Archive | Predictive Maintenance

73

7:38 pm
June 28, 2017
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Ultrasonic Gas Flow Meter

1707mtprod13pQ.Sonic ultrasonic gas flow meter combines reflective and direct paths. This allows the device to detect and correct disturbances in the gas flow caused by short inlets, extenders, reducers, manifolds, elbows, and a range of other piping elements. The meter meets the accuracy class 0.5 requirements of the International Organization of Legal Metrology R137-1&2 2012 without any exclusions.
Honeywell Process Solutions
Houston
honeywellprocess.com

39

4:56 pm
June 22, 2017
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Predictive, Prescriptive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance software is part of the company’s Information Solutions portfolio. The software learns patterns that precede downtime events identified in the users history, then trains agents to recognize those same patterns in the future. As new data is generated, machine-learning agents provide around-the-clock tracking of all live sensor date, looking for the patterns identified. Agents can watch for atypical patterns that may represent new failure modes to be investigated. Prescriptive alerts can be put into action through email and text alerts, a web application, or integration with CMMS. The predictive software also includes a work-order capability.
Rockwell Automation
Milwaukee
rockwellautomation.com

46

5:09 pm
June 16, 2017
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Remote Monitoring Takes Hold in Oil & Gas

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Pioneer Energy Inc. provides a turnkey service that captures flared gases at the field site by way of a Mobile Alkane Gas Separator (MAGS) unit, separate from the well-drilling application.

By Grant Gerke, Contributing Editor

Digital transformation applications in 2017 are moving fast and taking diverse forms. Many industries, such as oil and gas and petrochemical, are quickly acting on better data-acquisition models so operators can move toward online condition-based monitoring for pumps and motors.

According to Brian Atkinson, a consultant with the Industry Solutions Group of Emerson Process Management (emersonprocess.com, Shakopee, MN), pumps account for an estimated 7% of maintenance costs of a plant or refinery. “While a pump failure in a refinery may only affect one part of a process,” he said, “pump failures in an oil field can shut down a well or pipeline,”

During the oil-market boon, operators took run-to-failure approaches with pumps and motors, and didn’t install cost-prohibitive wiring to monitor such units in the field. Wireless-network-standardization efforts over the last decade, however, have provided operators the ability to implement condition-monitoring strategies and avoid costly shutdowns that may seem necessary in lower-price markets.

As an example, Atkinson pointed to a white paper, titled, “Beyond Switches for Pump Monitoring,” from Emerson Automation Solutions. It details how oil and gas processing facilities can use cost-effective transmitters to provide continuous condition monitoring and a richer data set on in-the-field pumps. Among other things, it recognizes the American Petroleum Institute (API) Standard 682 that provides a roadmap for achieving continuous monitoring with IIoT-based solutions. This standard defines piping plans for pumps to assist processing facilities for the selection of the type of sensors and controls for pump auxiliary-seal flush systems.

The Internet of Things is changing the maintenance and reliability world. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this exciting use of data and technology at maintenancetechnology.com/iot.

The Internet of Things is changing the maintenance and reliability world. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this exciting use of data and technology here.

The white paper illustrates that traditional mechanical switches provide on/off data, while transmitters can communicate a broad range of measured variables and facilitate remote configuration, calibration, and diagnostics. With the transition to transmitters in the field, management can reduce field-maintenance service trips and reallocate those services to other resources.

A prime example of the process industry’s move to continuous, remote monitoring is Pioneer Energy’s captured gas-flaring application for remote shale fields. The Lakewood, CO-based corporation (pioneerenergy.com) provides a turnkey service that captures flared gases at the field site by way of a Mobile Alkane Gas Separator (MAGS) unit that’s separate from the well-drilling application.

Oil-and-gas-shale producers have usually thought of flared gas as a waste product. Remote monitoring, though, gives them the ability to resell or use it to power drilling operations wherever they may be. In Pioneer Energy’s case, that means being able to monitor the gas-separation unit in a central control room hundreds of miles away from well sites.

Pioneer Energy still provides technician services for minor maintenance of its remote MAGS units. According to the company, it uses Opto 22’s groov mobile monitoring to provide field technicians monitoring and control onsite through mobile devices.

“Our service technicians in the oilfield have 4G AT&T tablets that link to the groov server, which is connected to the OPC server,” said Andrew Young, lead controls engineer at Pioneer Energy Services. “They can see real-time operations as they’re enroute to a site to do a service call.”

