Archive | Predictive Maintenance


2:40 pm
September 27, 2016
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Nordex Turns to Drones for Wind Turbine Hybrid Maintenance Approach

Two wind turbines at work over the Harbec facility in Ontario, NY, help the operation provide 80% of its power needs.

A big trend in the manufacturing space for the last twenty years has been Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) 3rd party services, such as remote oil and gas exploration, equipment monitoring and more.

Now, you can add drone monitoring of wind turbine blades to the list.

The wind turbine manufacturer, Nordex Group,  created a partnership with Lufthansa Aerial Services (LAS) last week to start offering unmanned aircraft systems— drones — to inspect installed wind turbines and help customers with more efficient maintenance approaches — a cross between predictive and preventive.

Rotor blades on wind turbines are regularly inspected by rope teams and they look for erosion defects due to wind, weather and stress.

According to Nordex, this [new service] provides additional possibilities for continuously monitoring the status of rotor blades using the very latest technology. While not explicitly an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) application, sensors should play a big part in this development.

LAS is a new division in the Lufthansa Group and belongs to Lufthansa Consulting GmbH. The company offers the commercial operation of drones and related data management for the inspection, measurement and monitoring of infrastructures. Wind energy is one of the industrial sectors on which LAS focuses.

“Apart from the close-up inspection of rotor blades, monitoring the progress of the construction of new wind farms is another area of application,” says Dr. Andreas Jahnke, Managing Director of Lufthansa Consulting GmbH.

>> Related Content | Joe Barkai Interview: IIoT Implications for the Outcome Economy

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7:24 pm
September 20, 2016
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Steel Producer Adopts GE’s SmartSignal for Predictive Maintenance Boost

The emphasis on carbon footprint and how equipment is designed, operated, and disposed/recycled have moved operations from the cradle-to-grave-style approach of the past to today’s more environmentally sensitive and efficient C2C asset-management approach.

After a successful predictive analytics initiative, Gerdau, a Brazilian steel manufacturer, announces a large-scale rollout of GE’s software and services across 11 of its steel plants in Brazil. The producer of long steel will use GE’s SmartSignal, historians, services and remote monitoring for more than 600 assets.

The remote monitoring will be done by the GE’s Industrial Performance and Reliability Center, based in Illinois.

“Gerdau is incorporating greater agility and autonomy in operational decisions via digitization. We are focused on creating value and and our partnership with GE will definitely provide important support for this challenge,” says Andre B. Gerdau Johannpeter, CEO of Gerdau.

>> Related Content | Quick Return-on-Investment for IIoT Pilot Projects

The initial pilot for SmartSignal and remote monitoring included 50 assets and the company was able to “realize two catches of potential asset issues that could be addressed via early planned maintenance without impact to the business,” according to Gerdau. The savings from these early preventative action was the cost of the pilot.

“Businesses like Gerdau are thinking about cloud, Big Data, mobile, platforms and even talent differently, says Bill Ruh, ceo of GE Digital division. “Digitization and a focus on outcomes, facilitated by analytics, is a solution.”
1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


1:51 pm
September 15, 2016
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On The Floor: Panelists Describe Payoff From Predictive Tools

By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor

At Maintenance Technology, the topic of predictive tools is always hot. More precisely, our staff is always eager to hear how readers and their staffs (and, in the case of consultants/suppliers, their clients/customers) are leveraging these technologies in plants and facilities. For an update based on our Reader Panelists’ individual perspectives, we posed the following questions.

— What predictive tools/technologies are these sites using most, and where, why, and how?

— What’s the return on investment (ROI)?

— What predictive tools might be on the sites’ wish lists for future use?

— Edited for brevity and clarity, here are several responses.

Maintenance Engineer, Process Industry, Midwest…

We typically keep an IR (infrared) gun (for equipment hotspots), ultrasonic ears (for leaks and precision lubrication), and a vibration pen-type device (for quick checks and validation of in-situ devices) on hand. We’ve been relying on outside expertise for full vibration analysis and oil analysis programs, but are starting to develop some in-house competency. No one at our sites has yet been certified on these technologies.

