Remote maintenance: Early diagnosis of problems without breaking your travel budget

July 5, 2016 Dennis Bouley

Wouldn’t it be nice to fix an equipment problem without having to dispatch field personnel to faraway remote locations? Thanks to recent advances in technology, the concept of remote maintenance is now both achievable and affordable. Driven by the broader trend of automated asset management, the ability to now remotely monitor physical infrastructure equipment (i.e., power and HVAC system components) allows for timely diagnostics and early warnings if equipment behavioral trends begin to exceed normal parameters.

Utilities and renewable energy firms have emerged as early adopters of new generation asset management tools and remote maintenance. On the utility front, for example, should a customer call to report an outage, the customer service representative can ping the customer’s meter to check its status and check other consumers’ meters in the same vicinity to confirm the kind of outage the caller is experiencing. He or she may then troubleshoot the issue and reboot the smart meter once the issue is resolved.

In the domain of renewable energy, wind farms are migrating to remote maintenance technologies. As aging equipment began to break down at some of the older wind farms, and as warranties expired on other pieces of equipment, wind operators were seeing a steep rise in maintenance costs.

They knew they had to implement a more practical maintenance approach. Through the use of asset performance management software systems and dedicated control centers they can supervise the condition of an entire fleet of wind farms, even though they may be separated by hundreds of miles.

These tools help the operators to achieve their goal of optimizing their portfolio of wind assets across multiple sites while monitoring specific, detailed individual turbine performance (mechanical and electrical). Such capabilities reduce the overall cost of operation and maintenance of wind assets across the network.

In another utility example, the Bermuda Electric Light Company (BELCO) was looking for ways to deploy and sustain its new self-sufficiency initiative. As an island located far from the mainland, in-person maintenance support of its Bermuda power distribution network was costly, inconsistent, and field crews were rarely quick to arrive.

An asset management system enabled them to collect, aggregate and organize equipment performance data. They utilized the capabilities of the system to control both preventive and corrective maintenance costs.

How remote maintenance works

Designing an asset management system that incorporate remote maintenance capabilities requires knowledge about which assets to monitor, what data points to store, and what dashboard to implement. Some assets like transformers, and breakers, may be older and should be monitored periodically to avoid catastrophic failure during their lifetime. Newer assets that are equipped with a higher level of internal intelligence require tracking of firmware, encryption keys, and configuration settings.

Embedded sensors observe the behavior of equipment all along the distribution chain and report anomalies surrounding installation practices, cabling techniques, mechanical connections, and load configuration. Owners are alerted to the possible premature wear and tear of components. In addition, factors that may have a negative impact on system availability (i.e., possible human error handling equipment, higher than normal temperatures, high acidity levels, corrosion, and fluctuations in power) are flagged, and operators are advised as to which actions to take.

Such technologies also allow deployment of new predictive maintenance models, where weakened assets can be both discovered and proactively replaced, saving hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars or more per year.

Schneider Electric partners play an important role in helping customers to migrate to the predictive/ remote maintenance model. Learn more about our entire suite of best practice maintenance services and download our free white paper, “Real-time Maintenance Execution,” for more information.

 

 

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