We are all familiar with preventive and reactive maintenance. Some of us may even be interested in predictive maintenance, which attempts to predict when an equipment will fail in the future. This prediction is based on large amounts of data collected by sensors. This scientific field is still developing and most companies are, understandably, reluctant to base their maintenance plans on any kind of uncertainty.
Monitoring the condition of a technically deteriorating equipment and sending early signals is currently the closest we get to predicting future failures. At B-Synergy, we call this "Equipment Failure Prevention."
Condition monitoring is not a new concept; manufacturing facilities and storage terminals have been using sensors in their production processes for quite some time. Sensors detect unwanted vibrations, abnormal temperature changes, leaks or other signals that are alarming but do not yet lead to an actual failure. These situations require the intervention of your maintenance team, but in the past went unnoticed.
Challenges in implementing this technology:
Collecting data from sensors installed on equipment in remote areas without Wi-Fi coverage or power source;
Sensors often installed in Atmosphere Explosible (ATEX) zones;
How to easily and cost-effectively retrofit old equipments with new sensors;
Analysis of signals and conversion into concrete actions by maintenance engineers.
LoRaWAN for optimal monitoring
Wouldn't it be great if your maintenance team could be informed fully automatically for malfunctions using your existing ERP software, such as SAP or Infor LN? This is already possible today through the integration of a Packaged OutSystems Solution for SAP, the Mobile Plant Maintenance Platform, with LoRa and LoRaWAN technology. This technology ensures trouble-free operation of equipments.
LoRaWAN or Long Range Wide Area Network is designed to enable low-power devices to communicate with Internet-connected applications over long-range wireless links, without the need for a 4G or Wi-Fi network. Battery consumption is low, range is long and bandwidth requirements are limited. In other words, perfectly suited for the Internet of Things and use in environments with explosive atmospheres (ATEX).
LoRa is intended for equipments that do not have a constant internet connection, but need to transmit data from time to time. It uses a radio frequency such as 868 MHz in Europe or 915 MHz in Australia and North America. LoRa enables long-distance transmissions of up to 10 km or more with low power consumption. These can be powered by two penlight batteries that provide up to 5 years of power. In some cases, it is even possible to replace these with a high-efficiency solar cell optimized for low light absorption. Equipments equipped with LoRa have geolocation capabilities used for position triangulation.
The architecture of LoRa consists of ports, network servers and application servers. Radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are used to transmit a 'Spread spectrum'. Spread spectrum is a form of wireless communication where the energy of the transmitted signal is deliberately spread over a particular frequency domain. These signals have a much larger bandwidth than the information they contain, creating a noisy signal that is difficult to detect or intercept. In addition, it is difficult to interfere with a spread spectrum signal with another signal. These properties make spread spectrum ideal for applications and environments where high signal reliability is required.
Use on existing equipments
At production sites, many installed devices, such as valves for example, are operated manually. They need to be checked regularly. Digitization can facilitate this process. Monitoring these valves prevents leakage and/or contamination, thus improving safety control. The communication of the valve sensors via a LoRaWAN - IoT network ensures that IT security and overall costs are minimized.
Reliability is very important when implementing new technologies. Therefore, valve sensors are specially designed to communicate only the essentials: open or closed. The sensors can be easily mounted on existing valves and quickly put into operation.
Signal to action
Now that we have equipped existing equipments with sensors with LoRa and LoRaWAN data transport technology, we still need to focus on data interpretation and taking action when needed. This is where B-Synergy comes in. The B-Synergy Plant Maintenance Platform can seamlessly integrate with any 'System of Records'. It can automatically create notifications in your business software, based on your own specific business rules. In this way, you can prevent equipment failure.
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