To date, we haven’t really quantified any savings, but we do have scattered reports of early detections leading to planned shutdown and correction. The numbers may not be tallied, but theoretically we’ve “saved” by reducing unplanned outages.

Wireless machine-health technologies (vibe, temp) are on trial at one of our facilities. If successful, we may branch them out.

Maintenance & Reliability Specialist, Engineering Services, South…

We utilize numerous vibration routes and have a level-1, three level-2, and two level-3 vibration specialists on staff. We also have motor testing with five craftsmen trained and qualified on the different devices in use. We have one craftsman trained as a level-1 for ultrasound testing, and two IR level-2 technicians.

Our group captures every find and, utilizing an algorithm approved by both our customer and our leadership, provides a cost avoidance for each. This number is showing a very solid ROI, and our customer is pleased.

Regarding wish lists, we’ve recently begun adding real-time overall vibration monitoring to our predictive-maintenance (PdM) toolbox and expect that to grow to Delta P for filters and, possibly, real-time oil health. We also have begun using a rules-based software program that consolidates data from our vibration routes, on-line vibration data, and CMMS.

Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…

Since our budget crisis we’ve been only able to use our existing trend logs and visual inspections. We, do, however, have all types of instruments to help us.

Our return on investment [from predictive technologies] is fewer equipment breakdowns than in the past. And, the time it takes to troubleshoot uncommon problems has been cut by more than half.

Industry Consultant, West…

Vibration analysis, ultrasonic testing, oil analysis, and IR are my clients’ most-used PdM tools. The technology vendors usually provide the training.  Seldom do techs receive advanced training, leading to plants feeling that potential ROI from the tools was overinflated to make the sale. (As a side note, I believe the most underutilized tools are the five senses of personnel who are in contact with very expensive equipment every day.)

Personally, it’s difficult to quantify predictive-technology ROI with my clients. They don’t track the saves that these tools generate, and tribal memory seems skewed in favor of a higher save rate than I actually see in their plants.

Most of my clients have wish lists. Usually, their only reason for not buying every tool available is lack of funds. It’s rare for maintenance teams to compile documentation to establish the business case for equipment purchases.

Facility Superintendent, Scientific Institution, West…

Our facility relies on several different types of PdM technologies: fluid analysis, IR, ultrasound and ultrasonic testing. Fluid analysis has become a staple with our gearboxes and glycol-cooling systems. We typically take oil samples bi-annually to ensure proper viscosity, test for contaminants, and look for bearing wear. Secondly, testing our glycol fluids has proven extremely valuable. It tells us if the freeze point is correct and gives us direction for adding inhibitors or correcting fluid pH. Not all testing is perfectly accurate, though. We once received a glycol fluid-analysis report indicating acceptable foaming levels when, in fact, they were causing circulation pumps to cavitate.

IR, a newer tool for our team, has proven its value. Unfortunately, training provided by the manufacturer wasn’t in depth. Most of our knowledge has come through on-the-job usage. We’ve leveraged this technology to uncover a range of problems. A routine IR inspection of our main building transformer room, for example, found a loose splice on one phase of our electrical main. Gone unnoticed, it might have single-phased the building, causing serious downtime or numerous equipment failures.

Ultrasonic testing is our newest tool. It provides data that benchmarks and tracks bearing health and makes our lubrication program more efficient by reducing man-hours and material use. It’s also paid for itself by locating small compressed air leaks that would otherwise have gone undetected. To properly use this tool and its software, it was imperative [for personnel] to attend a week-long training class provided by the manufacturer.

We use ultrasound to detect fatigue and cracks in large wheel shafts. It allows our technicians to trend log anomalies within the shaft that point to fatigue and impending failure. By trend logging, we can determine when to schedule shaft replacement and eliminate breakdowns.

Lubrication Consultant, Southwest…

I’m referring to a large process operation that had a long-standing, trained, certified, and successful vibration group. [Working there], I was eventually asked to start a lubrication program for the entire facility and try to ramp up rotating-equipment reliability. Becoming the site’s lubrication specialist/engineer, I attended training and obtained several certifications.

