Jeff Gurnett, Star Refrigeration Regional Manager –North, talks about the real benefits the Internet of Things bring to the efficient and safe provision of planned preventative maintenance of industrial refrigeration equipment through smart monitoring of live data, automated control over multiple plants across the country, and schedule works via the interconnection of smart devices.
The Internet of Things and The Evolution of Refrigeration Plant Aftercare
The concept of ‘The Internet of Things’ has been described as the fourth industrial revolution after steam, mass production and the internet.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is essentially the interconnection of smart electronic devices via the internet. There are estimated to be over 26 billion IoT devices worldwide, exchanging data through online platforms and software systems.
Today the IoT has become a fundamental feature for companies leading the way in the refrigeration engineering industry. Over the past decade, leading maintenance providers have embraced and invested in this rapidly evolving technology to stay ahead of the field and boost customer loyalty with predictive aftercare. In turn, this high tech data-centric service has enabled plant operators to achieve the best return on their investment by increasing efficiency and reducing whole lifecycle costs.
The Origins of The Internet of Things
The origins of the IoT revolution saw the development of smart engineering technology and the launch of new added value services to help customers improve efficiency and cut maintenance costs. Over the past decade, many aftercare providers introduced online digital control systems and electronic diagnostic tools designed to alert engineers to plant faults and failures. These modern tools have enabled maintenance companies to deliver more efficient aftercare, reducing downtime and repair costs for customers.
Predictive Maintenance and Asset Management
The IoT has undoubtedly shifted the focus of refrigeration engineering, transforming the service from preventative maintenance, to predictive asset management. Techniques such as remote monitoring and automatic, real-time data analysis are now used as part of a high tech predictive maintenance programme to boost energy efficiency, optimise plant performance and reduce equipment lifecycle costs.
In recent years the concept of predictive maintenance has expanded exponentially through the use of a diverse range of IoT devices and the development of faster, more reliable mobile networks. Predictive maintenance requires enhanced connectivity between IoT devices using sophisticated software systems and online data platforms that can be accessed from any location.
Data-Driven Aftercare Services
For forward-thinking maintenance providers, the IoT has become fundamental to day-to-day operations in supporting and protecting each customer’s key business asset. Aftercare has evolved into a data-driven, software-centric service, with the capture and analysis of real-time, actionable data at its heart.
At a basic level, the field engineer’s toolbox now features a wealth of IoT devices such as electronic gauges and diagnostic tools, which are essential features of modern maintenance programmes. These simple-to-use digital instruments linked to transducers, sensors and probes, accurately measure the required plant data and upload the information for automatic analysis via an app on the engineer’s mobile phone.
This streamlined process enables maintenance engineers to survey each plant and submit key operational data direct to the CMMS database. Software automatically analyses the data and generates an instant alert if a pending component fault or failure is detected.
The system automatically creates a list of required actions and triggers a work order via email to the engineering team. Field engineers undertake the required work on site and submit the work order report via a mobile app on completion. The CMMS dashboard is instantly updated and shows whether any further action is required, whilst the customer is kept fully informed via email throughout the process.