Involve me and I learn.
Contact us today for more information about the Profiler family of diagnostic test systems (automatic control, block, and safety relief valves) and our training course availability.
How to Optimize Control Valve Performance
Facilities must run smoothly and efficiently, requiring your processes to remain reliable daily. No matter what industry or sector you operate within, you are also undoubtedly called upon to maximize output, mitigate downtime, reduce repair costs, and improve the safety of your facility.
Proper control valve function helps you achieve all of these objectives.
The first step in optimizing valve operation is obtaining robust diagnostic data. However, receiving data is only as effective as your ability to apply that knowledge. The best control valve diagnostic systems will also allow you to use the information gained through reporting. Application inline and in real-time will help ensure that you get maximum performance – and results – on an ongoing basis.
The Importance of Control Valve Optimization
The benefits of optimizing control valve performance are myriad and significant.
Optimal process performance guarantees maximum output – a critical metric in any scenario. For maximized process performance, every component in the process loop must function within the precise tolerances required.
Beyond the performance factor, however, it also considers the importance of reliability. Optimizing valves ensures that they function as they are supposed to, thereby reducing the risk of potential problems that could take your processes offline. Minimizing downtime also helps mitigate the possible cost of component repairs or replacement.
Safety is the most pressing reason for optimizing valve performance. Maximizing output and reducing downtime and the need for repairs will also improve the safety of your facility and your team members.
Approaches for Optimizing Control Valve Operation
Many of the most effective ways of optimizing valve function are purely mechanical and somewhat intuitive. For example, proper valve design and sizing are critical. But selecting the correct valve and valve controls for the job is only one small part of the overall scenario. Other factors, ranging from a dirty air supply to unwanted (and unexpected) vibration, can also infringe on valves’ ability to perform as desired. Unfortunately, you can only do so much to counteract dirty air or minimize (or eliminate) the vibration caused by other equipment components within the radius of a given valve and controller.
The primary hurdle in this scenario is knowing when and where problems may arise and to what extent those issues may contribute to compromised valve performance.
Comprehensive control valve diagnostics are a critical first step in optimization. Diagnostics provide the necessary predictive intelligence you need to derive actionable input. Even a slight decrease in performance needs to be addressed, as this ensures that you can address any potential issues before they become significant problems.
The Power of a Comprehensive Control Valve Diagnostic Solution
Performing diagnostic checks in a fully operational process scenario can help you quickly and effectively identify performance issues and determine the corrective steps to resolve them.
In an ideal scenario, automated control valve diagnostics tools will allow you to adjust settings and make minor corrections in real time without interrupting process flow. You can then monitor performance further to determine whether those actions have produced the desired results.
An effective diagnostics tool will also give you the power to see into the future – in a manner of speaking – allowing you to schedule and budget for any required downtime for maintenance purposes. The bottom line is that you no longer need to be in a reactive position with the correct valve test system. Instead, you will have everything you need to be proactive in every scenario or situation.
Finding the Best Control Valve Diagnostics System for You
A valve test system will provide critical information when real-time valve testing becomes vital. Otherwise, you put yourself at the mercy of third-party testing companies and their schedule – not to mention pricing.
Suppose you are considering the purchase of a block valve diagnostic system, isolation valve diagnostic equipment, or safety relief valve diagnostic system. In that case, you might have considered another system. However, the Profiler and Profiler Mini systems from SofTek Engineering provide a highly effective solution with multiple advantages over similar options.
Profiler systems are highly valued and regarded for their robust features and functionalities. Our equipment provides maximum durability and power, no matter the conditions you intend to operate within. Our systems are not only highly portable, but they are also simple to set up and use.
As the leading provider of valve diagnostic test systems, SofTek’s team of experts provides exceptional customer service and support. We focus exclusively on valve testing systems, and our dedication to results is apparent in everything we do. For almost 25 years, we have exceeded our client’s expectations by providing the most comprehensive training and support in our industry. Our valve diagnostics software features an intuitive and straightforward interface yet produces various information and results. Profiler systems let you test, report and optimize your valve systems whenever and wherever you need these capabilities.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in achieving the highest level of control valve optimization at your facility.
Technological Advances in Control Valve Automation
Control valve automation technology provides the ability to accurately monitor and adjust valve operations within process flow. A variety of factors go into systems design, including the particular application in question, the components necessary to achieve objectives, and the cost to purchase and operate the equipment.
With countless types of valves to consider, no one-size-fits-all solution exists. The nature of process control systems contributes to the complexity of both design and operation. Fortunately, valve automation control technology has contributed significantly to improving outcomes.
As technology continues to improve, so to will the outcomes of those operations and organizations that utilize the technology. Today, we will look more closely at the role of control valve automation and how future technological advances will improve process flow and, ultimately, your results.
