With respect to the monitoring of equipment health, I remember my “aha” moment, which came about following my introduction to Harry Rosen’s TAS Online, which has been involved in the monitoring and performance optimisation of pumping systems for significantly longer than the 11 years I have spent at Crown Publications.
Back in 2008, Eskom was still driving energy efficiency through its demand side management (DSM) initiative to ease demand on the overstretched national grid. Since the energy cost of pumping systems accounts for 90% of total system costs over their 10 or 20 year life, even small improvements in energy efficiency can amount to massive savings in terms of money and kWh consumed. Back then, energy efficiency was seen as low-hanging fruit for pump users and the electricity generator. Given current constraint on power availability, this is perhaps as true as ever.
TAS Online has long offered a pump performance monitoring service based on measuring electrical energy use and the actual pressure and flow of systems. This enables the real operating point (pressure versus flow) of pumps to be established, plotted onto the original pump curve and compared to the system’s best efficiency point (BEP). The energy-use data then enables the pump efficiency to be determined and tracked.
And TAS Online was an early adopter of the use of cellular networks and connected sensors to upload data for remote analysis.
“Aha” moments are obvious as soon as they hit you. They make you wonder why you took so long to make the link. Mine was this: efficiency is meaningless without measurement. To determine how efficient a machine is, one has to compare what is actually happening to what should be happening.
A no-brainer, I hear you think. But this simple fact brings the realisation that routine measurement is an essential prerequisite for all effective efficiency management. Efficiency and data go hand in hand. TAS Online monitoring, therefore, “… provides instant graphical verification of pump performance in relation to the pump curves and to the system requirements”.
We include a special report in this issue featuring the rebranding and relaunch of Martec, the condition monitoring company originally founded by Mario Kuisis, who used to write the Mario on Maintenance column. A cornerstone of Martec’s offering, from the beginning, was the ultrasonic detection equipment from SDT.
Back in August 2010, we published a story called ‘Listening for leaks: simple ultrasonic condition monitoring’. Martec’s product manager for SDT at that time, Tommy Roes, compared ultrasonic detection technology to a doctor using a stethoscope to “listen to your breathing or your heartbeat”.
By sending an ultrasonic shock pulse into a material and ‘listening’ for the echo, SDT monitors hear “ultrasound that is naturally generated due to friction – the airborne ultrasound created between an escaping gas and its surroundings or the structure-borne ultrasound generated by the friction between moving or rotating components,” Roes explained in the article.
At the Martec relaunch celebration Adriaan Scheeres, CEO of Martec’s current parent company, the Pragma Group, compared Martec’s condition monitoring offering to an ECG monitoring a patient’s heartbeat. “We want to be able to predict exactly when an asset will fail and understand exactly why,” he said.
Reliability and Engineered are the two words associated with the new Martec logo, reflecting that “… we implement reliability from an engineering perspective. Custom made solutions are necessary that are specifically engineered to client and plant needs, with asset reliability and plant integrity as key goals,” explained Martec’s new MD, Johannes Coetzee.
Talking later in the company’s technical area, he introduced the primary reason for the new brand: Industry 4.0. “This is the real level shift for Martec, which we call ‘In-time monitoring and diagnostics’. “We want to take Industry 4.0 into real use, making plants more reliable, improving throughput and profitability. We strive to bring all these together in a real way by monitoring, collecting, analysing and, most importantly, using the data to diagnose and track plant health …” Johannes said.
But the ‘real’ approach he describes still involves people with the highest levels of skills. Using the remote managing capacities of Industry 4.0 enables many distributed assets around the country to be managed by a small group of dedicated specialists for each equipment type, he suggested.
Because of much higher network speeds and data capacity, Industry 4.0 enables much more powerful use of condition monitoring tools, with automatic data analytics making “in-time diagnostics” possible.
But let us never forget that the real value of Industry 4.0 and the IIoT is built on years of work by experienced engineers who know and understand exactly what the machines in their care should be doing and the importance of listening, measuring, monitoring and sensing to determine the difference between what is expected and what is actually happening.