In time, we bought and started a lubrication laboratory and began pulling oil samples [from equipment] and testing them and any lubricants delivered to the site. In addition, we provided training necessary for many employees to achieve their own certifications in the lubrication field. Improvements in the rotating equipment were unbelievable.

We also bought and are continuing to use thermal imaging at the site.

[Basing this statement on personal experience], if sites would use these three tools, i.e., vibration analysis, lubrication analysis, and thermal imaging, they will capture great rewards in rotating-equipment reliability and save significant money. The key is to buy and keep up with the most modern equipment available. Technologies change more rapidly than most people think.

Finally, [plants should] provide much more professional training, for everyone. Sites will get more for their money from training than anything else. Keeping personnel trained and certified will always pay off. MT

About the MT Reader Panel

The Maintenance Technology Reader Panel includes approximately 100 working industrial-maintenance practitioners and consultants who have volunteered to answer monthly questions prepared by our editorial staff. Panelist identities are not revealed and their responses are not necessarily projectable. Note that our panel welcomes new members. To be considered, email your name and contact information to with “Reader Panel” in the subject line. All panelists are automatically included in an annual cash-prize drawing after one year of active participation.


6:55 pm
September 12, 2016
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Old-School Approach to New-World Technology

Colorado window and door manufacturer creates sophisticated, energy-efficient products with tried-and-true maintenance and operations best practices.

All of Alpen’s fiberglass insulated frames are custom made in various shapes, sizes, and with a variety of operational moving parts.

All of Alpen’s fiberglass insulated frames are custom made in various shapes, sizes, and with a variety of operational moving parts.

Continue Reading →


3:36 pm
August 17, 2016
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Case Study | Operations and Maintenance Budget Isn’t Increasing, Sound Familiar?

Let me know if you have heard something like this: “Our key challenge is transmission assets at AEP that are growing pretty rapidly…and the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) budget isn’t. So, you have to figure out how to stretch those maintenance dollars over more and more assets.” This comes from Jeff Fleeman,

This item comes from Jeff Fleeman, vp at BOLD Transmission LLC at the 2016 ARC Advisory event, where he provided details about their move to a predictive maintenance approach. BOLD Transmission is a subsidiary of AEP, a power provider with numerous transmission assets in the U.S. — 3,500 substations.

See his presentation here:

Fleeman discusses the distributed nature of the power business, the changing dynamics, aging assets and how “better criteria is needed to replace these assets” to regulators.

The presentation is a great look at a business that always viewed condition-based monitoring and predictive monitoring as the next move and now they’re moving forward.

1601Iot_logo>> For more IIoT coverage in maintenance and operations, click here! 


9:30 pm
August 9, 2016
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In the Jungle, Advanced Software Comes to Life

An advanced CMMS program helps manage the maintenance of a complex and diverse park facility.

The zoo’s carousel must be maintained with strict safety standards to keep visitors protected and happy. Photos by Michelle Segrest

The zoo’s carousel must be maintained with strict safety standards to keep visitors protected and happy. Photos by Michelle Segrest

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

The Solar-Array Data Display shows park attendees and staff the benefits and energy savings of solar power.

The Solar-Array Data Display shows park attendees and staff the benefits and energy savings of solar power.

Maintaining a 23-acre park with attractions, indoor and outdoor facilities, fountains, special exhibits, irrigation and landscaping, and more than 700 live animals—some of them deadly—requires coordination, diversity, and special tools.

The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society in southern Florida must accomplish all of this while also honoring its mission to inspire others to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world. With a full-time maintenance staff of just six professionals, facilities manager Jason Witmer must carefully coordinate the many job requests that range from checking and repairing safety latches to maintaining complex filtration systems, coolers, and HVAC equipment.

Using computerized maintenance management software from Mapcon Technologies Inc., Johnston, IA, Witmer can roam the grounds and receive maintenance alerts from anywhere in the park with a mobile app. Customized to the park’s needs, the technology can send him an alert from “Asia” that maintenance is needed on the Malayan tiger’s habitat, or he might be notified that the carousel is not functioning properly. Or, perhaps it’s time to maintain the filter on the two baby grizzly bears’ swimming pool.

