Welcome to our first podcast episode of our Questtec Talks. If you haven’t had a chance to listen, click play now! If you’d rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Enjoy and let us know if there is anything we can do for you!
Ben Coutee (00:13):
Hey, good afternoon. This is Ben Coutee with Questtec Solutions. It is two o’clock here in Houston, and we are at the Questtec facility. I’m sitting here with Owais Arshad and wanted to welcome you to our new series of podcasts. The goal here is to be able to bring more information to you guys online, in a different way. You know, I would hope that either you’re driving down the road, listening to us, whether it’s specific topics, specific applications, technologies, we want to be able to put as much information as we can out there for you guys to learn and, and talk to your customers. Or hopefully you are one of our customers, you know, watching this, and you can pick up something specific about an issue you may be having in the field. So you should see a lot of topics for us today.
Ben Coutee (01:02):
We wanted to start with something simple. We’ll talk about mag gauges, a little bit about troubleshooting, issues that we’ve come across, you know, how we approach certain things from the front end, as far as designed to alleviate any issues we might see. but we want to break it down into a couple of different categories. Talk a little bit about transmitters, how Owais structured that over the years to a somewhat simple formula of how we attack, attack that. so without further ado, I have a waist here with me, and we want to go ahead and get into it. We appreciate you guys joining in. We hope that this becomes a good tool for you here in the future and be on the lookout for as many episodes as we can get out there. And if you have specific topics that you want us to cover by all means, let us know, this is for you guys and, yeah, we hope you enjoy so OAS, thanks for joining in,
Owais Arshad (01:55):
My pleasure, hope that on mumble too much, but try my best to be clear and, talk very simply about, Mag gauges.
Ben Coutee (02:04):
Yeah, absolutely. And just so everybody knows we’re, this is a new thing for us. It was, something that I opened the box for all this podcast equipment and got a little overwhelmed, but I think we’re figuring it out. We’re working through it. I like the fact that we’re here in the shop, a little bit removed here in our training room if you’ve ever been in the facility, but you may hear some things in the background. We’ve got these cool microphones and they might be picking up some noise, but you at least, you know, we’re working, and it shouldn’t be anything that interrupts too, too bad. but again, yeah, keep in mind where we’re working through this.
Owais Arshad (02:39):
All right. Well, if we want to get started mags, magnetic level indicators, mag gauges, you know, they go by the several different names. the applications, we’re for talking troubleshooting in general with regards to max, I think the keys always knowing the application, the most important things to know about a magnet are always going to be the minimum specific gravity pressure and temp that the mag was applied to first. and then, you know, if you can learn a little bit about the process or, the application, the magazine, that’s going to be key in trying to figure out what’s going on. I think, the last four years since I’ve been here, at quest tech, what I’ve seen mostly if barely any, but generally the issues have been if the, even though they’ve been far and few in between, has generally been just misspeaking the specific gravity and not knowing the application, appropriately, but also as well as pressure.
Owais Arshad (03:43):
I think one view something people need to realize, you do kind of get what you asked for. If you specify a certain SG pressure and temp DAS, what that float is going to be most likely rated for, if you want the float to be rated for something higher, simply specify that, got to realize that a float is not an ANSI rated product. So it doesn’t, you know, fall in line with class one 50 flanges, a class 300, could it be designed for that? yeah, but you gotta specify that, you know, so a lot of times, people are expecting one thing from a float, and, but specifying something else. So it’s about, you know, specifying, which
Ben Coutee (04:27):
Yeah, absolutely. One of the approaches in the field is when I look at Questtec in comparison to any of our competition when it comes to Mag gauges, one of the things that, that I always stick with is, you know, because we do everything under one roof here from Mag gauges to sight glass, to, you know, tubular all the way down. I mean, it, it, it gives us a bigger fail, safe to say, you know, Hey, a magazine might not be right for this application B and you’re talking about application. I think it is upfront. It’s the most important thing with a magazine to understand, Maggie is going to perform to what, the information that that’s provided to us. So if it’s coming from, you know, an operator in the field, you know, we want to work back with engineering and talk a little bit about, you know, the, the application itself.