Pioneer Energy’s gas-separator service is the embodiment of a new business outcome enabled by advanced sensor networks in a legacy environment. These types of small optimization strategies have begun to take hold in the oil and gas industry, and should be the rule instead of the exception going forward. MT

ggerke@maintenancetechnology.com

303

8:35 pm
June 15, 2017
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Glimpse The Future Of Predictive Maintenance

Critical-asset data can help identify failures before they occur to avoid downtime and protect the bottom line.

Catching problems in their earliest forms, no matter where in an operation they might arise, can help reduce downtime, costs, and risks.

Catching problems in their earliest forms, no matter where in an operation they might arise, can help reduce downtime, costs, and risks.

If you could see into the future, you would never miss a production target, endure a safety incident, or have a machine go down. Unfortunately, unless we somehow gain the power of clairvoyance, this fantasy will forever be out of our reach. While we may not be able to see into the future, we can predict it.

By adopting a predictive-maintenance (PdM) strategy, you can mine your critical-asset data and identify anomalies or deviations from their standard performance. Such insights can help you discover and proactively fix issues days, weeks, or even months before they lead to failures. This can help you avoid unplanned downtime, reduce industrial maintenance overspend, and mitigate safety and environmental risks.

The case for predictive maintenance

The sudden loss of a critical industrial asset can be devastating. It can result in unplanned stoppages and maintenance that eat away at your bottom line, while production remains at a standstill. This was the situation for one company operating an oil-sands mine in Canada. The company had to shut down the operation after detecting vibrations in an ore crusher, resulting in a weeks-long production stoppage that had been averaging more than 90,000 barrels/day. According to analysts, each week of downtime reduced quarterly production by about 1.5% and cash flow by about 1%.

Beyond the impact on production and profits, unexpected failures also can cause catastrophic events, such as explosions or chemical leaks, that threaten lives and the environment.

Many companies use robust industrial-maintenance programs and costly maintenance-service agreements to help avoid these issues. However, even the most comprehensive maintenance programs likely won’t eliminate all unplanned downtime. It can only take one failure to grind your operations to a halt for an extended period of time.

While technicians may not be able to actually ‘see’ into the future, smart technologies and advanced analytics can help them predict it.

While technicians may not be able to actually ‘see’ into the future, smart technologies and advanced analytics can help them predict it.

A smarter approach

Predictive maintenance delivers a more data-driven approach to industrial-maintenance programs. It uses predictive analytics and machine-learning algorithms, based on historical and real-time data, to identify specific issues on the horizon. Often these issues won’t show any physical signs of degradation—even a sharp human eye or an intuitive and well-trained maintenance technician wouldn’t be able to catch them.

In addition to helping prevent downtime, a PdM approach can better identify true maintenance needs. This can assist in making sure that you are targeting personnel depolyment, maintenance activities, and maintenance dollars where they are needed most.

Predictive maintenance can be especially useful in industries where the uptime of critical assets drives the bottom line. This includes large, heavy equipment in oil and gas, and mining operations, as well as critical machines in continuous-manufacturing operations.

A perfect example is a large, multistate compressor that experienced a bearing failure resulting in more than $3 million in maintenance and lost productivity. A postmortem on the incident, which involved reviewing 16 months of data, found that the bearing cooling system had not been operating correctly for six months.

Had this data been used as part of a PdM strategy, the company likely would have been able to identify the bearing degradation and its root cause before the failure actually happened. What’s more, the company would have been able to identify detailed preventive-maintenance steps for the cooling system.

Predictive maintenance also can be valuable in operations that experience high maintenance costs.

Often, companies can invest a lot of time and resources in maintenance but lack data to know whether their strategy is effective and addressing their actual needs. Predictive maintenance can help uncover unnecessary maintenance, which could save millions of dollars every year in some industries. This was another discovery in the compressor case. The company was performing certain maintenance activities that were unnecessary and could have been eliminated.

How it works

Predictive maintenance doesn’t require an extensive overhaul of your infrastructure. Rather, it can be deployed on your existing integrated-control and information infrastructure.

The process begins with discussions to identify what data you want to collect, what potential failures or other issues you want to predict, and what issues have arisen in the past. From there, the relevant historical data is collected from sensors, industrial assets, and fault logs.

Predictive-maintenance analytics software then examines the data to determine root causes and early-warning indicators from past downtime issues. Finally, the analytics software develops and deploys “agents” that monitor data traffic either locally or in the cloud.

Analytics software uses two types of agents. The first type is failure agents, which watch for patterns that are known to predict a future failure. If such patterns are detected, the agents alert plant personnel and deliver a prescribed solution.

The second type is anomaly agents, which watch normal operating patterns and look for changes, such as operating or environmental-condition changes. These agents also alert personnel of any detected changes so they can investigate and take corrective action if necessary.

