Safety and reliability must be a cornerstone of IIoT deployments

March 9, 2017 OpenSystems Media

People often see the Industrial IoT (IIoT) in a narrow view, namely the ability to increase efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. While that’s true, it’s a limited list of benefits based on one’s understanding of connectivity, data, and information to influence behavior. There are several ways to lead organizational change, and it all depends on one’s role and how they view their role in the organization.

As an example, this month I spoke at a NORA (National Oil Recyclers Association) Environmental, Health & Safety workshop. NORA represents the leading liquid recycling companies in used oil, antifreeze, oil filters and absorbents, parts cleaning, wastewater, and chemicals. Its primary mission has been aiding in the development of the EPA’s used oil management standards, including avoiding the damaging hazardous waste designation for used oil. This wasn’t my typical audience for IoT discussions, so I had to think about presenting information in a way that would be valuable for the audience. As such, I took a lot away from that preparation process and from my interactions with the attendees.

Again, the common theme is productivity in the process industry or discrete manufacturing, and the machines running smoothly and efficiently and overall productivity is the goal. However, there are many incidents where we aren’t moving from good productivity to better, we’re looking at serious catastrophic events.

Figures 1 through 5 illustrate how modern technology and measurement can avoid serious issues related to pumps, fans, and motors. Specifically, you can add continuous monitoring for bearing fault detection by measuring peak acceleration of the bearing as well as overall vibration, temperature, and humidity on rotating machines. That continuous monitoring will provide the data and insight for 30 to 90 days to lead preemptive action ahead of unplanned maintenance. Realize we can’t all put in new machines, but rather need to implement these solutions as IIoT bolt-on additions to existing equipment. I’d further argue that there’s a need to monitor essential assets as a reliability program, not only the critical assets integrated into a PLC.

1. A pump seal leak can result in a vapor cloud and fire.

2. Shown is a vibration study at a gas plant simulating the root cause in a weld break and release of compressed gas.

3. The figure illustrates chronic lubrication failure causing repeat fires on a DDG dryer fan at an ethanol plant.

4. Pictured is long-term fan imbalance causing looseness and leading to failure and safety risks.

5. Here a Biomass boiler where solids fuel silo blew its lid off. The cause was a failed bearing which ignited the explosive dust.

One area of commonality I found across every industrial company is that they want and need safety improvements, as fewer injuries leads to better productivity, lower costs, and higher morale. The idea of embracing the productivity measurement of manufacturing processes through the safety and reliability lens is relatively new, but studies clearly show that as the OEE (operational equipment efficiency) goes up, safety incidents go down, as seen in Figure 6. Machines often cause injuries when they malfunction, thus, proactive maintenance or further predictive maintenance is enabled by things like condition monitoring and bearing fault detection in rotating equipment like pumps, fans, and motors.

Further studies also show that the largest single cause of plant incidents is mechanical failure. However, operators lack the feedback to know they’re abusing the machinery. In the past, the technology needed to understand what was happening inside the machine continuously either wasn’t available or was cost prohibitive. A forward-thinking maintenance manager could utilize a vibration analyst or service technician with advanced diagnostics to determine root cause or keep the plant running on a point by point basis. Now today, with IIoT sensors and analytics, continuous condition monitoring is available in a cost-effective manner to have information flowing in real-time to further enhance productivity, efficiency, health, and safety.

Figure 7 illustrates how productivity, reliability, and safety are related. The more predictive and automated an organization becomes, the lower the maintenance costs; higher visibility also translates into worker safety.

Dan Yarmoluk is the business and market development lead for ATEK’s IoT and analytical products which include TankScan and AssetScan. Dan has been involved in analytics, embedded design and components of mobile products for over a decade. He has an MBA from Loyola University Chicago and a Master’s of Data Science from the University of St. Thomas.

Dan Yarmoluk, ATEK Access Technologies
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