Ben Coutee (05:18):
We need both perspectives. We need to know what’s happening in the field from an operational standpoint, if there’s flashing or if, boiling or, and those things can be, you know, you can figure that out on a data sheet and talking to engineering, but, but there are things that are happening in the field that we need to plan for and design for. If things are coming up and down, you know, frequently, you get those carbon steel finds running through your pipe and it’ll attach to your float at some point and while your float down, you know, so when I think of troubleshooting on mag gauges, I think it all ties to the application and understanding how it was designed on the front end. again, I relate that back to the fact that we have everything under one roof. If, if I at an application and there’s, I want for a mag gauge and three companies are quoting this mag age and Questtec and OAS. And I look at it and say, well, it’s got flashing or boiling, you know, and we spec it out and design it for that, that the next company doesn’t and our price, you know, is 30% higher. Well, we feel confident in what we quoted because it should work, and it should work for the long haul.
Owais Arshad (06:20):
yeah, it’s a mag gauge is definitely a consultive sale. It’s not a product you want to sell blindly without knowing too much about your application. So knowing the application is definitely key.
Ben Coutee (06:31):
Yeah, absolutely. I think upfront it’s one of the most important things. I don’t see a lot of troubleshooting on mag gauges themselves, you know, it’s like you said, it’s all about application.
Owais Arshad (06:43):
Yeah. I get calls and half the time, or more than half the time customers already diagnosed with themselves as I had one, just the other day, they were pretty sure the instrument wasn’t designed for interface and they had an interface application, and this load is always floating at a hundred percent because it’s not sinking past the top level and floating on the interface of the two levels and go back to the serial number is how we trace everything here. and clearly what was specified to us was not an interface application. So, it’s basic troubleshooting like that. I mean, just knowing the application can help you solve the problem on a Mac age.
Ben Coutee (07:20):
Yeah. I think the, the thought process behind doing something like this, sitting here and having this conversation is, and the fact that, you know, hopefully our, what our reps take from this and you guys are listening to this right now is understanding the application is the most important part, just gathering. The information that we ask for is, is super, super important, but the more detail we can get from the customer about one, are we replacing another mag age? because that’s a lot of what we do is, Hey, we’re having issues with this Mac agent needs to be replaced. Well, the first time that was sold, it was probably in a more competitive situation where people were recording the bare minimum to make sure they got the job, but it might’ve needed something, you know, like an oversized chamber with guide rods, you know, if it was dirty service or full-bore connections, or, you know, all these different things.
Ben Coutee (08:09):
So, having the conversation with the customer upfront or letting the customer know and setting the expectation that, Hey, we want to do what, what’s not just going to get us the PO, but in six months, it’s going to continue to work. And on the other side of it, you don’t want to sell something. Yeah. In a few months, we’re going to be getting service calls about it. So application to me is the most important thing on my gauges. And I attribute all troubleshooting to the magazine itself, back to the original, design based on the information we have.
Owais Arshad (08:43):
I took a hundred percent agree.
Ben Coutee (08:45):
Yeah. When it comes to transmitters, I think that’s where most of my troubleshooting calls have been over the years. so much of that is dictated by what’s in the field as well. You know, when you talk about wiring and electronics, let’s talk a little bit about the system that we use, that if one of our, reps was on the road or, or with a customer, you know, that they can use to at least gather the information, to let us know we’re looking at this the right way.
Owais Arshad (09:14):
Okay. Yeah. just moving backwards just a little bit for a few seconds, serial number, serial number, serial number, it’s key to us being able to pull paperwork fast for you. you know, we can, you know, I don’t need, I only need the serial number of the mat gauge. I don’t need all the other ancillary equipment that’s on the mat gauge if we sold it. It’s all traceable back to that. Mag Gates real number. So for troubleshooting purposes, that’s the quickest route in all honesty. now going back forward, transmitters honestly been a passion of mine, been in the industry for about 15 years, 16 years now. so I have worked with transmitters the whole time. and I have a passion for McNeil strictly in, in, in particular, I think the great instruments, and they get when they’re utilized properly.