Your crystal ball

Predictive technology has been around for decades. It’s used to detect credit-card fraud, fine-tune marketing programs, and even help us search the Internet. Its role in the industrial world takes the form of a rigorous documentation of events and failures that can help us see and address machine or equipment issues in their earliest forms.

Many manufacturers already see the value of historical failure reports as a tool to help prevent failures and downtime in the future. By using this data, which already exists in your assets, you too can reduce downtime surprises, cut down unnecessary maintenance, and potentially reduce risks in your operations. MT

Information for this article was provided by Doug Weber, engineering manager, and Phil Bush, remote monitoring and analytics product manager, Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee. For more information, visit rockwellautomation.com.

286

8:30 pm
June 15, 2017
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AZ Puts Proactive in Reliability

Biopharmaceutical manufacturing company AstraZeneca redefines reliability to streamline more-effective maintenance processes.

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By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

Even though the AstraZeneca manufacturing facility in Mt. Vernon, IN, looks like a hospital surgical unit—with key equipment separated into concentrated clean rooms—for years it operated like an emergency room. When an equipment breakdown occurred, personnel jumped into action, triaging the issue and not always looking into the true symptoms to prevent future occurrences.

At AstraZeneca, separating the reliability people from the day-to-day commotion, defining the difference between reliability and maintenance, and management support were keys to a successful transition to a reliability-oriented operation. Photo: AstraZeneca

At AstraZeneca, separating the reliability people from the day-to-day commotion, defining the difference between reliability and maintenance, and management support were keys to a successful transition to a reliability-oriented operation. Photo: AstraZeneca

The company acquired the Mt. Vernon facility in August 2015. With a new reliability unit in place and an Operations Excellence Team, the site now has teams focused on preventing emergencies, instead of addressing them.

Reliability and maintenance can be a challenge when maintaining a high standard for the pharmaceutical environment. As you walk through the facility, the white walls and floors glisten against the shiny, almost mirror-like, stainless-steel equipment. Equipment and personnel rooms serve as airlocks between the corridors and the manufacturing rooms. The airlocks are guards against dust, dander, allergens, or other elements that could contaminate the critical medicine that is being manufactured. The switch from a reactive to a proactive, risk-based, approach has taken reliability in the 700,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing area to a new level.

“Our first step was to separate our reliability team from the day-to-day commotion,” explained facilities engineer Andrew Carpenter. “We had to be sure they understood that reliability is different than maintenance, and we had to all take this seriously. We had many people who were specialists and were relied upon for troubleshooting and fixing emergency issues. It was a complete mindset change.”

The new reliability team received support from upper management and buy-in from the team. Although some roles changed, the team remained headcount neutral. This, along with clear alignment of goals, became the keys to a successful transition.

“If you are starting a reliability program in your plant, call it what it is,” senior building and reliability manager Chris Nolan said. “Reliability is different than maintenance. The goal is to get to a certain utopia. As your group grows, you all become more focused on that reliability side, but when you are starting out with a reactive-maintenance program, and you want to transition to one that is reliability based, there is a different vision. This must be explained and understood.  Now we have processes in place to aid in the prevention of emergencies and more organized efforts to quickly respond should the need arise.”

With an investment in new tools and technology, including additional vibration, infrared thermography, and ultrasound training, the newly structured, two-year-old team measures its return on investment in high-quality performance and products.

“A key driver within our business is quality,” Nolan said.

AstraZeneca is a science-led, biopharmaceutical business that discovers, develops, manufactures, and supplies innovative medicines for millions worldwide—primarily in the areas of respiratory, cardiovascular and metabolic, and oncology. The Mt. Vernon site manufactures oral-solids medicines—primarily for Type 2 diabetes treatment.

The maintenance and reliability group focuses on maintaining the utilities, purified water, HVAC, manufacturing equipment, and all Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) maintenance.

Maintenance technician Dan Guth concentrates on a detailed work request in the maintenance shop.

Maintenance technician Dan Guth concentrates on a detailed work request in the maintenance shop.

A new process

The Mt. Vernon-site reliability team adopted a common mission statement from the industry. “Anyone who improves a process or a piece of equipment is a reliability leader.”

The simple vision was broken down into specific goals and targets. Nolan explained that 2015 was all about building a foundation, while 2016 was the year to focus on root-cause analysis. The team received early help from consultant group Life Cycle Engineering (LCE, Charleston, SC, LCE.com).

