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Save costs on machinery

26 April 2021

With Schaeffler's OPTIME condition monitoring solution, maintenance and production teams in food processing plants can install the system themselves. They can monitor machines at an expert level, without requiring any specialist knowledge. This enables the cost-effective monitoring of a high number of machines, says Sally Sillis, technology centre manager at Schaeffler UK. 

Typically, food and beverage production is based on highly automated, fast moving processes. Every second of production counts and the cost of production downtime can equate to hundreds of thousands of pounds per day, as well as total maintenance costs around 15-20% of total costs. 

Maintenance departments are set up to deal with problems like these. However, because of time and resource constraints, maintenance becomes reactive. Unplanned failure of auxiliary units such as motors, fans and pumps can quickly shut down an entire production line. This can incur high costs and delivery dates can be put at risk. Monitoring these critical auxiliary units can prevent unplanned failures.

Schaeffler's new award-winning Condition Monitoring (CM) solution, OPTIME, offers a unique set of benefits over alternative CM systems. In simple terms, users can Plug > Play > Predict. The installation is straightforward and does not require any specialist expertise. The machine diagnostics are displayed instantly, showing the maintenance engineers where they are needed.  

It offers automated data analysis at an expert level. With low installation outlay and rapid initial operation, OPTIME allows the implementation of CM for a high number of machines, whose condition previously could not be monitored cost effectively. 

In recognition of its unique, innovative approach to condition monitoring, OPTIME recently received the ‘Industry 4.0 Innovation Award 2020’. An annual award from VDE Verlag in collaboration with the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association (ZVEI) as well as the Standardization Council Industry 4.0.

Machine operators, process plants and entire manufacturing sites can now benefit from the use of OPTIME, as well as professional CM service providers and power transmission specialists who wish to expand their portfolio.

Up to 95% of the drives and units in process plants are often not monitored or only monitored based on routes using manual measurements (i.e. patrol monitoring). Some promising new CMS developments for simple, continuously running machinery have been introduced by suppliers over the past few years. None of these solutions have become widely established on the market. 

Operators say that the obstacles to using these CMS are primarily their high costs resulting from complex installations and configurations. As well as the fluctuating additional costs due to manual analyses of vibration signals and the quality and informative value of the analyses. 

Schaeffler’s new OPTIME CMS solves all the above obstacles in one system. It has the potential to revolutionise the condition monitoring of production sites.

Minimum outlay, maximum benefit
The use of OPTIME offers the following benefits:

• A changeover from monthly, manual, route-based measurements (offline measurements) reduces costs by more than 50%. 
• The number of measurements per measurement point is increased many times. 
• Comprehensive, automated condition monitoring.
• Specific information about damaged components.
• Detailed information about the severity of damage.
• Recommended actions in the form of information on the cause of the damage.

The operators of process plants therefore have more control. They can make decisions on what maintenance work must be carried out, on which units and whether this can be completed in the available time window, e.g. during a planned shutdown, more accurately. 

The number of unplanned shutdowns and the associated costs can be significantly reduced and competitiveness improved. Replacement parts and units no longer need to be held in stock for ‘just in case’ scenarios.

System solution
The OPTIME CMS comprises of wireless, battery-operated sensor units, a gateway with SIM card, analysis software on an IoT hub and an app, or web-based dashboard.

The installed sensors record vibrations and temperature data which is used to determine the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They connect with one another automatically to form a mesh network. The data is transferred to Schaeffler’s IoT hub via the gateway.  Continuous, automatic analyses are carried out in the Schaeffler IoT hub and recommendations for decisions and actions based on Schaeffler's experience and algorithms are sent to the user’s mobile phone or to the plant control room. The combination makes all the difference

OPTIME differs from other monitoring solutions through the following combination of characteristics:

1. Minimum installation outlay: The OPTIME sensor is installed on machine housings using a simple screw connection. Electrical cabling is not required because the sensors are battery-operated. A battery life of five years can be achieved with the help of optimised transfer of data. The one-off activation and identification of the sensors is carried out using NFC (Near Field Communication) on a mobile phone via the OPTIME app.

2. Self-configuration, parameterisation and initial operation in 2-5 minutes: The installation and initial operation of an OPTIME sensor usually takes just a few minutes. After the sensor has been activated and clearly identified, the user can assign a name to the measurement point and attach the sensor to the unit. The subsequent parameterisation only requires a minimum amount of information. This includes the selection of the machine type, e.g. compressor, electric motor, fan, gearbox, the option of the ISO class, and information on whether it is a drive with a (constant) nominal speed or a variable speed. In this way, several hundred measurement points can be installed and put into operation in a single day.

3. Autonomous connectivity: In order to ensure that transfer of data from hundreds of OPTIME sensors to Schaeffler’s IoT hub operates smoothly, OPTIME works with the latest network technology. The sensors connect with one another automatically to form a wireless mesh network. If a sensor fails or the battery is exhausted, the transfer of data is autonomously redirected to other intact sensors.

4. Automated analysis: Vibration analysis is fully automated in OPTIME. It does not require complex configuration. Alarm thresholds do not have to be manually defined by an expert and the system is ready for immediate use. The operator or maintenance manager can view the machine status for all the monitored machines in the three levels: suspect, warning, and severe. As the period of operation increases, OPTIME becomes more familiar with the specific characteristics of the relevant machine – completely automatically. The detectable damage includes rolling bearing damage, imbalance, misalignment, cavitation in pumps, gearbox damage, and lubrication problems.

5. Aggregated view of results: OPTIME initially displays an aggregated view of the analysis results in order to provide an overview. Even when there are hundreds of measurement points. Below this are several levels of detail down to an individual machine. The status information levels – suspect, warning, and severe – in the app show how the machines are functioning at a glance. Further on, the user can find information on which units urgently need to be inspected or on which machines irregularities are starting to occur. This also shows what kind of damage and irregularities are involved. The information makes it easy for maintenance managers to take measures to avert any possible downtime. 

6. Only a few pence per sensor per day: Automated data analysis enables CM costs to be kept particularly low. The costs for the overall solution are divided into the costs for the hardware and a regular fee for the digital service. This simple billing model is calculated in advance and protects maintenance managers from any unpleasant financial surprises. The costs only amount to a few pence per day over the typical lifecycle of a sensor.

Register for white paper
Monitoring for the early detection of damage and defects does not necessarily make good economic sense for every machine or system. Schaeffler has written a white paper entitled ‘Is machine monitoring worthwhile?’ The paper serves as a guide and is intended to support end users in their decision making by providing them with tips, calculation examples, checklists and examples from practical experience. 

Schaeffler is also producing a white paper for OPTIME, to register for your copy of the white paper, visit:

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