Life Before the Automation of Valve Control
Prior to the advent of automated control technology, valves could only be controlled through human involvement and manipulation. The human factor posed a variety of challenges. In fact, the potential for human error was a constant threat to successful operation. In addition, safety risks were pervasive, particularly in dangerous or hazardous scenarios. Operational costs were also high, due to the human control factor, as workers were required to be in place at all times when processes were running. The ability to monitor and adjust performance was limited to the (often fallible) human powers of observation and the ability – and availability – to adjust valve settings.
It is understandable how much the advent of valve control technology was able to change the nature of processes control.
How Technology Affects Valves & Process Control
Today, controls automation technology plays a pivotal role in processes of all sizes and types. Automatic valve actuators can control operations with little or no human input or interaction (beyond original programming and any necessary adjustments).
As a result, processes became significantly less labor intensive. At the same time, reliability and performance improved, thanks to the exacting standards that automation enabled. Improved efficiency with reduced costs contributed directly to lower overhead.
Today, control valve automation technology is significantly better than it was in the early days of automation. And the best news is that, thanks to ongoing advances in technology, results continue to improve.
The Future of Control Valve Automation
As technology continues its rapid advancement in virtually every industry and sector, it is impossible to discount how profoundly new technological advancements will affect control valve automation.
As this occurs, some of the primary areas of focus will include the following.
Energy efficiency is of pressing concern across the board, affecting how every industry is approaching its processes, production and technology. Energy efficiency concerns affect many aspects of controls technology, with environmental concerns leading the charge in the press to reduce energy consumption. These efforts have much deeper impacts for individual users of technology, however. The more energy efficient the components, the less they cost to operate. This will lead directly to a reduction in operating costs.
If we refer back to the tenets of Moore’s Law, we can see how it applies to the technology powering control valve automation. Moore essentially postulated that, as computing technology increases in efficiency, components become smaller, faster and less expensive. In our industry, we can expect to see this trend continue, as we gain processing power while having to spend less money for component investments. Today’s volatile economy is contributing significantly toward the push for greater cost efficacy in all controls components.
The ability to predict performance – particularly the potential for predicting component malfunctions and failures – continues to be one of the most pressing issues faced by the controls industry. In literally any scenario or application, having the ability to run reliable predictive diagnostics is critical to smooth, ongoing operations. Watch for the development of improved technology for control valve diagnostics and the positive changes this will bring to the industry.
The Future of Control Valve Diagnostics Is Now
The continued advances in control valve automation technology contribute directly to improved safety and efficiency. The ability to monitor processes – and to quickly and efficiently address potential issues ad hoc – leads to even more profound improvements.
Automatic control valve diagnostics equipment is crucial for optimal functioning and ongoing performance. SofTek Engineering is proud to be on the cutting edge of these technologies, with our Profiler and Profiler Mini systems.
We understand the importance of continued improvement of our products and services. We provide regular updates to our valve diagnostic testing software, helping our customers confront and address the many challenges they face in their process automation efforts.
Our valve diagnostic testing systems are easy to operate, even in the most challenging of environments. We provide the ability to customize our systems to meet whatever your needs might be. Our advanced graphical interface returns immediate feedback, allowing you to determine what’s going on in real time. You have the ability to adjust and fine-tune performance without interrupting processes. This helps reduce downtime while improving both safety and efficiency. Fewer service interruptions contribute directly to your organizational success.
To learn more about SofTek Engineering and our suite of valve profiler systems, contact us today.
The Different Types of Control Valves
In industrial valves, control valves serve various critical process functions. These power-operated devices, such as liquid, steam, or gas, typically regulate or manipulate flow.
Here, we will explore some of the most common types of control valves and their applications. We will also consider the steps necessary to ensure proper valve functioning and performance, including the importance of periodic control valve testing.
How Control Valves Work
Control valves operate under the power of an actuator, the power source of which can be pneumatic, hydraulic, or electric. Depending on the actuator signal, these devices vary the flow opening based on the desired settings specified for an individual process which involves set points for liquid level, temperature, velocity, and pressure. The degree of regulation involved – which can range from fully closed to fully open or modulating (any position in between) – is determined by a valve controller.
Although these devices are typically simple in design, their operation and control can be highly complex. Valve actuators receive signals from outside sources, depending on the process flow design and the specific requirements for the given valve.
Control valves are used in countless applications; these are some of the most common control valves in use today.
Linear Motion Control Valves
Sometimes known as multi-turn valves, these devices achieve flow control via a sliding stem-type mechanism to open and close the device. This simple design offers maximum durability and versatility. Some of the most common types of linear control valves include the following.