“In pharma, when somebody uses the word ‘criticality’ they go straight to quality,” Nolan said. “LCE helped us identify the tools we needed to show overall criticality—business cost, quality, mean time between failure. Andrew [Carpenter] led us through a criticality assessment at our site and we banked that into different categories, including equipment, water purification, parts redundancy, and packaging items. Now we do an assessment and re-rank our critical categories that need attention every year. We are in the process of doing that now. This helps us focus our efforts and has become a game-changer for us.”

The reliability group became its own entity within the plant’s maintenance organization.

“We were doing a really good job of fixing issues, but needed to work on following up after the issue, getting to the root cause, and putting processes in place to prevent the issue from happening again,” Carpenter said.

Two years in, Carpenter and Nolan are beginning to see the fruits of the team’s labor. “We can see that it is working and we have come a long way.”

Maintaining the reverse-osmosis purified- water-generation system at the AstraZeneca plant is critical to ongoing production.

Maintaining the reverse-osmosis purified- water-generation system at the AstraZeneca plant is critical to ongoing production.

Early wins

Redefining the maintenance and reliability functions was an anchor in achieving some early wins for the new team.

“We are all here to get the product out of the door, but the difference is simply the things we focus on,” Nolan said. “Maintenance right now focuses on the day-to-day activities—the preventive maintenance piece and execution of that at a high level. But when you are executing you are challenged on the day-to-day things, so it is hard to find that balance of time to take a look back on the long-term items, like the vision. For us, the difference between maintenance and reliability is that reliability is getting into the data mining of the maintenance activities. Particularly in the pharma environment, that is a big piece that ties back to the quality culture, as well. The maintenance piece is very tactical, while reliability centers around more planning and vision.”

Carpenter said the team’s vision began to take shape when it zoomed in on the root-cause analysis program. About six months into the program’s launch, Nolan began to notice a distinct change in the culture.

“It was a Friday afternoon before a three-day holiday weekend and normally everybody was ready to scoot,” he said. “We had one of our metrology calibration technicians and engineering technicians having a serious conversation about a particular problem. It turned into an hour-and-a-half discussion of digging into really finding the problem, turning it into a root-cause analysis. That is the first time when I really thought this whole program began to click. These guys were looking beyond the fix and they were passionate about preventing it from happening again.”

Andrew Carpenter, Neil Reichel, Chris Nolan, and author Michelle Segrest (l-r), discuss reliability and maintenance operations in the AstraZeneca maintenance shop.

Andrew Carpenter, Neil Reichel, Chris Nolan, and author Michelle Segrest (l-r), discuss reliability and maintenance operations in the AstraZeneca maintenance shop.

Carpenter explained that the change involved a clear switch from simply fixing a problem to a focus on the big picture. “We are better at documenting the data and finding ways to prevent failures,” he said.

One of the areas the team focused on heavily at the start of the reliability program was predictive maintenance. Engineering technicians and predictive-maintenance technicians were sent to Level I vibration, infrared, ultrasound, and laser-alignment training. It didn’t take long to see the return on investment.

Nolan said another key win was bringing the storeroom into the reliability discussion.

“The storeroom is a key to reliability,” Nolan said. “Paying attention to what is going on in the storeroom tells you what is going on in the plant. What goes out of your storeroom is a huge check and balance of your maintenance process.”

Realizing how much can be learned from problems and mistakes also made a big difference.

“Problems are gold,” Nolan said. “Problems within your processes give you ‘aha’ moments. This allows you to bring people together to look at what is going on and talk about how can it be better. Don’t ever be afraid to share a problem because usually it can positively impact you, your group, or someone else.” MT

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 41 cities in six countries on three continents. If your facility has an interesting maintenance and/or reliability story to tell, please contact her at michelle@navigatecontent.com.

57

7:45 pm
June 15, 2017
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Musings on Maintenance And Mobility

klausblacheBy Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee, Reliability & Maintainability Center

What we do and how we do it have changed dramatically with regard to maintenance and its impact on reliability. Gone are the days when you could easily repair most things on your car and perform regular maintenance. Today, it’s all about computer sensors, algorithms, and data historians. As a result, in most cases, we take for granted that our transportation modes are adequately maintained and reliable. Let’s look at some snippets of what’s going in areas of reliability and maintenance (R&M) on cars, trains, planes, and ships.

Cars: Tesla’s plant in Fremont, CA (tesla.com, Palo Alto) is now the most advanced and talked about automotive factory in the world. The site was the former home of New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture of General Motors and Toyota (1984 to 2010). Based on my scan of recent Tesla job postings, maintenance technicians in Powertrain are expected to perform at a Journeyman Level on all machines in the assigned area and be responsible for preventive maintenance, troubleshooting/repair, clean lines, and escalation of assigned equipment. Individuals in these roles must be willing to tackle whatever maintenance challenge arises and to assist and learn from others in their areas of expertise. A sampling of the posted jobs seems to highlight the company’s interest in worker flexibility and high levels of employee engagement. This doesn’t mean maintenance technicians are expected to have all the answers regarding plant culture. Installing and sustaining an autonomous workforce may be more difficult than building autonomous vehicles.