Owais Arshad (10:06):
They’re, I mean, they’re flawless honestly, but they can leave a bad taste in your mouth if they’re not applied correctly, or if, you know, something has gone wrong and feel from the beginning that has nothing to do with even the instrument. So with regards to troubleshooting, a transmitter, and you’re gonna, you’re going to hear me say, you’re going to hear me say transmitter a lot, and speak generally, because these ideas that I’ve kind of come up with, I’ve just kind of built up over time and, and they can be applied to any four to 20 instruments in my personal opinion could be wrong, but that part of it’s kinda my opinion. So, again, so the first thing I do when someone calls about, a, a problem with the transmitter, I want to know what symptoms, what is it doing, current wise, what is its output doing?
Owais Arshad (10:59):
if that can be described, it can be highly helpful, because transmitters are designed to do certain things, when they’re not operating correctly. and then so whatever it’s doing can then be systemized and we can possibly look it up on a chart and and know what the issue is. But, the most common issue that occurs with, Magneto, stricter transmitters in general, that I’ve, that I have seen, and witnessed and serviced and, you know, still continuously take calls on, every now and then, is basically the instrument will behave erratically or what the customer, you know, observes as being erratic behavior where it’s, either reading the correct reading for a while and then jumping to, and a condition where it’s either goes into some sort of alarm mode or jumping to some random value, or it’s continuously erratic, meaning it’s not holding a constant state of reading, and that can be caused by many different scenarios and how hopefully I’ll touch up on, on all those scenarios here.
Owais Arshad (12:08):
But the first rule of thumb in my opinion is I want to figure out is the issue, the instrument, where’s the issue coming from the plant side, meaning the wiring or the power supply, or a combination of the two. so the first thing, if I, if I could ever recommend anyone in field to do is, you know, invest in a multimeter, or a loop power supply, meter, because the first thing I’m going to ask anyone to do at all times is isolate. Meaning I want you to physically take the wiring off the instrument. So, so you’re removing it from the field wiring and the fields plant supply, and you are now going to power it locally, where they look calibrator.
Ben Coutee (12:53):
So this is multi meter or a loop. Calibrator is just a, it’s an external power source,
Owais Arshad (12:59):
External power source, locally battery power, pure V DC voltage, meaning no noise can be introduced into that scenario. So what I’m trying to do there is to figure out is the instrument, is the issue lying with the instrument, or is it lying in combination with the instrument and the wiring and the plant supply? So if you isolate it, power it, and it begins to behave just fine. You know what your issue may not be the instrument at this point, you may need to look deeper, further down the line, along the wiring, along the power supply. And, you know, everyone wants to think and all honesty, you know, no one wants to say, Oh, we wired a band, a plant incorrectly, or we did something wrong while wiring. But I think I’ve had maybe one case in my 16-year career where it was the instrument and not something, right.
Ben Coutee (13:56):
So you mentioned noise. I mean, that’s something that is a common occurrence, I think with plant wiring and these instruments. Yeah.
Owais Arshad (14:03):
It is a very common occurrence. So what can go on is, the most recent service call I had was, maybe late last year or, or really early this year or January where I just, I kinda knew it just wasn’t the instrument, customers complain about this thing always, showing below 0%, meeting that tells me this was a bottom Mount instrument that the head was at the bottom, the level of somewhere at 50% in, in the mag gauge. And, but the instrument is showing 3.5 milliamps, which is a failure mode, of the instrument or it’s, it’s, it’s showing something some level random level jumping between some random level between where the actual level is at and where the electronics head is at. So at that point, I’m thinking, you know, I have, I have the [inaudible] project engineer saying they just want a new transmitter.
Owais Arshad (14:59):
And I’m like, do you mind if I come out there and check this thing out for you? And you know, let’s, let’s look at it together. Cause I T this was a 10-foot transmitter. It’s not going to be easy to get a warranty unit out there. So let me go look at it. So we go look at it. And, as soon as I, you know, isolate it, first thing I do when I get there, this thing works just fine. So I’m like, okay, we now have to work backwards. Now we gotta work backwards. So let’s go to your supply. Let’s see what’s going on. Basically in the end, what we learned was, unfortunately, the wire, this instrument was so far from the rest of the plane. I guess they had such a tight schedule. They couldn’t get the light, the correct wiring, the correct loop wiring, in time to complete their project, and what they ended up using in all honesty, which I do not recommend is residential power wiring, meaning the same wiring that you see in your home.