These devices, so named for their spherical-shaped body, function via an internal baffle with a disc or plug that operates to open or close flow within the device. Globe valves are standard in regulating process flow. Some typical applications for these devices include fuel oil systems, boilers, steam vents, water cooling systems, and chemical feed systems.
Sometimes called a sluice valve, these devices control flow by opening or closing a barrier within the valve’s body, known as a gate. Whereas globe valves typically regulate flow, gate valves are exceptional when the need to stop flow exists. Applications for gate valve use include potable, wastewater, and other neutral liquids.
Rotary Motion Control Valves
Sometimes known as quarter-turn valves, these devices allow fluids to flow through a type of rotating element, which can be used to cut off the flow. Typically used in high-demand environments, these devices are compact and versatile. Some of the most common rotary motion control valves include the following.
Popular for use in control and shut-off applications, these devices are exceptionally durable and reliable, even after long periods of disuse. Various ball valves are used, depending on the application, including full-bore valves, reduced bore, multiport, cavity filler, and v-port. Although operation remains consistent, ball valves can be composed of a single body, a split body, a top entry body, a three-piece body, or welded body.
Butterfly valves use a rotating disc to control flow, similar to ball valves. Although they can control liquids, gasses, or solids, these devices are primarily in the food and beverage industry, pharmaceuticals, petroleum, and other chemical processing applications. More cost-effective than ball valves, these devices have been widely adopted across various sectors.
Other Types of Control Valves
Control valves that don’t fit into the two primary categories outlined above include the following.
Pinch valves use a pinching effect to control flow. Fully ported control valves are found in various applications, including the food and beverage industries, chemical and wastewater applications, and the handling of bulk or solid materials. This approach is beneficial for containing and controlling aggressive materials that might overwhelm other types of valves.
Sometimes known as membrane valves, diaphragm valves are typically made from durable materials such as steel and brass – although some applications might support heavy-duty plastic materials. These devices are often found in corrosive or abrasive environments where solids or solid-entrained liquids are a part of the process. Diaphragm valves are controlled by manual, pneumatic, hydraulic, and electric actuators. The most common diaphragm valves use pneumatic actuators where air pressure is applied through a pilot valve into the actuator, which raises the diaphragm and opens the valve. This type of valve is used when valve speed is critical.
Hydraulic diaphragm valves are used in high-pressure, low-speed applications. Diaphragm valves are used in pharmaceuticals, mining, wastewater, power, and paper.
Control Valve Testing
Control valve testing is a critical aspect of valve operation. Specifically, periodic, comprehensive testing ensures a valve’s proper and safe operation.
SofTek Engineering offers industry-leading control valve testing equipment and valve profilers. Our valve testing and diagnostics equipment, including Profiler and Profiler Mini, is designed to help you avoid costly downtime. Our valve diagnostic systems perform a full range of performance testing appropriate for more than just control valve diagnostics. Use our systems for isolation valve diagnostics, block valve diagnostics, fugitive emissions testing, and more.
Our valve testing equipment is light and portable, making it ideal for use in virtually any location or application. Our best-in-class training ensures you get the maximum value and return on investment.
Contact us now to learn about control valve testing equipment from SofTek Engineering.
What Is Safety Relief Valve Testing & Why Is it Important?
Safety relief valves are used in various industries and sectors, including gas and oil, wastewater, manufacturing, aviation, power generation, and more. As one of the most critical failsafe devices used in the process and production setting, safety relief valves protect your systems, property, and team members.
Safety relief valves- known as SRVs or pressure relief valves -PRVs – are designed to respond to excess pressure within a process line. Under a specified level of excess pressure, valves open to relieve pressure by venting fluid or gas from the over-pressurized component.
SRV diagnostics and testing are procedures that help ensure valves’ ongoing integrity and performance. Periodic valve testing is critical for a variety of reasons, including the protection of people and facilities. Today, we explore some of the options that exist for valve testing and determine which options are the most practical and reliable, depending on your circumstances.
The Role of Safety Relief Valves
Safety relief valves are used to help avoid specific and unwanted results. At best, an excess of pressure can cause a process to fail. At worst, it can result in damage, significant injury, or even death in the event of an explosion or fire.
Typically, SRVs provide a safe outlet for fluid or gas under pressure if it should happen to reach its maximum set pressure limit. When the set point is reached, the valve opens, allowing the fluid or gas to escape to an auxiliary path reducing the line pressure and a return to the desired point.
What is Safety Relief Valve Testing?
Safety relief valve testing refers to those processes used to evaluate the condition and performance of the equipment.
Valves must be tested at their specified setpoint, including standard operating temperature and pressure. Under pressure, a technician uses appropriate testing equipment to verify that the valve cracks (or pops) at the set pressure and reseals when the pressure reduces to a specified point.
