NOVA Hydromet is a valve manufacturing, distribution, and consulting company that recently entered a distribution partnership with Precognize for its predictive analytics solution SAM GUARD®NOVA sees SAM GUARD® as a key step in helping hydrometallurgy facilities to become more efficient, as part of its vision of a more efficient and sustainable industry. 

We spoke to Brant Mock, President of NOVA Hydromet, about the ways that SAM GUARD® complements NOVA, the unique challenges facing industries like hydrometallurgy, and what he expects for the future of the metals extraction industry.

Can you tell us a little about NOVA Hydromet?

NOVA is a relatively young company, but it’s based on a long history of working with the hydrometallurgy industry. We develop and deliver our own customized valves for severe service applications, distribute third party solutions, and provide specialized consulting. While we focus mainly on pressure hydrometallurgy, we also support oil sands  and other severe service industries. 

What we call “severe service applications” means industrial processes that typically involve extreme pressure, heat, corrosivity, solids, and cycling that the valves and ancillary equipment must perform under. All of these factors describe the situation in hydrometallurgy. 

We also invest in providing consulting services to our customers, to help them design their plants with the right equipment that will perform in these extreme conditions, and work to help them improve their uptime and efficiency. 

How does SAM GUARD® mesh with NOVA’s value offering? 

We see SAM GUARD® as complementing and expanding our existing consulting services. NOVA is a valve supplier, but we also provide technical consulting and modeling services to help industries choose the right specific equipment for their needs. 

Rob Mock, NOVA’s director of research and development (and who happens to be my father), creates complex mathematical models for each application to work as a theoretical, physics-based predictor of the process. Meanwhile, SAM GUARD® uses a purely statistical prediction model that only needs historical data. Hydrometallurgy facilities already have a lot of sensors and record thousands of data tags in the DCS control system, which is a ready-made data input source for SAM GUARD®. 

We’ve been looking for solutions that go beyond just hardware, that can help our clients improve their processes. A lot of the issues are complicated, so it’s tough to figure out what’s going on or why a failure keeps occurring. One side of the solution comes from Rob’s mathematical models, but the other side comes from data and AI analysis. SAM GUARD®’s machine learning (ML) algorithm learns to recognize trends, creates baselines and complex models, and can warn you when things are deviating from the desired norm in time to take corrective action before unscheduled downtime occurs. 

The SAM GUARD® software, combined with Precognize’s Analytical Monitoring Service, helps detect problems and determine their root causes before something fails. This expands our scope at NOVA, from selling products and hardware and consulting specifically on valves to monitoring the entire plant. 

Was there any specific challenge that you or your customers faced that led you to seek out a predictive analytics solution? 

Hydrometallurgy facilities typically run 24/7 and any shutdown is incredibly expensive, easily amounting to losses of millions of dollars per day, far more than the cost of any software or individual item of equipment. Any way to predict failures and stop them occurring is very valuable to our customers, whether it’s due to one of our valves, or a pump failure, or a clogged filter, or a cracked fan blade. 

We’re concerned not just about the performance of our products, but about our clients’ overall productivity and uptime. We wanted to bring them better insights into what’s going on, as well as some measure of predictability. SAM GUARD® brings that holistic visibility that can catch the earliest indications of failures in any piece of equipment with DCS data. 

What made you choose SAM GUARD®?

We found this confluence of the right software, the right company, and service-oriented people who are wonderful to work with. Unlike some other predictive analytics platforms, which only use a few hours of historical data, SAM GUARD® uses 13 months of data to create a baseline. This makes a big difference to the results you get. 

SAM GUARD® is also incredibly easy to use. It has a low threshold of implementation, doesn’t require a bunch of new equipment, and it’s very much plug and play. Our customers, like most process sites, don’t have time to learn a whole new software and master a complex new product. With SAM GUARD®, you just plug in data and it will give you a manageable number of new insights in a very user-friendly way, avoiding the alarm fatigue which operators often experience.

Precognize also includes an Analytical Monitoring Service (AMS). which looks at the alerts that SAM GUARD® raises to filter them for the most urgent issues. The AMS team will call once a week and point out things that the software has detected, and add insights based on their expertise. The software even detects user patterns, so if it sees that the user understands the data it’s showing, it will continue to selectively pick data tailored for that user.

What’s more, we found that the Precognize people are very good at what they do, and so willing to help us. They go that extra mile and it makes them a pleasure to work with.

What is your perspective on the necessity for digitalization in the hydromet industry? 

We see it as following the same pattern as other process industries. Many sites have been collecting masses of data for a long time. Now it’s all about leveraging AI as a new tool that gives you better insights into the data you are already collecting.

What is your vision for the future of the industry, and how do you see your role within it? 

NOVA is a perfect example of how the industry is changing. We see our model of consultative service paired with software technology as the future. Back in the day, when a hydrometallurgy facility needed a valve, they would just buy a valve that best met their specifications. Nobody asked if there was something they could do to provide a better solution. But we aim to go above and beyond to find the right valve for that application, and now we are moving on to pairing that with software like SAM GUARD®, to enable more effective use of maintenance windows and increase overall throughput.

Sustainability is another key trend. It’s not just about going green; it’s about plants getting more from the products they already have. We want to help our customers achieve the lowest overall cost of ownership for all the equipment in their plants, proactively preventing full-out breakdowns by alerting about a part that may need replacing before equipment fails.  

Our relationship with Precognize enables us to offer a higher level of service and create better efficiency for clients and a more sustainable global metal extraction industry. Using SAM GUARD®, both NOVA Hydromet and our customers will have better insights into what’s happening in their processes, ensuring fixes are made before unscheduled shutdowns occur, so they can run their plants more efficiently and enjoy greater up time.