Owais Arshad (16:02):
You see, you see a ground, you see a, a positive and a neutral, basically your AC wiring. It’s just a bundle of three cables is what they were able to get their hands on. That was a long enough run to get it all the way to this instrument, which had to be 3000 feet away. and this was, you know, really far from the rest of the plant. So, you know, this instrument was picking up noise, all 40 20 instruments in all honesty will always need twisted, shielded pair of wiring. So your plus and minus wires must be twisted, and it must have some sort of shield running along with those wires. So what’s the difference in the power and the wiring they used. It’s just three separate wires bundled together in one jacket. one of them, you can say behaves like a shield, but they’re also not twisted.
Owais Arshad (16:57):
They’re also, twisting wires has a special, phenomenon that occurs that helps cancel out noise throughout long run. So we did something awkward, that, normally you wouldn’t do, but again, what’s happened. Isn’t normal either. shouldn’t necessarily be using that wiring. so, what may be considered an electrical no-no actually works here. you’ve ground the ground wire at the power supply and at the instrument, and that solve their problem. You, it was kind of uncanny to watch this happen. They would connect the ground wire at the power supply. And then we sat there, and they took the ground wire of the instrument and they touch the housing. And you watched the instrument work that removed it from the housing, and you watched the instrument go haywire. This was within a second. This is what happened. So, you know, in this case, the, the issue, in my opinion, was the wiring.
Owais Arshad (17:59):
the way we isolated it to the wiring was, I went back with my Lou calibrator all the way back to where the power supply was. And I put my loop calibrator on their wiring, and this instrument was still noisy. And I was like, you know what, it’s not their power supply because this loop calibrators pure DC, its battery powered. It’s got no noise on it. So this thing is picking up noise from the plant throughout something else’s weird is going on. You know, they’re claiming to me that it’s a continuous run of wire. okay, I’ll take your word for it. It’s good. 10 years, Ron, you have no breaks in the wire anywhere, but what we learned in the end, and it was continuous that we did learn that if you ground the shield on, on both ends in this case, because it was residential wiring, it helped us instrument work. Yeah.
Ben Coutee (18:46):
well, I, you know, I mean the main thing is it through use of what we’ll call isolation is step one, that alone can tell you so much about how the transmitter’s performing and then it can either one eliminates the transmitters, the issue from what I’m understanding, quickly or validate that your transmitter has an issue quickly. So it should be step one in all cases. and we’ll, we’ll leave the name of that plan out. No worries. Yeah. Yeah.
Owais Arshad (19:17):
Purposely left it out because I’ve seen it in more than once.
Ben Coutee (19:20):
Well, we’ve seen, I mean, you know, what you see in the field, you see things everywhere. And I, the point is having the knowledge base here to work with, anything that’s out there, but through the simple use of the formula through isolation first, we should be able to identify what’s happening. so after isolation, what, what else are we looking into?
Owais Arshad (19:38):
now this is going to sound like I’m saying the same thing, but it’s not, grounding the instrument, meaning earth grounding the instrument locally, most every four to 20, you know, transmitter has some sort of ground lug on the outside of its housing. and if we believe that noise is, is, is a scenario here after isolation, and you’ve proven that, that the instrument works fine when you isolate it earth grounding. The instrument is very key and very important, to do that. the third thing, which, you know, we like to think we send every instrument out here, you know, ready, set, go, meaning all the co all we want the customer to do is bring power to it. They don’t have to recalibrate these things. Don’t have to rearrange them. We test them here. We make them function to the specified range that the customer specified to from the very beginning. So, configuration, of the instrument is key, and knowing how to configure the instrument can be key because a lot of times, you know, these things will get in field and folks don’t know if these things were configured or not, by the factory, just know that everything you get from Questtec is, we don’t want, you know, people to have to do configuration in the field. We’re trying to alleviate all that. That’s, you know, we’re kind of a turnkey package that way.
Ben Coutee (21:07):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think we, we utilize that as many times as we can and be able to say, look, w everything came to you calibrated, ready to go. But really what it does for us is it eliminates the questions in troubleshooting. If they do call about it, we know what was done, you know, on the front end. And as long as we can verify they haven’t made any major changes. then you know, we know where to start.
