Defina Rajakumar is an analytical monitoring engineer who works in one of SAMSON AG’s SAM GUARD Analytical Monitoring Service(AMS). She shared some of her experiences in helping process plants get the most from their SAM GUARD predictive monitoring software.

What does a typical day look like in the AMS?

I mostly work remotely, rather than on-site in a plant, so my day begins by spending an hour or two monitoring events online via the AMS for each of my customers. When I have a new customer, I usually also spend a couple of hours a day modeling their plant with SAM GUARD to prepare to deploy the software. It takes about 2-4 weeks to complete the modeling stage, depending on the size of the plant.
Once a week, I’ll spend a whole day visiting new customers to get a better understanding of their needs, and on Wednesdays I visit existing customer sites that are close enough to my home for a regular on-site meeting.
Once a week, I have a feedback meeting with each customer where I present the results of the last week’s monitoring insights. It usually takes about 30 minutes. Every month, I prepare a report for each organization that summarizes all the use cases from each project.

Can you tell us what happens when you spot a significant anomaly in the SAM GUARD predictive monitoring system?

If an urgent alert emerges that can’t wait until our weekly meeting, I’ll send an email directly to the plant manager with a screenshot from SAM GUARD. But this rarely happens, maybe once a month, or once every two months.
I can usually spot issues emerging far enough in advance that they can wait another few days, so I’ll just mark them “priority” and make sure to discuss them in our next meeting.
Plant engineers are also very busy people who are bombarded by emails all the time, so an urgent email isn’t always the best way to get through!

Can you tell us about one time when SAM GUARD helped a customer resolve an issue?

With one of our customers, the chemical company Bondalti, SAM GUARD raised an alert about a gradual drop in the level of a water tank over the course of three months. This was the first alert provided by SAM GUARD after installation and they were unaware of the level drop which SAM GUARD indicated in the first week of online monitoring.
The alert was so much earlier in SAM GUARD that the issue was fixed even before a critical
alarm in DCS and prevented the tank level to reach the lowest range.
After the alert, an on-site inspection took place and it was found that there was a leak in the
manual valve.
The customer was very surprised by this alert since SAM GUARD pointed out the issue before they could see it with their own eyes.

What is your relationship with the companies you manage in the AMS?

Like every relationship, each one is different. It always takes time to develop trust in a relationship, but within about six months they grow more familiar with me and with SAM GUARD, and our relationship gets warmer.
Some people are a bit more nervous about a new tool like SAM GUARD, or don’t like change very much, but others are interested in trying something new.
I mostly work remotely rather than on-site, but I try to visit at least once before starting the project. It makes all the rest of the online communication go more smoothly. At one plant, I have my own desk when I visit, and they see me as an extension of their team, but mostly they relate to me more like a consultant.

What is your professional background?

I am a chemical and bio-process engineer, and spent 3 years working on process simulation projects as a process engineer in a busy petro-chemical plant before I moved to work with SAM GUARD, and coincidentally, now that organization is one of my clients! We’re both happy to be working with friends.
My background has been very helpful, because it means that I already understand the problems my customers are dealing with, how important it is to deal with alerts when they come up, and what the equipment is like. I can put myself into our customers’ shoes.
I’ve also benefited from my past experience in working with digital tools. Because I was already accustomed to using digital platforms in process simulation, it was easier for me to learn how to use the digital SAM GUARD tools as well.

Why did you decide to work in the AMS?

It was clear to me that digitalization is very important in the chemicals industry, so I was curious to be part of industry 4.0. Also, although I enjoyed working in a plant, I was getting a little tired of all the safety equipment and protocols and looking for an opportunity to work remotely, so I was ready for a change.
Predictive analytics tools like SAM GUARD make everything more efficient and interesting, and to my mind, AMSs are the next big thing in plant monitoring, so I wanted to be a pioneer in the field. I have to admit that I do miss walking around the plant, though!

What do you like best about your work?

I love the variety of it. I get to be involved in lots of different projects, meet different people, and learn about different plants. In my job, there’s a kind of knowledge transfer where you discuss what happened with the alert, and the plant representative explains what happens in their plant. Normally, process engineers only know about their own process, or their own area. With SAM GUARD, I get to learn about multiple processes.
I also love modeling the plants, and talking to so many people. I get to meet plant engineers, plant managers, and process engineers, and learn from them all. It’s might feel a bit awkward if you’re not a people person, but I enjoy it.

What do you find most challenging about your work?

Building trust, especially at the very beginning, is the most challenging part. Customers have to learn to trust me, Defina, and also to trust SAM GUARD. It requires a lot of interpersonal skills, not just technical abilities. I’m often helping customers through a real culture change. Whenever I show them the real value of SAM GUARD, when there’s a significant finding, it helps them complete that challenge.
Another challenge is that neither German nor English is my first language. I’ve lived in Germany for seven years, but I still struggle to understand sometimes, and to find the right words to communicate with native German and English speakers.

What should process plants that are considering adopting the AMS know before they jump in?

They need to be interested in the tool, or at least have someone at the plant who is interested in SAM GUARD and wants to try something new, instead of having it forced onto them. They need to be open to this new concept of running on-site checks for issues and then resolving them, instead of ignoring minor problems until they become major ones.
It’s also important that they don’t think of SAM GUARD as some kind of magic wand that’s going to correct all their difficulties. It’s only going to work if the people behind it are working on it, if they take action when there’s an alert instead of dismissing it.
If you’re interested in learning more about SAM GUARD and how it can help your plant, schedule a demo/give us a call today!