Social distancing has ratcheted up the need for condition monitoring to get much smarter. Enterprising firms have not disappointed.
There’s a school of thought gathering traction that subscribes to the theory that the Covid-19 industrial aftermath is likely to accelerate the development of condition monitoring approaches.
Writing for Process Engineering online, principal lead consultant, integrity management, for ABB Energy Industries UK, Martin Brown, notes the dilemma facing many companies regarding maintenance: “Maintenance teams… are often reduced in numbers and need to maintain social distancing. Working patterns have also changed with some operators working extended shifts, so employees work the same hours but over just three days. All of these can have an impact on maintenance and inspection.”
In this context, the effectiveness of overall condition monitoring becomes paramount. Still more so the extension of monitoring methods that keep direct human involvement to a minimum.
Reducing people’s intervention in the ‘Four D’s’ – work that is dirty, distant, dangerous and dull – has long been a goal. Now there is an extra focus on a fifth element; data processing and dissemination.
Software AG’s TrendMiner 2020.R1 aims to bring a new level of sophistication to monitoring and analysis in a range of process sectors with the use of so-called soft sensors.
General manager Joan van de Wetering explains that what physical sensors cannot measure can be done by combining multiple correlated parameters within formulas. Engineers can now extend the monitors for operational performance through creating highly advanced soft sensors by using ‘nested calculations’ to optimise overall performance and product quality.
“All companies have been hit by global disruption to buying patterns and supply chains. A lot of which is out of their control. However, there are some areas where they can take action: they can make their process manufacturing more efficient and productive,” says Van de Wetering.
Users can now improve the structure, overview and logic in formulas, can combine formulas and their results for use within higher level formulas, employ a large number of variables within formulas, plus share and reuse complex formulas.
Events captured during process monitoring or from data residing in other business applications, such as the maintenance management can help identify new areas for performance improvement.
Digitalisation manager at LANXESS Sebastian Recker explains the benefit for them: “[This] opens new ways to monitor our production processes and makes it very easy to navigate through the contextual information of our operations. Learnings at one site can easily be shared with peers at other sites, bringing our overall performance to a higher level.”
All in the presentation
Mitsubishi likewise has sought to ensure that sensors deliver on the promise of lower maintenance costs and reduced downtime by ensuring data information is presented in a way that is convenient and relevant to the operations team.
Says a spokesperson: “It’s all well and good if a small LED changes from green to red out on a remote part of the plant but unless operators and maintenance engineers can see a clear beacon or monitor the information being provided easily from a control room or mobile device then the benefit is limited.”
Working in collaboration with Schaeffler sensor technology, the firm has created two smart condition monitoring solutions – one based on an integrated PLC solution and one using the intelligent functions of the 800 Series Variable Speed Drives.
Variable Speed Drives (VSDs) often include some form of predictive maintenance feature that helps preserve their health. A modern VSD can check the main capacitors or the inrush current on the circuit for anomalies. These more advanced measures can provide one of many life checks supported as standard on a higher-end device. It can also monitor the load characteristics of the equipment the VSD is controlling.
All companies have been hit by global disruption to buying patterns and supply chains… There are some areas where they can take action: they can make their process manufacturing more efficient and productive
Joan van de Wetering, general manager, TrendMiner
By harnessing the valuable data from the sensor and using the VSD to process the information into actionable insight, a Mitsubishi Electric 800 Series VSD will not only look after itself but also the general health of the complete drive train – from the motor through to the driven equipment.
Utilising the PLC functionality built-in to an 800 Series VSD, specific application code has been developed to work in conjunction with Schaeffler sensors. This allows the operator to directly monitor the VSD, motor and the rotating equipment the motor is connected to via the VSD. The program supports two individual sensors per VSD so both the motor and a gearbox, pump, compressor or fan can be monitored by the VSD.
Analysing and interpreting vibration patterns is done automatically by the smart condition monitoring system. The smart sensor automatically determines the appropriate alarm thresholds. As soon as enough measurement data is available, the pre-set alarm thresholds are automatically replaced by the newly determined ones which can monitor specific frequencies, such as those found in damaged rolling bearings, gear teeth and fan propellers.
A teach function allows the smart condition monitoring (SCM) sensor to learn how the machine behaves in its normal operating state and creates a memory map of the vibration readings. A database integrated into the sensor also contains data from Schaeffler for standard rolling bearings.
The smart sensor mounted on the rotating equipment feeds information back into the VSD and the VSD compares these vibrations with a look-up table held inside the internal PLC. This then determines the condition of the motor with reports either via: a traffic light system from the PLC code inside; the VSD’s keypad/display giving specific reasons for pre-alarms and what can be checked; or a local touchscreen HMI.
The key for us was to find a system with predictive maintenance technology onboard that could be linked to the existing SCADA system
Michael Plawecki, plant engineer, Muntons Malt
For a larger and more complex system a SCM solution includes multiple sensors, a physical PLC and an HMI. The SCM collects live data from the Schaeffler sensors, analyses it and then provides updates and warnings to anything from a smartphone or single HMI to multiple levels of management systems.
The ability to link multiple SCM sensors back to a single controller means several machines or a complete production line may be monitored. The system can work as a stand-alone or become part of a fully integrated solution allowing flexibility and scalability.
Muntons Malt, one of the UK’s largest producers of malted barley adopted Mitsubishi Electric’s SCM system to monitor fans and motors vital to its production process in which environmental conditions are critical to a consistent product, outlines plant engineer Michael Plawecki.
“The key for us was to find a system with predictive maintenance technology onboard that could be linked to the existing SCADA system and provide us with the maximum forewarning of any future issues yet was quick and easy to install,” he states.
Atlas Copco has similarly been quick to realise that data has little value if not speedily converted into insights with objectives attached. Hence SmartLink 2.0, the updated version of its remote monitoring system for compressed air equipment.
Simple dashboards provide an enhanced human machine interface allowing more interaction with air compressor systems and presenting information on potential failure/pressure drops/ required maintenance, to allow quicker responses.