High quality data keeps the pressure on

| Information and Communication Technology

Smart sensors provide much more than parametric data for preventive compressor maintenance

Jonathan Newell talks to Ingersoll Rand about data acquisition for maintenance planning on industrial compressors.

Compression technology specialist, Ingersoll Rand has a long history of supplying single and multi-stage compressors in various configurations with power ranging from just 2kW to 25,000kW to a wide range of industries. The applications are broadly diverse but the one thing all these compressors have in common is that failures are costly and so preventive maintenance is essential to avoid unplanned equipment outages.

To find out more about how to keep the pressure on and the air flowing at their customer sites, I spoke to Ingersoll Rand’s Vice President of General Industry Product Management, Services and Marketing, Eric Seidel at the company’s exhibition stand at Hannover Messe.

Maintenance options

To successfully implement a preventive maintenance programme, good quality data is essential and Ingersoll Rand has a choice of two software packages which it makes available to its customers. One has monitoring and control at a local level within the company’s firewall with no external access. They can transmit data across the firewall to Ingersoll Rand for monitoring or if maintenance is needed.

The second package links Ingersoll Rand engineers into the company machine so that data can be read from it and transferred to a cloud application for analysis so that engineers can plan maintenance as appropriate.

Commenting on these options, Seidel told me, “There are a number of options available for how we gather and use data but in all cases we use prognostic rather than predictive analysis. Predictive analytics tend to focus on predicting failure whereas prognostics examine machine statistics in more detail enabling better decision making and preventing failures from occurring.”

Connected Sensors

Ingersoll Rand has large customer base, which represents massive amounts of machine data and a valuable resource, which the company can tap into if the customers allows access to it.

Now, the company is increasingly using connected sensors to obtain good quality information rather than pure parametric data. For example, measuring absolute pressures rather than pressure drop. To illustrate the need for better data, Seidel told me, “It used to be the case that company based engineers would continually crank up the pressure to overcome a problem indicated by a pressure drop. This is something that could be isolated and better understood from using connected smart sensors to get to the root cause.”

With more valuable compressors used in critical applications, more sensing points and more values measured translates to improved prognostic capabilities and a better ability to plan down times for maintenance.

He went on to explain that often the problems that customers experience are not directly compressor related. “Half of the air often disappears somewhere between the compressor and the point of use so the first place to look is at system inefficiencies. Eliminate these and then start looking at the compressor room,” he told me.

Critical industries

Ingersoll Rand compressors are used in a vast array of industries, some of which are more critical than others. According to Seidel, process industries are some of the most critical in terms of reliable operation where the loss of material batches through equipment failures can be extremely costly.

“Process industries with 24hr operations characteristically have very small and infrequent windows available for maintenance. In these cases, our prognostic approach to compressor maintenance is essential in order to avoid costly downtime,” Seidel explained.

According to Ingersoll Rand, bringing maintenance regimes into the arena of Industry 4.0 is an important aspect of establishing a cohesive approach to connected industry.

Jonathan Newell
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