Reducing Chemical Costs Using M2M / IoT Technologies

Question: MOREHow do you reduce the amount of money your company is spending on chemicals?

Answer: Use less chemicals.

How?

By making sure you’re only using exactly what the application calls for and no more. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but in my years of working with chemical distributors, and their customers, I’ve seen a repeating scenario of overdosing in water treatment, sanitization, and oilfield applications. The primary reason for this are the potential liabilities associated with under-dosing and not realizing the intended effect on the chemical process.

Remote / Disconnected Physical Locations

When the chemical applications are supported by a full process and control SCADA system, dosing can be closely monitored and tweaked to assure chemicals are applied optimally.   However, many applications are in geographically remote locations, or the costs of a process and control system is too high for smaller operations.  In these applications, chemical dispensing is typically controlled by a simple PID (proportional–integral–derivative) controller or a metering pump pulling chemical from a drum, tote, or minibulk tank.  I’ve seen dozens of applications where a Positive Displacement or Peristaltic pump is busy going about its job, but a quick look at the dirt/grime/chemical residue on the pump setting interface shows that there hasn’t been a tweak to the settings in months or even years! The only real measure of overall chemical consumption is in the delivery records of drums, totes, or tank refills.

Suppliers Can Do More

Buyers pressure chemical distributors for the best price; because that’s what they are programmed to do. Some even put each replenishment order out to bid.  I’ve written on the value add and bottom-line savings of efficient deliveries. There is opportunity for the suppliers to do more. First by providing the customer chemical application expertise in their sales personnel, and second by providing a system which provides near real-time reporting of chemical consumption and a means to remotely adjust chemical dosing rates. It may seem counter intuitive to help the customer use less of what your selling, but when you factor in the reduced churn in customer base and the ability to negotiate longer term fulfillment agreements the technology investment will quickly pay for itself and become an effective annuity.

Don’t Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

The technologies involved are mature (no bleeding edge risks).  There are basically two main components to the solution:

  1. A Wireless Modbus-capable pump controller
  2. A Flow Meter & Totalizer

Solution providers like Informa have turn-key systems and a cloud based / web portal application that your customer can pull consumption reports and manage their systems. There are also user configurable alarms   which will notify the end user when preset thresholds are exceeded.

There are one-time equipment costs and reoccurring costs that include cellular network and application charges. The largest variable in the equipment cost is the type of flow meter and flow rate accuracy required. The solution provider can either supply or specify the flow meter required, and all the configuration is done remotely. The installation is a simple plumbing & wiring exercise and should not take more than an hour from start to finish.

There Is No Time Like the Present

Applications like this have been made affordable & scalable because of the myriad of communication and cloud technologies created to support M2M / loT applications.  To a large degree the solutions are built on open architecture platforms.  This substantially de-risks the technology investments over what has historically been completely proprietary systems.

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