Lower-cost sensors pave the way for better plant maintenance

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The Internet of Things (IoT) and recent technological advances in 3G/GSM/GRRS technology and connectivity together with sensor miniaturisation have resulted in the availability of a wide range of remote monitoring devices, which can be quickly installed and instantly connected. These offer real-time visibility to see not only what needs doing, but crucially, when it needs attention, for maintenance, FM or on a production line.

Plant maintenance and process monitoring based on real information, appropriate for a broad range of situations, has increased in popularity due to sensor cost reductions and better connectivity.

In 2020 it is estimated there will be 50 billion connected devices in our buildings compared with 7 billion people living on the planet. Connected devices, also called remote monitoring, can enable process to be monitored, measured, controlled and optimised as never before. Through the adoption of remote monitoring technology business large and small will increase efficiency and profitability.

Remote monitoring is usually 1/10th the cost of legacy systems or even human intervention. Companies know they should be using connected devices; after all who would not want to prevent a critical process line or chiller system from failing? Yet very few organisations understand how to adopt and benefit from remote monitoring. Condition Based Maintenance – where the systems tell you when they need attention before they break down – is now wholly affordable. Collecting and analysing equipment-related information provides the strategic insight necessary to prevent asset failure and extend operational life.

One of the biggest capital investment questions for any organisation is: “When should I replace these assets?” MCP and associated partner IoT analysed the reactive maintenance requests on a capital-intensive asset for a client. They found that after 14,000 run hours the maintenance costs increased considerably.

Questions inevitably arise from the companies we work with, such as: “How do we do it and how can I ensure it will be profitable” and: “How do I know I am monitoring the right things, and will it be cost effective?”

Over 20 years’ experience working across manufacturing, FM, and property services has enabled an understanding of the integration of sensors, software and networks.

First it is important to understand the needs of the company and its business case.

Case study 1: Temperature sensors

A globally renowned beverage company had suffered a chiller failure in their server room. This caused the manufacturing line to halt, costing £1M /day in lost production.

For FMCG processing companies, like this example, temperature is everything; following investigation it was apparent that monitoring of all chiller systems was necessary.

A large building management company quoted £13M to deliver a data system solution. The alternative system from MCP/IoT came in at less than £4 per day to have real-time visibility at each critical location. After a site survey it was recommended that several low-cost, retrofit, remote monitoring sensors be used. The devices needed no cabling, no skilled electricians, consultants, mains power and no permits. Total installation time 20 minutes per chiller room!

Case study 2: Power usage

Many manufacturing clients are identifying ‘losses’ across their plants from sub-metering equipment and process lines. They are using sensor technology to identify when equipment is left running when, in fact, it should be turned off.

As a result energy usage of the asset is understood. The effects of energy management projects, that use sub-metering to base line the consumption, validate the savings they are achieving after changes to capital equipment.

In conclusion, the benefit of detection sensors is that they continually collect and exchange data with other devices within any selected network. Each device has a range of alerts, which can be configured to send notifications to anyone, anywhere, in the world or even used to raise a work order in your CMMS/CAFM platform. This cloud-based software offers users a real-time data dashboard, so that organisations can check on the asset performance from any device on any operating system.

No-one is suggesting for one minute that organisations replace statutory tests with sensors. However the use of remote monitoring systems reduces the cost of those statutory tests.

It is the continuous monitoring of the assets performance that enables organisations to resolve issues – leading to improvements in plant reliability and reductions in maintenance and asset lifecycle costs, something that can’t be ignored.

Industry’s aim should be to understand the problem and adopt the right option for the situation through the delivery of cost saving programmes as well as the installation of sensors to make intelligence gathering easier, and to use these analytics to drive business insights and underpin the organisation’s future strategy.

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