Owais Arshad (21:30):
So one of my, you know, second or third questions is, has anyone tried to reconfigure this thing in field? So if they have, there’s a good chance, you know, they’ve miscalibrated or misery ranged it, which can cause a phenomenon of erratic behavior from a four to 20 instruments. the other reason, you know, instruments, in general is when they’re not applied. Right? And, and I hope I say this correctly, mechanically, you know, magnetostrictive transmitter, electronics, sensor probes, you know, these things aren’t designed to see high heat directly. So if it’s not designed appropriately, meaning there’s a blanket involved and the sensor probe is outside the blanket when there’s heat involved, or the electronics are remoted, if they can be, if the, if the design from the beginning is not appropriate, the transmitter could be feeling the effects of the application in this case, for example, heat.
Owais Arshad (22:27):
so heat’s eventually going to deteriorate this thing. That’s going to weaken the signal that the transmitter sees, and that could be the problem you’re having. It could be an application knowing the application of the mag and was the transmitter applied correctly to it, configuration, you know, these things are configured here from, zero to a hundred percent here, based on drawings that we generally, send during an approval drawing process. and we give, we actually give, and a lot of people may not realize that we give a little bit of extra dead band on our instruments, meaning I’m not operating my zero and a hundred percent at its minimum extremities have a little cushion in there, meaning, you know, so to ensure that this, this, this isn’t going to be the issue, you know, for the end user, because a lot of times people, you know, they love that. They love the specifications on paper. Oh, this thing’s only got a dead band of two inches. Well, you know, if my design isn’t really affected by a two-inch dead band, why can’t I push it to a four-inch dead band and just get you away from the end of the industry?
Ben Coutee (23:31):
Well, you push it outside of where the float can physically travel, and we keep ourselves in range.
Owais Arshad (23:37):
So, you know, these instruments are designed to communicate to you in a certain way. Four to 20 is zero to a hundred percent. So what happens when something goes wrong with this instrument, it’s got to do something it’s got to let you know that something is going wrong with it. And most of these instruments are designed to go into a failure mode. they go high, low, or some are even able to hold out, meaning they’ll hold their last good reading while flagging to you on a display or through a heart communicator that, Hey, I’m actually air. I’m just holding my last good output. But most of them go either higher, low meaning above 20 milliamps or below four. Right. and in our case, by default, we pretty much send every instrument out here, magnetostrictive wise, at, fail low. so they, so if anything goes, you know, something wrong, the instruments going to communicate to you by going 3.5 milliamps.
Ben Coutee (24:29):
And that’s just another thing that we do. So we know when somebody calls, you know, where our failures should be, helps us eliminate things as we’re traveling.
Owais Arshad (24:38):
And that’s not to say that failing high is not an option. It’s definitely an option that can be changed in field. It can be changed through the display can be changed through a Hart communicator. Yeah.
Ben Coutee (24:47):
If that, if that’s going to cause a reaction, you know, somewhere else in the plant, you know, they can specify where they want their failure. But of course, we’re trying to keep them from having that failure by doing things like setting that the dead ban outside of the range of the float travels. okay. So if you were going to break that down into, what to take away from this, you know, through the talk of the transmitters, it’s first to isolate
Owais Arshad (25:15):
Isolation, earth grounding, and then consider the configuration of the instrument. and that’s, that’s one, two and three on the transmitter side, but even before the transmitter side, look at the application of the mag, if this transplanters on the outside of a mag, look at that first, make sure that it’s not being affected by just the way it was designed.
Ben Coutee (25:38):
Absolutely. Yeah. And it goes back to the beginning of, of how we troubleshoot Mag gauges. The way I troubleshoot a man gauge is to talk about the application and how it’s functioning in the field. is there a simple, you can go grab an external magnet, go out and find the float if you need to, you know, and that’s, that’s not saying you need to, in every situation, if you want to verify where your float is. Yeah, absolutely. You can go find it with an external magnet.
Owais Arshad (26:00):
Well, take a paper clip if you needed a magnet, if you’re just trying to find the float. Yeah. The paperclip we’ll do a paper clip for you. Cause you’re not trying to move the, if you’re not trying to move the float or the flags take anything, that’s, you know, Ferris take a paperclip, take a screwdriver, a feel around the chamber for a magnetic field, that that could help solve a lot of problems. Okay.
