Use Case - Reducing Downtime in Difficult Field Applications

Scalable, Configurable Approach to Predictive Maintenance

 

A large multi-national mining equipment manufacturing and service company determined that they needed to assure their customers that continuing processing operations for $1M US per day was a priority.

The organization knew the operating functions most likely to fail for the equipment in question. These failures, while fairly infrequent, caused long delays in production, even when parts inventory and repair technicians were on site. And when parts needed to be ordered or technicians flown to a site for repair, the downtime was quite costly for their customers, and as it turned out for them as well, given contract stipulations.

Armed with this knowledge, the engineering department initiated a project to come up with a detection and communication strategy so that all the data collected could in fact drive action.  After determining several factors, they realized that they needed a life-long wireless sensor. Perpetual to eliminate batter/sensor changes and to insure monitoring over the lifetime of the equipment. Wireless because the operating conditions and sensor placement was such that a wired sensor would have the power cables wear and/or be damaged by debris. Further, they needed to assure communication with existing controllers on the equipment. Battery-powered wireless sensors were problematic because batteries eventually died and required replacement.

One of the engineers on the project determined that only a sensor driven by a vibration energy harvester would work for this application. He found one, but then realized that the standard approaches of system design for power supplies using a battery did not work for a harvester. Further, he came to understand that getting any system to be a life-long system took more background and experience in power consumption design than was resident in the company. This was further complicated by knowing where to situate the sensors to assure maximum harvesting efficiency, how to configure the communication technology to meet the requirements of equipment sending signals with data, but also minimize, etc.

With all of these issues and little experience, the engineer decided to speak with Wireless Sensor Systems at a trade show about energy harvesting.  Soon, he realized that getting to prototype internally was going to take more than 6 months and had a high probability of failure. So, he contracted WSS to design the entire system and provide prototypes.  Within 90 days, the mining company had two types of life-long wireless sensors in quantity for testing on equipment – both a temperature sensor and an accelerometer. A WSS engineer traveled to the test site in the US, affixed the sensors, trained the appropriate people in the communication operations and instrumentation, and the test was successful. Sensors were then deployed overseas, and further tests were completed, all within 6 months of an initial agreement, and well below any potential anticipated costs for the design and prototyping work internally by the mining company. The company expects a reduction of downtime and maintenance costs by over 40% while improving uptime and production output once the wireless sensor system is fully deployed.

Benefits

  • Perpetual solutions enable improved reliance on predictive maintenance solutions
  • Configurable and scalable for specific requirements and to the harshest of environments experienced by high value industrial machinery
  • Quick deployment shortens time to market
  • Adds value to service contracts though improved failure prediction
  • Improves the bottom line by contributing to reduced maintenance costs while protecting against potential revenue loss

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