Witmer can then virtually assign the task to one of the maintenance professionals. He is also notified when the job has been completed, along with a report of the job’s details. At any time, he can retrieve data that allow him to predict future maintenance and schedule non-urgent requests.

“We use Mapcon in at least 100 different ways throughout the zoo,” Witmer said. “From the conservation aspect, we use it to keep meter readings for our electrical panels. We have several throughout the zoo from which we can take manual readings and enter into the program. We track our water meters and keep data of our well usage, which we have to report to the city. This is important because all of the plants on the grounds here have irrigation. One little leak can cause a lot of water usage without even knowing it for a while. We even use Mapcon in our commissary to order food for our animals.”

The pink flamingos entertain park visitors every day around the main-entrance fountain, which is powered and controlled by a pumping system that must be maintained by park staff.

The pink flamingos entertain park visitors every day around the main-entrance fountain, which is powered and controlled by a pumping system that must be maintained by park staff.

Data are entered bi-weekly and monitored against previous-month trends. The software also monitors the amount of waste that goes to the compost pile, which is then used in the sustainability garden.

The software also allows users to automatically bill job tickets to the appropriate departments.

Preventive maintenance

Urgent maintenance requests are those that apply to the safety of the animals, park staff, and park guests. However, some maintenance can be planned.

Witmer uses the zoo’s Mapcon CMMS program to provide monthly work orders on all of the HVAC units, which require regular filter changes. The park’s many vehicles also require routine work. These orders are generated automatically and assigned to the appropriate technician.

All of the maintenance at the Palm Beach Zoo is coordinated through a highly sophisticated CMMS system that operates from a mobile app.

All of the maintenance at the Palm Beach Zoo is coordinated through a highly sophisticated CMMS system that operates from a mobile app.

“Zookeepers inspect the animal exhibits every day–especially the dangerous animals,” Witmer said. “Once a month, we have a work order that has to be completed for the actual maintenance inspection of the exhibit. This is an extra layer to keep our animals and people safe. We like to have a fresh set of eyes other than a zookeeper’s. We go over everything pretty thoroughly, down to the basics of checking each chain link.”

General park maintenance

Non-urgent maintenance situations can include anything from landscaping and other activities classified as “zooifying” to make the park beautiful. Even members of the administrative staff carry the CMMS app. For example, if a tree branch has fallen, a work order can be immediately entered into the system by an administrative or maintenance staff member.

Each maintenance professional has special skills, and Witmer easily assigns work orders to the appropriate technician.

The zoo’s hydraulic systems are connected to complex drives that must be maintained on site by zoo staff. Facilities manager Jason Witmer is shown performing routine checks.

The zoo’s hydraulic systems are connected to complex drives that must be maintained on site by zoo staff. Facilities manager Jason Witmer is shown performing routine checks.

In addition to the major systems, the maintenance staff also maintains all of the building equipment for the restrooms, restaurant, administrative offices, and animal hospital. The fountains, water features, and cooling systems also must be properly maintained.

The power of solar

The Palm Beach Zoo takes advantage of the boiling south-Florida sun, which burns bright all year long. The park has three solar arrays. One feeds directly into the main pump room and supplements the power for the fountain pumps. Another is at the animal hospital. The third is in the parking lot.

The Solar-Array Data Display shows, in real time, the power that is being drawn from the sun. It calculates ambient temperature, module temperature, radiance, and wind speed.

Pumps control the large fountain at the park’s entrance and all of the activity is automated. All water features have filters. The solar power interacts with the hydraulic equipment to provide the best-possible energy efficiency.

“This is just a supplement to the power, so we have power whether or not we have sun,” Witmer said. “However, any power produced by the solar arrays is stored for future use. We are not just conserving wildlife. We are also conserving natural resources.” Power from the solar panels accounts for about 13% of the electricity used at the zoo.

Dangerous animals

When operating a facility with predatory and dangerous animals, special care must be taken when maintenance is performed in those areas.

“The animals must be shifted so that the maintenance can be performed,” Witmer said. “We have animal experts here and they coordinate with the maintenance staff. They lure the animals to another part of the exhibit or habitat, usually with positive reinforcement, to shift them to a secure enclosure, so that the maintenance professional is safe.  For example, it’s tough to clean the glass with alligators in there.”

