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Digital solutions are transforming asset maintenance

03 July 2019

An effective predictive maintenance strategy demands an efficient response to the most urgent issues in the plant. Digital solutions are helping by increasing visibility into plant health through widespread condition monitoring, greater analysis-based maintenance activities, and better dissemination and access to the most important equipment health information to enhance decision-making.

The use of online condition monitoring for expensive and critical assets, such as compressors, is widespread, but this practice now extends to essential assets including pumps and fans. This has been enabled by compact field-mounted solutions, improvements in plant-wide digital communication and the availability of smart wireless devices.

The health of equipment, even remotely located, that may have been allowed to run to fail or was only assessed via periodic inspections, can now be monitored 24/7. This enables issues to be identified earlier and maintenance tasks to be better scheduled. Preventing unexpected equipment failures helps to reduce plant downtime. It also reduces overall maintenance costs, because performing scheduled maintenance is far less costly than unscheduled maintenance. There are also improvements in terms of maintenance resource efficiency, and plant and worker safety. The number and type of assets that are being monitored is rapidly expanding, aided by new wireless transmitters. For example, non-intrusive integrity monitoring systems are available that use unique sensor technology and wireless data delivery to continuously monitor pipework metal loss due to corrosion or erosion.

Complementing existing digital monitoring technology, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and smart sensors are enabling unprecedented amounts of new machinery health and process performance data to be generated from important assets and made available locally or remotely. 

Using secure, cloud-based solutions, this health data is then placed into the hands of experts, wherever they may be located. Manufacturers can perform data analysis in-house or use external experts such as automation technology suppliers to provide remote, continuous assessment of critical equipment and processes, and deliver the actionable insights maintenance departments need to improve performance.

Whether experts are working on site or remotely, analytics tools are helping them to convert the information provided by a plethora of sensors into intelligent insights. Preconfigured software applications are available for specific pieces of equipment (or processes) which continuously analyse both process data, such as flow, temperature and pressure, and asset health data, such as vibration and bearing temperature. 

To ensure that data reaches the right people, new mobile-ready asset performance platforms allow personnel to quickly access equipment health scores on mobile devices any time, from anywhere, and combine multiple views to more easily monitor facilities across multiple locations. This then enables maintenance teams to make more informed decisions impacting production.