However, it is not enough to identify existing valve problems or shortcomings in performance. A critical testing component is tuning or adjusting valves to ensure they perform correctly and per specifications.
Why Is Valve Testing Important?
Testing valves is vital for multiple reasons. One of the most pressing reasons is to identify any potential issues before they have the opportunity to become significant problems. Identifying and addressing such matters helps prevent costly downtime and reduces the potential for dangerous accidents.
Valve testing also allows you to identify problems that might otherwise go undetected until it’s too late, saving money you might otherwise have to spend on costly emergency repair and replacement. Also important, valve troubleshooting software provides you with critical insight into potential performance issues.
What Is the Best Way to Test Safety Relief Valves?
The intervals in which your relief valves require comprehensive testing can vary. However, periodic testing is critical no matter what your circumstances might be. Whenever you need relief valve testing, you have several options to consider.
One approach is to take the valve out of action, disassemble the system, and send the valve out for testing. Rarely a practical option, as most processes are critical to ongoing operations. The time required to achieve this goal can come with high costs, no matter what industry you serve.
Another potential approach is to use a third-party valve testing company. Although somewhat preferable to the first approach, this option also leaves something to be desired. The services of third-party valve testing companies can be costly and challenging to schedule testing that works for your operation.
The third option is to test in-house with your equipment. With the right valve testing equipment and software, you can test on your own terms and schedule.
How to Find the Best Safety Relief Valve Testing Systems
You might be surprised to learn that superior valve testing technology is available – and practical – for virtually anyone who requires it.
SofTek Engineering is the leading provider of control valve diagnostics and testing equipment.
Our valve testing solutions are built to provide maximum value and return on investment. Our products, including Profiler and Profiler Mini, are portable and highly customizable. The advanced capabilities of our products are the ideal way to analyze valve performance in line and in real-time. Designed for maximum versatility, the Profiler family of valve testing systems provides a high level of durability, even in the most challenging environments.
Contact us today to learn more about our products or to schedule a personalized safety relief valve testing equipment consultation.
Common Control Valve Failures & How to Identify Them
Control valve problems can lead to poor loop performance and, in many cases, complete (and often unexpected) valve failures.
Understanding some of the most common types of valve problems will give you the background you need to address any issues that might arise. However, unless you have the know-how – and the right tools – to troubleshoot valve problems, you could encounter unwanted and costly problems.
Potential Control Valve Problems
Control valves are subject to a wide array of potential problems. The nature and extent of those problems can vary depending on the specific equipment in question, the process loop type, and other factors.
These are some of the most common control valve problems you could encounter.
Hysteresis refers to the flow difference between the valves up-stroke and down-stroke. Because the valve is trying to maintain desired flow, it will remain in constant motion to reach the desired target. Static friction, among other factors, can be a common cause of hysteresis.
Control valve deadband is often considered the opposite of hysteresis. In other words, this phenomenon occurs when there is no movement in the valve, despite the actuator being in motion. This phenomenon occurs due to excess “play” or looseness within the mechanism, incorrect actuator sizing, positioner defects, or valve friction.
Stiction, a common term for static friction, generally means something sticking within the valve due to friction. This phenomenon often occurs when the positioner or actuator is not sized correctly. This problem can also develop due to excessive valve wear or if scaling is present. It can also occur due to extreme tightness in the valve stem seal or issues within the positioner.
Why Control Valve Testing Is Important
Many problems described above can also be present in your process without causing substantial concern. Most mechanical devices experience some degree of stiction, for example, without the need to address the issue. Problems occur when you cannot identify the reasons for performance issues; even worse, you may be experiencing an issue without realizing it.
For this reason, regular, comprehensive valve testing is necessary to ensure ongoing, reliable operation.
Automatic valve testing is also essential for maintenance purposes. Getting the proper feedback ensures you can properly tune your valves for optimal performance, reducing the strain on the system and increasing equipment lifespan. You will experience fewer problems, particularly unexpected failures and process interruptions.
Troubleshooting Control Valve Problems
Unfortunately, it can be challenging to determine the specific issue within a control valve – unless you have the knowledge, tools, and technology necessary for comprehensive troubleshooting.
Poorly performing valves call for a practical and affordable valve testing solution. SofTek Engineering has the answers you need today.
Automated control valve diagnostics and testing equipment – including our Profiler and Profiler Mini systems – provides the answers you need for optimal valve performance. Our solutions allow you to conduct your valve testing on-site, returning robust results that don’t require reliance on third-party testing.
Contact us today to learn more about control valve diagnostics and other testing systems (block valve and safety relief valve).