Lisa Gingell, director, t-mac Technologies, explains how monitoring systems used to track the condition of plant floor equipment can be used to pre-empt and reduce machinery downtime - extending a machine’s lifespan
Monitoring the temperature, of both the environment and equipment, is critical for many process, control and manufacturing businesses to ensure a continued effective operation. Being able to control and highlight areas of inefficient operation quickly will prevent costly damage and downtime – which no business can afford.
To avoid wasting time and money, businesses need to better understand their machinery and run an efficient, productive operation in safe and ideal temperatures. However, many businesses are generally unaware of how inefficiently equipment is functioning until it is too late. In these circumstances, faulty apparatus can cause equipment inefficiencies and damage from over-heating, impacting on production and having costly implications for the businesses’ bottom line.
Extending equipment lifecycle
The need for preventative maintenance, and the desire to extend the lifecycle of equipment and minimise machine downtime, has resulted in the ongoing development of effective condition monitoring systems, which incorporate energy management and equipment diagnostics.
For example, the t-mac system offers equipment performance management, controls, and diagnostics; making it easier to monitor process and control equipment. This is an important aide for the industry, where a number of critical machines will be in constant operation throughout the day.
Once installed, a system like this monitors a specific asset and its conditions, allowing reports on the temperature and other variables to be collected electronically. The technology communicates directly with machine control panels to read equipment diagnostics and fault codes.
Such technology can be used in process facilities for remote management and maintenance of equipment to pre-empt and reduce machinery downtime, ultimately extending a machine’s lifespan.
From continuous monitoring, instant alerts can be sent to site managers via SMS and/or email if conditions fall out with the preset criteria. Through the alerting section of the software, a log is maintained and the user can review against the warning level (high-low) assigned to each alert. This real-time access to information, on for example machine conditions and fault codes, enables managers to view critical data first hand and act upon it instantly to reduce equipment downtime – allowing machinery to communicate with building managers to build a stronger understanding.
New software means that businesses can also easily see the working condition of different on-site machines at a glance. Each piece of equipment is visually represented on the software using a different colour to indicate the ‘working status’, and when a failure occurs the user is immediately alerted by a change in this status colour – literally providing businesses with a ‘red alert’. Users can also upload equipment schematics or floorplans into t-mac’s dynamic diagrams software for a pictorial representation of the equipment or building being monitored.
By receiving early warning alerts site managers can repair equipment quicker, minimising damage to machines, lengthening the life-cycle, and avoiding excessive energy consumption and costly site downtime.
For example, a well-known tea-making company wanted to monitor and track the working condition of its machinery. Within the first three weeks of installation two problems were detected without the need to stop production. The company was instantly alerted via text message and the issues rectified immediately.
By offering damage limitation, and identifying and diverting a potential hazard at an early stage, the technology helped prevent equipment downtime and boosted the production line.
Businesses can also use the technology to control the operation of inefficient equipment, in response to a fault, by remotely switching machinery on/off, changing set-points, and altering control strategies.
It is important to remember that by their very nature, process, control, and manufacturing sites tend to use high amounts of energy to function, and not knowing or not keeping on top of this energy use undoubtedly leads to unnecessary energy waste.
This high energy consumption can have a major impact on a businesses’ carbon footprint, and with the Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficiency Scheme currently still in operation, this is something no company can afford to ignore.