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On-line Process Analysis Pays Off

Supplier: B-R Controls
15 November, 2007

A comparison of the costs of laboratory and online analysis Published by: Infraserv Höchst Technik GmbH & Co.KG Indutriepark Höchst Online analysis is often cheaper than laboratory analysis – even when analyzing just one sample per day! This is the conclusion reached by the department of Measurement, Monitoring, Control and Analysis at Infraserv Höchst Technik in Germany.

Although the advantages of process analysis are generally well-known, many users still fear high costs of investment and retrofitting. Attempts to calculate the profitability of process systems, as in the study by Infraserv Höchst Technik, are urgently required and could give fresh impetus to these technologies.

In some chemical and pharmaceutical companies up to four percent of the production costs are taken up by analysis. A large part of this analysis is still undertaken "offline" in the in-house lab or an external laboratory, despite the fact that today almost all analysis methods used in the lab can also be used in process.

"From discussions with many customers it has become clear that the greatest reservation they have is about the costs, or rather, the lack of clarity about the costs" explains Dr. Stefan Stieler, head of the Measurement, Monitoring, Control and Analysis department at Infraserv Höchst Technik.

Based on many years of experience and in close cooperation with chemical and pharmaceutical companies, the analysis team has compiled a study of the costs of nine different measuring methods.

For laboratory analysis, for example, the team evaluated the costs per year for sample collection, sample transport, sample disposal, lab staff hours, analysis costs and time spent entering the data into the system. This was compared with the yearly costs for process analysis equipment: depreciation, the interest on the investment in setting up the infrastructure, the proportional costs for the space taken up by the analysis instruments as well as all running costs for maintenance, inspection, repair, wearing parts, and repair materials.

The results

The main conclusion was that around 70 percent of the costs accrued over the working life of a process instrument are costs for maintenance. The purchase cost is actually only a relatively small percentage of the total costs. "If you are thinking of investing in equipment for process analysis, do not overrate the investment costs", advises Stieler.

"There are many approaches to cost optimization in the field of maintenance". The study also confirms a clear cost advantage of online methods, especially for the multicomponent analysis of gas and liquids, one-component analysis of gases and DOC of ultrapure water (ppb range).

Here, online analysis pays off even at a frequency of only one measurement a day. The break-even point for pH measurements, multicomponent gas analysis and DOC of ultrapure water is around three measurements per week. For one-component gas analysis, the break even point is around two measurements per week.

Outlook and challenges for the future

"In this study we only compared the direct costs because these can be quantified precisely", explains Stieler. "We didn’t include aspects such as the improvement of process and product quality due to quicker access to information and control of the production line, or the reduction of downtime and resulting opportunity costs".

Process measuring equipment continues to work at weekends and during holidays without requiring shift work. Loss of time and quality due to lab errors or errors in sample collection is reduced to a minimum. The technological improvements expected in the field of process measuring technology over the next few years will doubtless serve to increase these benefits.

Infraserv, in Frankfurt-Höchst, Germany, supplies products and services to over 80 companies employing around 20,000 people.

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