Equipment Breakdown Prevention 

We are all familiar with preventative and reactive maintenance. Some of us may even be interested in predictive maintenance, foreseeing when equipment will fail in the future. This prediction is based on large sets of data collected by sensors, and the science is still in development. Most companies are, understandably, reluctant to base their maintenance plans on any form of uncertainty.

Monitoring the condition of a deteriorating piece of equipment by sending early warning signals is as close as we can currently get to predicting possible future failures. At B-Synergy, we refer to it as "Equipment Breakdown Prevention". Condition monitoring is not a new concept; production plants and storage terminals, for example, have been using sensors for quite some time in their production processes. Sensors detecting unwanted vibrations, abnormal temperature changes, leakage spill, or any other kind of signal which is alarming but not yet causing an actual breakdown.


These situations require  intervention by your maintenance team, but have remained undetected in the past. There are, however, some interesting technical challenges that require attention when implementing this technology:

- Collecting data from sensors installed on equipment in remote areas where there is no Wi-Fi coverage or power source;

- Sometimes operating in ATEX (Atmosphere Explosible) zones;

- Retrofitting old types of equipment with sensors in an easy-to-install, cost-friendly manner;

- Analysis of signals and converting these signals into concrete actions to be performed by maintenance engineers.

What if all of these technical challenges were a thing of the past? Wouldn't it be great if your maintenance team is notified completely automatically using your company’s own legacy software, such as SAP or Infor LN? In fact, this is already possible by incorporating a packaged OutSystems solution for SAP, named B-Synergy's Plant Maintenance Platform, with LoRa and LoRaWAN technology.

Internet  of  Things: the  next  step  in  plant  maintenance 

Sensor connectivity using LoRaWAN technology 

LoRaWAN or Long Range Wide Area Network is designed to allow low-powered devices to communicate with Internet-connected applications over long-range wireless connections without the need for a 4G or Wi-Fi Network. Battery consumption is low, the range is wide and the bandwidth required is limited. In other words: perfectly suitable for the Internet of Things (IoT) and for use in environments with explosive atmospheres (ATEX).

LoRa is intended for equipment that does not constantly require an internet connection, but needs to pass on data from time to time. It makes use of licence-free radio frequency bands like 868 MHz in Europe or 915 MHz in Australia and North America. LoRa enables long-range transmissions up to 10 km or more with low power consumption that can be supplied by two simple penlight batteries, providing up to five years of power. In some instances it is even possible to replace these batteries with a high efficiency light-energy solar cell, optimized for low light absorption. Devices equipped with LoRa have geolocation capabilities used for triangulating positions via timestamps from gateways. 
LoRa's architecture consists of gateways, network servers and application servers. Radio frequency chips (RFID) are used to transmit a spread spectrum. Spread spectrum is a form of wireless communication in which the energy of the transmitted signal is deliberately spread over a certain 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. Moreover, it is difficult to disturb a spread spectrum signal with another signal. These properties mean that spread spectrum is ideal for applications and environments where a high reliability of the signal is required.

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Use on existing equipment

At production sites, a lot of installed equipment such as valves are operated manually. They need to be checked and controlled regularly, a process that can be facilitated by digitization. Monitoring these valves will avoid leakage spill and/or contaminations, increasing on-site safety. Communications of the valve sensors via a LoRaWAN-IoT network ensures IT security, while the total cost of ownership can also be minimized. The gateways are made for the same global industrial conditions and requirements as the valve sensors.

Reliability is the first thing to consider when providing insight based on new technologies. Therefore, valve sensors have been specifically designed to only communicate the essential: closed or open. The sensor units can be easily bolted onto existing valves and put into operation swiftly. 

Click here to find out more about Retrofittable Valve Sensors

Signal to action 

Now that we have covered the (retro)fitting of existing equipment with sensors that can operate in remote or ATEX zones using LoRa and LoRaWAN data transport technology, we still need to focus on data interpretation and taking action when required. This is where B-Synergy comes in. The B-Synergy Plant Maintenance Platform can integrate seamlessly with any system of records. It can create notifications in your company's ERP software - such as SAP - based automatically on custom-defined business rules. In this way, equipment breakdown might be prevented.

If you would like to learn more, please contact our Plant Maintenance specialist Koen van Halder using contact details below, or click the button above to schedule a demo immediately.

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