Keeping the park’s ancillary buildings, such as the animal hospital, cool and in good working condition is one of the responsibilities of the Palm Beach Zoo’s maintenance staff of six technicians.

Keeping the park’s ancillary buildings, such as the animal hospital, cool and in good working condition is one of the responsibilities of the Palm Beach Zoo’s maintenance staff of six technicians.

Another example is when maintenance is required for the black-bear-exhibit pool filter. “We use ozone for the water to keep it clean, and it is filtered,” Witmer said. “It turns out that when bears get in the water, they have a lot of grease and hair that needs to be filtered out. We use strainers and sand filters to keep the water clear. With the amount of hair and oil that is removed from the water, the filter needs a lot of maintenance.”

Zookeepers help with this by backwashing a few times every day.

The maintenance staff is also has responsibibilities at the animal hospital, including plumbing, general maintenance, and HVAC systems. The lab equipment is sent to outside vendors.

Special attractions

Along with the natural habitats and building services, there is other special equipment that must be maintained. That includes the zoo’s large carousel.

“Along with keeping the ride safe, of course, it is inspected daily by our maintenance team to look for anything that could be a safety hazard,” Witmer explained. “We recently found a way to conserve substantial energy. The carousel contains 1,690 light bulbs. We have changed them all from 10-W to 0.7-W lamps. This has reduced drastically the amount of electricity that it takes to run the carousel on a daily basis. This is also in conjunction with our mission of conservation. The cost of the bulb change will pay itself back in electrical savings in about eight months, which is incredible.”

For Witmer, maintaining the zoo provides daily rewards. “It’s a very rewarding feeling knowing that you are an active part of conservation, for animals and the environment, while maintaining such a beautiful facility like the Palm Beach Zoo,” he said. “We always put the safety of our guests, animals, and employees first, and routine and preventive maintenance is such a big part of that. Mapcon is such an incredible tool to have and help manage the diverse maintenance challenges in a zoo environment.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 32 cities in six countries on three continents.

A Typical Day at a Historic Zoo

A typical morning for Jason Witmer begins with a walk through the park to see if anything catches his attention before the zoo opens to the public. He may stop with a group of children on a field trip from a local school to watch the pink flamingos play. “The best part about working here is that no matter how frustrated or busy you may get, you can always walk around and watch the animals, and the stress goes away,” Witmer said.

The Palm Beach (FL) Zoo had its beginnings in the 1950s when Paul Dreher, parks director for the City of West Palm Beach, FL, developed a lush botanical garden in what was then known as Bacon Park. Dreher decided to add a barnyard petting zoo for the children of the community.

With just $18, he opened his zoo with two ducks, a couple of chickens, a goose, and a goat. The collection was located on 1 1/2 acres and became known as the Dreher Park Zoo. The attraction soon became a favorite place for families, and the collection grew to include many more animals. In 1969, a group of committed citizens created the non-profit Zoological Society of the Palm Beaches and assumed responsibility for operating the zoo.

The zoo began charging a 25-cent adult admission in 1970. Within 18 months, attendance reached 125,000 visitors. In 1971, the zoo grew to its current size of 23 acres, and continued to increase the animal collection. 

The facility now houses more than 700 animals from Florida; North, South, and Central America; Australia; and Madagascar. More than 314,000 people visit each year.

In October 2013, the zoo’s name was changed to the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society. The addition of the “& Conservation Society” helps the facility bring many conservation programs it is working on to the forefront in an effort to inspire people to act on behalf of wildlife and the natural world.

A Meaningful Mission

To better fulfill its mission to “protect wildlife and wildlife habitat, and to inspire others to value and conserve the natural world,” the Palm Beach (FL) Zoo began working with the Palm Beach County school system and in 1981 established a formal education division.

This was the foundation for a successful program that now offers animal encounters, field trips, on-site classes, teacher training, summer camp, overnight adventures, and outreach programs. The zoo’s education division now presents more than 2,400 programs each year that reach more than 128,000 individuals. An additional 113,300 persons are reached by keeper talks and other animal-care staff initiatives.