Monitoring & metering Evolution, not revolution

The human coronavirus pandemic highlighted the benefits of adopting a digital approach to running production machinery. Here, SKF’s Ian Peverill, head of Service, discusses the challenges of

implementing such technologies and describes how the bearing specialist is evolving to meet them.

Improving the performance of machinery with digital technologies T

o say that 2020 was a tough year for industries that rely on machinery would be an understatement. The impact of the

human coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was seismic, as lockdowns, travel bans and factory closures disrupted supply chains and made the collaborative business of engineering an incredibly difficult undertaking. Some businesses were successful, however. Those that were light on their feet and were already in the process of digitising their communications, processes and – even – their entire business models were in a much stronger position to weather the storm. Many workforces had already adapted to this new way of doing things, so ‘working from home’ interfered little with day-to-day operations. Condition monitoring, predictive maintenance and automated machine-learning technologies were all part a digital tool kit that enabled them to conduct their businesses as usual.

WorKIng aT Scale Understandably, many companies are now looking to digitise their operations, but an approach that works for one organisation is unlikely to work for another. Implementing so- called Industry 4.0 technologies is one thing but making them work at scale is a different prospect all together.

Digital technologies come in many forms and can be used at every point along a given value chain. New forms of connectivity, for example, allow data to be shared seamlessly between machines, throughout companies and along the entire length of supply chains. Indeed, rich, readily available data is the fuel that drives digital technologies, such as advanced analytics systems that can spot hidden problems with a process or opportunities to make it more efficient, or prediction models that can assist in the planning


of maintenance and the forecasting of production outputs. By providing companies with a clear view of how they are performing, such technologies enable decisions to be made more quickly, thereby increasing the speed with which both challenges and opportunities can be responded to. Machines are changing too, able to adapt and change on the basis of digital inputs.

Too mucH cHoIce The sheer breadth of opportunities that digitisation presents to companies is a double- edged sword, however. It can be incredibly difficult to choose the right technologies for a given business, and then roll them out at scale. In one 2018 global survey of manufacturing executives, the overwhelming majority of respondents said that their organisations were running pilot programmes to test new digital solutions. On average these companies had eight different approaches under evaluation, but only a quarter said that these technologies had matured to the point that they could be rolled out across their businesses. This issue stems at least in part to the sheer

diversity of problems these companies are looking to address. A given company might operate many different types of asset and, for each of these, a range of different digital approaches might be applicable - making replication difficult. These approaches must be tailored specifically to the desired application.

one STeP aT a TIme

Instead of attempting to digitise their operations all in one go, and risk biting off more than they can chew, companies need to think of it as a journey, to set bold goals reached not in one giant leap, but in many small steps. The aim of these incremental, continuous efforts must be that of creating value within the

business. Each individual project should have a clear objective in mind—delivering improvements to key performance indicators (KPIs). The teams involved in the project should know exactly how their chosen tools will deliver these improvements and how any investment required will pay off. Managers, for their part, should watch the numbers closely. They need to understand the business rationale for each project and prioritise efforts to ensure that resources are allocated appropriately. Once new technologies are in place, their impact should also be subject to regular review.

collaboraTIon IS Key While each company must own its journey to digitisation, it does not need to travel alone. Even the largest organisations will not be able to master every aspect of digital technology, or to build every digital application from scratch. That is why most companies choose to take a collaborative approach. Condition monitoring, for example, sits near

the top of many companies’ digital toolbox. It is now possible to fit an array of sensors and data analysis technologies to machines in order to monitor their health, predict future problems with them and schedule maintenance interventions, but choosing the right approach for a particular asset is difficult; it depends on a host of factors, including the criticality of the equipment and the consequences of specific types of failure. The scale and complexity of implementing these digital technologies is driving demand for service-based contracts, such as SKF’s Rotating Equipment Performance (REP) programme.

TranSFormaTIon SKF is itself in the midst of radically changing the way it does business, a process that was

April 2021 Instrumentation Monthly

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74