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Condition based maintenance of mechanical components

Condition-based maintenance of mechanical components
How dumb components learn to talk

The condition-based maintenance discussions have some parallels with Bizet’s Opera l’Arlésienne, everybody talks about it but, like the protagonist never shows up in the opera, only few can show real live applications. Performing maintenance of industrial sites based upon a need instead of on a scheduled time interval is widely accepted as the right thing to do, so why are there only few who do this?

A recent study by the World Economic Forum and the consulting firm Accenture lends substance to the high hopes currently riding on predictive maintenance. According to the study, it can reduce the cost of planned repairs by 12 %, cut maintenance costs by almost 30 % and reduce unscheduled downtime by a massive 70 %. Present tools to monitor the condition of process equipment like safety valves (PSV) are too expensive to procure and install. Consequently, many process and equipment parameters to define the health of such devices are simply not monitored. Maintenance is performed following a fixed plan and the equipment is removed for tests, even when nothing is wrong. With Ideation’s “no threshold” solution the previously dumb equipment can now be monitored continuously. It allows customers to start with one piece of equipment and an app.

Roots in off-shore platforms

The Ideation concept finds its roots in off-shore O&G production platforms and terminals, where maintenance is a significant customer burden. An average oil platform has more than 500 silent mechanical devices that need periodic maintenance interventions to make sure that they operate within specifications. Many of these must even be periodically dismantled for testing and refurbishing, an enormous cost.

Of course, these maintenance practises are also happening in other industries. The preventive scheduled maintenance interventions are a high cost for many businesses. Often, historical data is used as a measure for reducing the intervals between interventions, it helps to reduce cost – but it is definitely not a prediction for future behaviour of the equipment.

The widely available new and off the shelve technologies bring the required solutions to reduce the installed cost of the condition monitoring devices. Historical data shows that only 3 % of the serviced devices on standard oil rigs really need an intervention. No need to say that removing, for example, a PSV is a costly undertaking, especially when scaffolding is to be built, explosive atmospheres need to be monitored and/or parts of plants must be shut down for these interventions. Especially the example of PSV underlines how easy to install equipment can change the maintenance costs.

Condition-based maintenance

The CBM Predictor from Ideation is a sophisticated multifunctional wireless battery-operated information server with the functionality for abnormal condition detection (ACD) of uninstrumented equipment in the process industry. The on-board processor can be equipped with up to eight sensors for specific applications. All data processing, filtering and mathematical calculations are performed locally, the CBM Predictor only sends actionable information to the outside world. In the following paragraph, we expand on three of many typical applications for this technology.

Minimum temperature monitoring

Often, process equipment like pipelines is provided with additional heating systems to warrant that the transported medium stays within temperature specifications. To avoid single points of failure, it is often required to monitor the health of the heating system separately from the standard control systems. The CBM Predictor guards the temperature, reports abnormal condition via a Bluetooth message and keeps the time-stamped events in the internal stack. The user can then consult detailed and historical information via the Android app or via the Gateway. The stored events are alarm, revert and every ten minutes when in alarm condition.

Monitoring of pressure safety valves

Most process safety valves (PSV) are pure mechanical devices and are un-instrumented and rarely connected to a DCS system. It is thus almost impossible to know if they are functioning properly, if they opened recently and/or if they re-seated without leaking. The CBM Predictor analyses and records these abnormal situations, stores the time-stamped events on its internal memory, plus reports an abnormal condition via a Bluetooth message. Also in this case, the user can request detailed and historical information via the Android app or via the Gateway.

Humidity detection in enclosures

When provided with a humidity sensor, the same CBM Predictor can monitor the humidity in cabinets and other enclosures. The sensor is directly mounted on the CBM Predictor and penetrates the enclosure via the cable gland. The CBM Predictor measures humidity, stores the time-stamped events/data on its internal memory and reports an abnormal condition via a Bluetooth message. The user can then request detailed and historical information directly via the Android app or via the Gateway. The stored event data is on alarm, on revert and every ten minutes when in alarm condition, similar to the minimum temperature application.

Ideation is currently working on further applications for the CBM Predictor, always with a focus on monitoring dumb components. While in Bizet‘s opera the hero remains unhappy, a solution has been found for the problem of dumb devices in process plants.

Ideation AS, Gernsheim, Germany

Author: Alexander Schmidt

Advisor to the Board,


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