Deploying IoT for Predictive Maintenance Management

Solving Process Manufacturing Maintenance with IoT Technologies.

The Challenge

Proper maintenance is crucial for process manufacturing in industries with hazardous areas prone to explosions such as: oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, and public safety. Maintenance is also a major contributor to the performance and profitability of a business. System failure can lead to costly stoppages in operation. Unplanned refinery shutdowns, for example, add cost to businesses with already tight margins. To effectively prevent breakdowns or accidents, operators must monitor all technical, administrative and managerial actions during the lifecycle of an asset. New technologies can help. Tools such as IoT sensors and mobile devices that are purpose-built for hazardous environments can monitor operations for potential problems and help prevent or reduce the impact of any issues. Preventive maintenance and asset performance management (APM) that is assisted by predictive technologies is designed to inspect assets while they work properly to reduce the likelihood of unexpected equipment failure. IoT technologies that can perform predictive maintenance without disrupting operations allow companies to better calculate when and how a critical asset may fail, and act accordingly to ensure the asset functions more efficiently and cost-effectively.
The Problem
All refinery equipment deals with highly combustible materials and is located in Class I Division 1 hazardous areas where non-certified electronic devices are restricted due to risk of explosion. This restricts immediate access to data and communications while in the facility. Manual inspection of all assets is time-consuming, vulnerable to error in method or reporting, and delayed in the recording of data to ERP or other IT systems. Current sensors that monitor equipment function report individual silos of data about vibration, temperature, corrosion, pressure and other factors, but they are expensive and do not necessarily communicate with one another nor incorporate the data of other interdependent assets to provide a complete, real-time report of asset viability and performance. In the event of an abnormality, personnel working in the hazardous area hear alerts but cannot differentiate between a true emergency and a problem that could be solved with little risk, thus full stoppage of the operation is necessary to address the issue.

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The Solution

Intrinsically Safe Sensors: the NexVu IoT Solution
Gathering as much actionable data as possible about various assets involved in the refining process is the first step to identifying potential problems and preventing them through predictive maintenance. The NexVu IoT Solution from Aegex Technologies allows technicians to easily customize intrinsically safe IoT sensors and place them in Class I Div 1 hazardous areas to collect a myriad of actionable data points about the surrounding conditions. The NexVu sensor modules are customizable for thousands of configurations and a variety of data analytics, and require only a few battery-powered and LTE-enabled components. Up to 40 nodes including sensors that detect vibration, temperature, pressure volatile gases and others can be attached to each NexVu endpoint to ensure a complete conditional assessment. The “smart” sensors do not need prior programming – they are automatically recognized in the Cloud with pre-established hazard thresholds – so they are continually learning which data anomalies to report based on the selected combined data configurations. For example, a turbine that reports higher than normal pressure combined with an excessive CO2 concentration could trigger a specific alert for urgent maintenance, while a gear with abnormal vibration patterns but no excess heat may trigger a less urgent maintenance request. NexVu sensors can be programmed to report only the data necessary for asset performance management so maintenance needs may be addressed only in the event of an anomaly, or ahead of an anomaly, based on the sensors’ learnings about what are normal and optimal operating conditions.
Intrinsically Safe Mobile Devices & Maintenance Management Applications
The aegex10 Intrinsically Safe Tablet is an enterprise-grade, connected collaboration device for managing data and conducting communications in order to predict, prevent or prescribe maintenance. Data from NexVu IoT Sensors can be safely viewed in potentially combustible environments on aegex10 Intrinsically Safe Tablets. These tablets are certified for the most explosive of environments - Class I, II, III Division 1 or ATEX/IECEx Zone 1 hazardous areas - so they will not cause an explosion in volatile situations where gases, dust or other combustible materials are present. The tablets are also ruggedized to IP65 standards to withstand extreme temperatures, drops/impacts, and water or particle ingress. Their Windows 10 OS allows for user-friendly operation and immediate, secure synchronization with most IT systems for easy data management. The tablets connect to the Cloud via LTE or WiFi or can interact offline via Bluetooth and NFC communications. For the refinery in which Class I Division 1 certified equipment is required, technicians can carry the lightweight aegex10 tablets by hand or in hands-free carrying cases without fear of igniting the volatile atmosphere. The tablets enable teams to communicate in real-time for up to 12 hours on a single charge, and they can be operated with or without a stylus and/or gloves in the extreme environment, where high temperatures, water, gases, and other hazards are present. The Aegex tablets ensure all personnel are connected and able to securely communicate.

The Results

Improved Maintenance Efficiency: After installing NexVu IoT Sensors throughout the facility to monitor ambient conditions and specific asset conditions, the refinery was able to:

  • Be alerted of anomalies and potential emergencies
  • Identify which assets were nearing end-of-life
  • Predict which assets were close to needing maintenance
  • Determine which type of maintenance each asset needed
  • Devise a schedule of regular preventative maintenance for each asset
By running advanced maintenance management applications on Aegex Intrinsically Safe Tablets, personnel could:
  • Plan maintenance with the assistance of virtual reality apps
  • Capture and combine data from IoT sensors, schedules, and records for use in preventative and predictive maintenance plans
  • Be alerted and react when equipment is reaching end-of-life
  • Check vital maintenance procedures and ensure they were completed
  • Retrieve documentation and history of previous maintenance
  • Check the status of tag-outs and verify completion before removing the tag
  • Check service records for third-party maintained systems
  • Update status of trouble tickets
  • Verify independent functional testing completion following repairs
  • Attach supporting images to equipment service records
  • Scan instrument bar code serial numbers, trouble tickets, etc.
  • Support “digital signing”
  • Consult via chat/text/email with third-party maintenance organizations and attach correspondence to service records
  • Receive local priority alerts
  • Perform maintenance reviews and supervisor sign-offs
Improved Profitability, Performance and Safety: By enabling customized sensor data and real-time communication among personnel in hazardous areas, the refinery was able to:
  • Discover potential issues based on real-time data about asset condition from IoT sensors and plan accordingly to address or prevent those issues.
  • Enable technicians to more quickly and easily complete reliable preventive maintenance tasks onsite with intrinsically safe tablets
  • Learn which assets needed attention at which intervals, minimizing maintenance frequency and avoiding unnecessary costs
  • Achieve a 30% reduction in maintenance costs, 75% decrease in breakdowns and 45% reduction of downtime
  • Decrease the risk of emergencies and ensure better personnel safety through better asset health

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About Aegex: Aegex is a technology engineering and design company that provides intrinsically safe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and mobile solutions for hazardous industries. Our globally certified intrinsically safe Windows 10 tablet, sensors and partner monitoring systems, form an IoT platform that manages big data to improve efficiency, safety and productivity in hazardous industrial environments in oil & gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, utilities, public safety, defense and other industries with potentially explosive atmospheres.

Applicable Industries