Advances in technologies, approaches, and methods are helping to keep our various modes of transportation moving, as well as ensuring that they are reliable and safe.

Advances in technologies, approaches, and methods are helping to keep our various modes of transportation moving, as well as ensuring that they are reliable and safe.

Trains: Railways are considering using drones to help with security, initial track inspections, and predictive maintenance. Some already leverage them for safe, economical checking of switch-point heating systems. Other advanced-technology approaches include the use of: wheel-temperature detectors (infrared) to check brakes, wheel-profile monitors (lasers and optics) to assess wheel wear, and acoustic-detector systems (acoustic signatures) to identify wheel-bearing failure. Deutsche Bahn (DB) and Siemens are piloting predictive analytics to avoid failures and make vehicle maintenance recommendations. All diagnostic data is ultimately made available to maintenance personnel.

Planes: The 472 million-cubic-sq.-ft. Boeing aircraft plant in Everett, WA, is the largest building in the world by volume. A tour guide told me maintenance costs on new 787 Dreamliners produced there are 30% lower than for earlier models. These planes are also expected to have a 30-yr. life (versus 20 for metal planes). Built mostly from carbon/polymer resin (lighter than aluminum, tougher than steel) Dreamliners consume 20% less fuel than earlier Boeing planes. Maintenance on these technological marvels also requires expertise in repairing composite structures.

Ships: On the Hawaiian cruise ship “Pride of America,” I discussed maintenance and operations with the vessel’s chief engineer. Manned by a 927-member crew, this 81,000-ton, 921-ft., ship runs with 25-MW propulsion power and 50-MW auxiliary power. (Its maximum speed of 27.6 mph is fast enough to water ski). Typical maintenance activities include corrosion repair; cleaning drains, air ducts, and chiller and boiler tubes; venting engine fumes; and conducting on-board monitoring. The 54-person engineering staff is “hands on” and also does maintenance. Big maintenance is performed in port. Conditioned-based maintenance is often outsourced.  Spare parts can be a particular challenge, since the ship is usually moving from place to place.

Much goes into keeping cars, trains, planes, and ships moving. Next time you travel by any of these modes of transportation, think about what’s being done to ensure your reliable and safe journey. MT

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at kblache@utk.edu.

34

4:15 pm
May 15, 2017
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Remote Monitoring Empowers Solar Contractor

Solar-power systems that take the sting out of energy costs are effectively monitored with a state-of-the-art tool and cloud-based data system.

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The NuEra Energy Designs company in Newport Beach, CA, specializes in designing, installing, and monitoring solar-powered systems. Remote monitoring is handled by the Fluke 3540 FC monitor and Fluke Connect cloud-based data-analysis system.

NuEra Energy Designs is a Newport Beach, CA-based contracting firm that works with industrial and commercial businesses to improve their energy efficiency and to find ways to save money, typically by designing and installing solar systems and associated electrical equipment.

NuEra’s work starts with load studies and extensive evaluation of building-power systems and equipment. If appropriate, solar solutions and backup and demand-control systems are designed and built based on those studies.

A key selling point of NuEra services to customers is a welcome,  often near-immediate return on investment as a result of reduced energy bills, depreciation, and the potential to obtain energy and tax credits. In some cases, installation of solar systems and electrical upgrades delivers net revenue to clients who are then able to put power back into the energy grid.

Contractor, problem solver

Ken Dodds, the company owner and chief energy analyst, has established himself over the years as an electronics and electricity problem solver. He became a California-licensed contractor in the 1970s. His early projects were delivering power to remote ranches and other installations in the Mojave Desert, where it can be cost prohibitive to run conventional electrical lines. He has designed and built portable and off-grid solar systems to operate well pumps, power ranch homes, and illuminate street lights on remote military bases, complete with battery or multi-generator backup systems.

Though he started NuEra in Arizona more than six years ago, Dodds does the bulk of his business in California where the high cost of power helps makes solar systems a legitimate option for commercial customers. Add in energy savings through lighting, HVAC, and other electrical upgrades and the cost savings become substantial.

“One manufacturing-facility customer went from paying what would be $23,000 per year at today’s rates for energy (their old rate was a bit less), to getting $90 in return from the utility less than two years later,” Dodds stated.

The Fluke 3540 FC monitor provides real-time data capture.

