Machine and Process Management

How a Local Team of Experts Used Digitization to Help a Singapore Lubrication Oil Plant Boost Operational Efficiencies

Across both consumer and industrial environments, lubrication oils used to reduce mechanical friction and wear are in high demand. According to Allied Market Research, the automobile lubricant market alone is projected to grow to $89.5 Billion US by 2022. Many of us who own or operate cars and trucks buy these products from local gas stations and we depend on these lubricants to extend the lives of our engines.

To manufacture these products, global lubrication oil companies use complex and sophisticated refinement and chemical treatment processes. A dependable, high quality lubricant is a differentiating factor in helping to grow market share. When outdated technologies present barriers that prevent high efficiency production and fast time-to-market, plants find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

oil plant

The Challenge: Plant inefficiencies drove production losses and high costs

After 30 years in operation, a global Fortune 50 Singapore-based lubrication oils production facility began encountering several control system issues that were both driving up operational costs and reducing plant production efficiency.

Plant managers were encountering efficiency issues in several areas:

  • Systems were not well linked across their production life cycle and plant operators were forced to manually enter and renter customer order details such as order volume and order type.
  • The SCADA control system was outdated and no longer supported by the vendor. As service levels dropped and the backlog of deferred maintenance grew, production-related downtime increased.
  • The proprietary architecture of the legacy system placed the plant stakeholders at the mercy of out-of-country vendor staff who needed to be flown in to provide expensive fixes to the system. No documentation was available which further delayed needed maintenance activities.
  • The design of the legacy system was such that, if an IT component of their systems failed, the entire production and control side of the system was also adversely affected.

From the business perspective, these operational deficiencies were leading to higher instances of product quality control team rejections, which then drove up both the volume of material waste and associated production costs.

The Solution: Local delivery team implements new digitized approach

In order to address these issues and to generate some innovative solution options, plant leadership decided to issue a request for proposal to its major global control systems suppliers. During this evaluation period, plant stakeholders agreed to bring in a team of project delivery experts from the Schneider Electric Singapore-based Center of Excellence.

Experts with both product and process knowledge and decades of onsite experience, conducted audits and, to better understand the inner workings of the plant, shadowed operators as they performed their tasks. In the process, the Schneider Electric delivery team worked with operators and management to create proper documentation of the systems. The core functions of the existing system were also analyzed in order to design a new system where digitized hardware and software tools could be optimized, improving efficiency and productivity while limiting capital costs.

Impressed with the delivery team’s willingness to dedicate resources to understanding their production issues, plant managers endorsed the Schneider Electric solution proposal. That solution addressed the plant operational issues in several ways:

  • Improved uptime – Unlike the old control system, the new lubrication oil plant management control software was not dependent on the IT system. In fact, if the IT portion of the system were to go down, the plant’s production processes would not be impacted and could continue to function.
  • Better plant performance visibility – The introduction of a more open platform architecture permitted tighter linkages between core plant systems. Business management SAP/MES systems were now fully integrated with the Lube Oil Management and Control System (LMS) enabling more management visibility, automated control, and automated report generation.
  • Reduced duplication of effort – Plants within the lubrication oil operation had been operating independently. The new solution allowed for the convergence of two plants thereby reducing duplication of effort through the operation of a single, central command and control site.
  • Availability of local support – The Singapore Center of Excellence provided local experts that understood the function of the new lubrication oil control systems. Plant management no longer had to rely on expensive experts from Europe to modify and maintain their systems.
  • Enhanced cybersecurity – The new system is IEC62443 standard compliant (a global cybersecurity standard) and is now integrated into the oil company’s global cybersecurity.

Project delivered on time and within budget

In order to ease the process of transitioning from old to new, the project was planned to be executed in multiple phases. Since the open EcoStruxure™ platform was used, the architecture enabled reuse of some of the existing system’s I/O while, at the same time, introduced some new I/O modules that were function specific to the new solution. This shortened turnaround time. In fact, now that Phase One of the modernization project has been completed on time (thanks, in part, to an expedited cutover time of 7 days instead of the industrial standard of three weeks) and within budget, initiatives are underway to introduce new value-added services to further enhance plant efficiencies.

To learn more about how Schneider Electric can support your Oil and Gas industry modernization projects, visit our industrial process automation web site and be sure to watch our video below to further learn how we deliver industrial automation solutions to control efficiency and reliability across the value chain.


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