Focusing on asset maintenance

Focusing on asset maintenance

Technological breakthroughs are leading to never-before-seen advancements in productivity, as new systems and processes have led to improvements in sensing, networking and use of algorithms to streamline the collection of diagnostic and preventative maintenance data, Automation World reports.

According to the media outlet, this new technology is helping allay many concerns about the data that is generated through asset maintenance programs. Facilities maintenance personnel are increasingly worrying that their automated processes will fail at some point, which would bring about unanticipated asset downtime and lead to huge financial losses.

This worry, however, could soon be eliminated thanks to the work being conducted at the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems at the University of Cincinnati. Here, Professor Jay Lee is working on a research project he has dubbed the "worry-free factory," which Patrick Brown, IMS Center's program manager, says helps companies collect all the necessary information to make crucial business decisions.

The research goes along with a broader trend in which manufacturing facilities are turning to diagnostic and predictive maintenance technology to drive efficiency higher. Researchers like Lee and Brown, as well as their counterparts around the country, have been working to improve sensing, networking and algorithms to create better information flows. Both academia and equipment vendors have been working together with one goal in mind: improve predictive maintenance programs.

According to the news source, the IMS Center recently implemented a new kind of wireless vibration sensor in machine tools at Harley Davidson's manufacturing center. Plant managers for the motorcycle company stated that because spindle vibration has a profound effect on engine quality, engineers are looking for a better way to monitor the health of spindle motors. This way, they can perform maintenance as soon as a problem is identified, keeping downtime to a minimum and preventing total system shutdown.

However, installing a sensor onto the asset proved to be nearly impossible, considering all of the cutting fluids, chips and moving parts that surround the machine. Engineers turned to wireless technology, however this had problems of its own.

The company asked IMS to develop a way to power the sensor without any bulky wires, which led to the idea for an independent power source. ISM then went even further to solve the issue of energy efficiency.

"The sensor has to be turned on at specific times, give out a few lines of data, and go back to an idle state to conserve energy," explained Edzel Lapira, research associate at the IMS Center.

Aside from sensors, there are several non intrusive methods that are currently being investigated that could improve equipment diagnostics.

Keeping an accurate, electronic record of the health of manufacturing facility assets can prevent lengthy and costly inspections from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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