The Fluke 3540 FC monitor provides real-time data capture.

Monitoring and documenting

To efficiently document studies and identify such savings, Dodds uses the Fluke 3540 FC three-phase power monitor (Fluke Corp., Everett, WA, fluke.com) to track three-phase systems at his client’s plants. The monitor takes power analysis and logging to a new level by putting the data stream onto data servers. Dodds is then able to remotely read and analyze these power measurements, depending on the configuration:

• current (A)
• voltage (V)
• frequency (Hz)
• power (W)
• apparent power (VA)
• non-active power (var)
• power factor (PF)
• total harmonic distortion voltage (%)
• total harmonic distortion current (%)
• harmonic content current (A).

The information is streamed from the Fluke 3540 FC to secure cloud servers where the measurements can be analyzed with the Fluke Connect mobile app or Fluke Condition Monitoring desktop software. Graphs show trends and fluctuations during the monitoring period. Dodds sets up alarms to indicate when the power is outside certain thresholds.

Monitoring the data gives Dodds a signature of the building, from the main feeders and on into critical pieces of equipment. “First, it lets us know where best to attack the building to make changes, or see if we can fix something upfront,” he said. “We look at kilowatts, we monitor the voltage, we look at use times. We can tell if the loading is off on different legs of the three phase, important because if it’s not uniform, you’re going to have issues.”

NuEra's Ken Dodds uses the Fluke 3540 FC three-phase power monitor to track three-phase systems at his client’s plants. The monitor sends the data stream to cloud-based servers for analysis.

NuEra’s Ken Dodds uses the Fluke 3540 FC three-phase power monitor to track three-phase systems at his client’s plants. The monitor sends the data stream to cloud-based servers for analysis.

Easily shared, reliable data

The data is useful to a wide range of workers. “The power-monitoring system not only educates our electricians to a problem,” Dodds stated. “If I’m worried about a motor or another big expensive piece of equipment, I can see trend graphs on what’s happening with the machine on my tablet or phone.”

Dodds connected a Fluke 3540 FC at one manufacturing plant recently so he could watch, in real time, the power going into the building, as well as the power going back to the grid from the solar system. “This is really valuable to me, especially for knowing what happened to the power I sent back to the utility. That is what they are paying my customer for so it’s verifying that,” he explained. “If my data shows I’m sending 15 kilowatts and the utility only shows 5 kilowatts, I can question that and we can figure what’s going on.”

Recently, the system allowed him to identify energy waste. “I discovered the other day a compressor was kicking on in the middle of the night. I called the building supervisor to see if anyone was working at that time. He said no, so we knew having the compressor on was a waste of money. You are paying for air to go leak around the plant. So these are some of the types of savings we find.”

The 3540 also provides power-factor data, a measure of real and apparent power, which can be a reason for the demand charges being high. “The convenience of monitoring energy consumption from anywhere is huge,” Dodds said. “I can use it in the car, when I’m on a roof or in the office or at the coffee shop or at home, wherever. My phone goes whoop whoop, when an alarm goes off. I check and I know what an asset is doing. It only takes a second to look at and read it. From anywhere, you can answer a text or send an e-mail. It’s exciting to see it develop.” MT

For more about the Fluke 3540 FC monitor, supporting software, and cloud-based data handling, visit fluke.com.

528

3:56 pm
May 15, 2017
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Training, Automation Drive Extrusion Reliability

(All photos courtesy of Aquatherm.) When designing the new extrusion plant, the team needed a solution to how best deliver the cooling water for the extrusion process. After some creative design work, it was decided to create a 300-ft.-long tunnel under the facility, specifically for this purpose.

When designing the new extrusion plant, the team needed a solution to how best deliver the cooling water for the extrusion process. After some creative design work, it was decided to create a 300-ft.-long tunnel under the facility, specifically for this purpose. All photos courtesy of Aquatherm.

German-based Aquatherm provides reliable, sustainable pipe production as a result of advanced technology, automation, and in-house design and innovation.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

As one of the first three companies in the European market to manufacture under-floor heating systems, German-based Aquatherm, headquartered in Attendorn, has come a long way since the company was founded 44 years ago. It now leverages state-of-the-art automation and innovative energy-saving systems to drive its reliability and sustainability programs.

“Until a few years ago, maintenance employees needed to localize and correct a fault indication directly at a machine if a system error occurred,” explained Aquatherm’s Maik Rosenberg, the company’s global co-managing director. “Power converters and frequency converters could only be parameterized manually or adjusted by potentiometers. Now, we can access the central control from various places within the company. If needed, we can access every single drive of an extrusion line.”