Ben Coutee (26:21):
Well, lastly, what, what do you recommend, as far as equipment that a plant would keep on hand or what’s realistic for a salesman to keep on hand new deals with these, you know, often,
Owais Arshad (26:33):
I mean, if, if our, if our reps are, or a salesman are offering service, you know, to their end user or our customer in the end, I think the best investment anyone can make, personally is are these little, fluke meters. I think we use the seven 89, the multimeter fluke seven 89, basically. It’s it has the ability to it’s a multimeter, so it can measure resistance. It can measure all sorts of things for you, but what it does that is most valuable, in my opinion, is it, it can power the instrument while measuring the current for you. so you’re able to isolate from the plant supply and that can tell you a lot about the incident, you know, a lot about what’s going on, really quick. so I think investing in a loop calibrator type, multimeter is, probably my initial recommendation
Ben Coutee (27:25):
For the plan or for the salesman. Yeah.
Owais Arshad (27:27):
and there are plants out there just, they don’t invest in that, which is really shocking to me. It was like, you guys have four to 20 instruments here. That would be the first thing I would
Ben Coutee (27:39):
Or communicator. I mean, is that something that’s still pretty prevalent
Owais Arshad (27:42):
If I do it is, is very prevalent, but, you know, those things are pricey and I, and I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to invest in those, but they have their value. They’re, they’re highly valuable. If you’ve got the funds for it, you should, it, it allows for quick configuration of all, you know, heart instruments.
Ben Coutee (28:01):
Well, as far as our transmitters are concerned, you know, I think the digital display allows for so much now that through that and through the formula of, you know, isolation, earth, ground, and then considering the configuration, you should be able to work with everything that you need to, you know, from a plan’s perspective or we could travel, you know, I mean, I know you and I have taken trips together to go look at different things and, you know, we have everything we need to, to go out and services equipment, whether it’s just through a heart communication program, you know, that we keep with us, or, like you said, these little flute meters or
Owais Arshad (28:38):
Yeah. and you, you know, Hart communicator, it allows for basic configuration of the instrument as generally all that’s needed. the other thing I would like to remind everyone, again, our goal is a set it and forget it type thing. You really don’t have to touch these, these settings in these instruments, because they’re not going to change on their own. they’re having to lose themselves over time. so, you know, when an instrument is calibrated for 36 inches, it’s calibrated for 36 inches, it’s not matching, you’re going to start putting the four to 20 out that represents something else. So unless someone else has gone in at some point and change that configuration and maybe rightfully so, maybe that’s what they needed to do because their application changed a little bit by the time that unit was sold. But generally you don’t have to get into the configuration side of things with turnkey, with everything we’re doing, because we have approval drawings, we’re matching it to the approval drawings. and the only time I see that being necessary of something has changed in the time we sold it to the time it got in field and installed. So, well, good.
Ben Coutee (29:42):
Well, great. Well, I think, you know, through this, we should have at least the formula to be able to talk with our customers about how we attack working with the transmitters in it. This isn’t just a Questtec and MTS transmitter issue. This is, if we’re going on to look at a replacement, this is where we need to start anyway to make sure that we don’t put out the same thing. That’s going to have the same issue. Perfect. Okay. Well, great. Well, I appreciate it. good to have number one out of the way. I think we’ll be doing plenty more of them, want to thank our sponsors for today, our sponsors for today, actually, right. And Shelley, cause they let us take these ideas I have. And let me go spend some money and set up this podcast room. So
Ben Coutee (30:34):
Be on the lookout for more of these. Like I said, we’re going to keep these coming. We want to keep them from anywhere from a few minutes up to 30, 45 minutes. Probably no longer than that. the goal is if you’re on the road or you’re heading home to, and from the office or in between, you know, sales calls, we want to give you guys the opportunity to learn a little bit and be able to go with a little more knowledge to the next call. So thanks Owais. I appreciate it. We look forward to doing some more of these with you here in the future. Talking about Mag gauges. Yeah.
Absolutely. No. We want this to start a conversation. send it to your customers, send it to everybody. We appreciate it.
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