Maintenance staff members can correct faults using smartphones and also receive repair orders directly from a tablet. They use the handheld technology to recall all the information needed for order fulfillment in a central folder, and then take advantage of the ability to choose required materials from its digitized stock inventory.

“It is possible to operate all our machines online through our production-activity control system,” Rosenberg said. “The system enables us to monitor the energy consumption of all the machines and their components.”

The use of automation has enabled Aquatherm to establish itself as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of plastic piping systems for heating, cooling, domestic water, industrial, and sanitary applications. The company was founded in 1973 by Gerhard Rosenberg for the development, production, and installation of warm-water, under-floor heating.

In 1980, the company developed the plastic pipe system Fusiotherm, which is made of polypropylene-random (PP-R) for sanitary equipment and heating installations. This innovation has been the foundation of Aquatherm’s continuous growth. The company has developed into a global business that is represented in 75 countries and is a market leader in many sectors and application fields.

Aquatherm employs almost 600 employees within the group of companies. In 2016, it manufactured more than 40,000 km of pipe and 50-million molded/fabricated components out of 18,000 ton of raw materials.

In April 2017, Aquatherm opened a state-of-the-art 160,000-sq.-ft. facility in Attendorn that features 19 extrusion lines. The building has been designed and constructed to offer space for a total of 32 production lines, underscoring the company’s commitment to future growth.

Aquatherm North America (Aquatherm NA) was established roughly 10 years ago as a sales, marketing, and support partner and operated independently until late 2015 when Aquatherm Worldwide assumed control of the North American companies Aquatherm LP (U.S.) and Aquatherm Corp. (Canada). North American operations are based in Lindon, UT, and feature a new 82,000-sq.-ft. facility that opened in April 2017. All corporate departments are housed in this facility, along with a cutting-edge Design and Fabrication Services department and quality-assurance laboratory.

This is a portion of the process-cooling system for Aquatherm’s new extrusion lines. Aquatherm pumps more than 121-million gal. each year from the Bigge River at temperatures from 50 F to 57 F. By German law, the water returned to the river can be no more than 73.4 F. The firm has three water loops running through heat exchangers—process cooling, electric-motor cooling (the largest motor is 800 kW), and heat recovery for space heating and domestic hot water.

This is a portion of the process-cooling system for Aquatherm’s new extrusion lines. Aquatherm pumps more than 121-million gal. each year from the Bigge River at temperatures from 50 F to 57 F. By German law, the water returned to the river can be no more than 73.4 F. The firm has three water loops running through heat exchangers—process cooling, electric-motor cooling (the largest motor is 800 kW), and heat recovery for space heating and domestic hot water.

Maintenance best practices

Aquatherm’s maintenance team includes 40 specialized workers—metal workers, electricians, and machine fitters. Most are maintenance foremen and technicians. Consistent and regular training is the key to keeping the team up to date with the latest technologies.

“Our maintenance workers are trained regularly, both in-house and externally,” Rosenberg said. “We empower them to perform their tasks as efficiently and quickly as possible.

The operations and maintenance teams work closely together. Short distances between the different departments make it easy to react quickly to challenges and encourage cooperation and information exchange between team members. Aquatherm is committed to keeping most of the maintenance of its equipment in house. “It is part of our company culture to do as much of our maintenance in house as possible with our highly qualified staff,” Rosenberg said. “We have a staff design team, which uses CAD to design our extrusion and injection-moulding tools. The tools are then manufactured in our tool shop. For us there is great value in using our own experienced staff to design special tools. This allows us to be highly flexible. We can react to new requirements quickly and appropriately while ensuring we preserve our high standards.”

Automation and advanced technology continues to play a key role.

“One good example of how our maintenance team made a difference for our production department and helped us to save costs is the installation of an additional measuring device at the beginning of our extrusion lines,” Rosenberg explained. “The device measures the pipe diameter and compares the pipe’s actual value with standard values. Previously, we only had a measuring device at the end of the production lines. With the new device installed at the beginning of the line, we can react immediately to variations and adjust the machine settings, as necessary. This is a simple but smart solution that has helped us reduce machine setup times and increase product quality.”

Aquatherm’s new extrusion lines operate three shifts a day, and ran for more than 340 days in 2016. Aquatherm engineers designed everything in the plant itself, including the control systems. The firm designs, builds, and automates their production lines, rather than purchasing complete lines, which may not be optimized for their product lines. Because they had to maintain production, it took 10 months to move the lines from the old building into the new building.

Aquatherm’s new extrusion lines operate three shifts a day, and ran for more than 340 days in 2016. Aquatherm engineers designed everything in the plant itself, including the control systems. The firm designs, builds, and automates their production lines, rather than purchasing complete lines, which may not be optimized for their product lines. Because they had to maintain production, it took 10 months to move the lines from the old building into the new building.

Building for growth

Planning and development of the new extrusion production facility was done in-house with a team of experts. From the initial planning phase, all participating departments were involved—extrusion, building-technology, electrical, metal-working, and technical-purchasing departments, as well as plant and company management.

“The idea behind staffing it was to have a cross-functional team combining the experience of all departments and to implement missed opportunities of the past in the new building,” Rosenberg said. “The ideal pipe production was planned using all the technical and organizational input of the entire team.”

All 19 extrusion lines now are located on the ground floor of the building. The material supplies, as well as auxiliary and packaging materials, are provided on the upper floor. The material supply is almost fully automated, Rosenberg said. The raw materials are transported directly from the supply silos, which are located outside the building, using seven coupled stations that move the materials through the ducts to the machines.

“All cooling, power, water, and compressed air is supplied directly to the machines through a central supply channel integrated in the floor,” Rosenberg explained. “This allows the respective areas to be clearly separated in a structured way, enabling the focus to be on respective core competencies of the involved teams. All process and building controls (material supply, cooling systems, fresh air, light, and safety engineering) were programmed and managed in house.”

The new 160,000-sq.-ft. Aquatherm manufacturing facility features 19 extrusion lines, has space for a total of 32 lines, and is all concrete to comply with German fire codes that deal with plastics fabrication. In 2016, the company manufactured more than 40,000 km of pipe and 50-million molded/fabricated components out of 18,000 ton of raw materials.

The new 160,000-sq.-ft. Aquatherm manufacturing facility features 19 extrusion lines, has space for a total of 32 lines, and is all concrete to comply with German fire codes that deal with plastics fabrication. In 2016, the company manufactured more than 40,000 km of pipe and 50-million molded/fabricated components out of 18,000 ton of raw materials.

Sustainability

Sustainability has been a core value of the company from the time it was founded more than four decades ago, according to Barry Campbell, vice-president of marketing, Aquatherm North America.

“We believe sustainability is a vital component in a company’s success,” Campbell explained. “That is why we have certified our energy-management system according to DIN EN ISO 50001 and our environmental-management system according to DIN EN ISO 14001. It is also why we are the only piping system in North America that can contribute directly to LEED v4 points. We consistently are working to reduce our consumption of energy, water, and resources, as well as lower the amount of our waste and emissions. For example, in 2015, we saved more than 42 tons of carbon dioxide. We also reduced the consumption of raw materials by more than 288 tons by reusing plastic materials in our production processes.”

Energy savings play into the company’s sustainability picture. “We use the hot water, hot air, and waste heat generated during production processes to heat our state-of-the-art extrusion building, as well as another building,” Rosenberg said. “The total heated area is approximately 15,500 square meters. The system that we have in place is so efficient, we only need additional heating for approximately 10 days a year when production is down during the Christmas holidays.”

The company also started a program to replace the lamps in all of its production and warehouse buildings with LEDs.  “To save energy, we also have installed movement-sensitive lighting in the technical basement of our new extrusion building,” Rosenberg added.

Automation triggers continuous improvement

With constant changes in technology, automation continues to be a crucial element in every one of Aquatherm’s processes.

“Automation gains more and more importance, especially with regard to quality control,” Rosenberg said. “One example is the in-line measurement of pipe-wall thickness. Monitoring data is sent to our control center and displayed as graphics on computer monitors. In the event of an error, a message is sent to the shift supervisor and an alarm warns the lead operator. This allows us to constantly minimize reaction time, helping us to guarantee product quality.”

Additionally, Aquatherm controls many physical parameters—including temperature, speed, and melting behavior—in real time.

“Soon, we will be equipping our maintenance teams with tablets, which will enable them to perform remote maintenance from home on weekends when they are on call,” continued Rosenberg.

To help ensure continuous improvement, the company enhances its automation and technology with old-school methods that still contribute to overall productivity. “We hold meetings at the end of each shift,” Rosenberg said. “In these meetings, we review the shift, analyze what went well, and discuss any issues that need to be addressed. All information is summarized and written in a hand-over report. All of our manufacturing plants communicate regularly and share best practices and, in the end, it’s a combination of all these things that make us a productive and sustainable company.” MT

Michelle Segrest is president of Navigate Content Inc., and has been a professional journalist for 28 years. She specializes in developing content for the industrial processing industries and has toured manufacturing facilities in 41 cities in six countries on three continents. If your facility has a good operational, reliability, and/or maintenance story to tell, please contact her at michelle@navigatecontent.com.

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