Building plant camaraderie with mobile equipment monitoring

Mike Bacidore says remote monitoring brings maintenance and operations together.

By Mike Bacidore, chief editor

The ability to monitor the health of physical assets and analyze data from remote locations has been available for decades. Whether it’s an application as simple as installing a wireless sensing device in a difficult-to-access area or a contracted service that alerts maintenance and reliability personnel when equipment requires a closer look, the ability to preempt catastrophic failure on critical machinery always makes good business sense.

At the recent Honeywell Users Group in Phoenix, Arizona, Lia Walker explained how Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX, www.fcx.com) began using remote asset monitoring for global fleet management. “Within reliability and sustainability, we have machine health monitoring,” she said. “We have mobile equipment in our mines. All of that equipment has health indicators and data. We transfer that data over FTP through mesh. Our mantra is ‘All the data all the time.’”

Mike Bacidore has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or mbacidore@putman.net or check out his .

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To increase reliability and avoid catastrophic failure, the asset health data is integrated with various systems, including SAP, RCM, EDW, and Matrikon’s ProcessMORe. “In 2007, we began building a process methodology. We brought in a multi-discipline team of experts and defined everything,” explained Walker. “A pilot was conducted at three North American mine sites. We can do site-to-site monitoring.”

Like most organizations, FCX’s maintenance personnel and operators were at odds with one another. “Maintenance people will tell you for 200 years that operators tear up your equipment,” said Walker. “In 2008, we realized quickly from our pilot that we needed a robust application. We partnered with what was Matrikon and began development of mobile equipment monitoring (MEM) and built a successful collaboration model between our maintenance organization, MIS, mine sites, and Matrikon.”

The prototype MEM product was implemented at two North American sites on Caterpillar 793 hauling trucks, P&H 4100 and 2800 electric shovels, and Caterpillar support equipment. “We standardized a decision-making process, alarm-handling process, and data analysis process,” explained Walker. “We want remote-asset-monitoring-process (RAMP) personnel to focus on business results, such as sustaining higher equipment reliability and availability. We want to collect and analyze real-time data, use various predictive technologies and advanced diagnostic tools, and make recommendations to maintenance and operations divisions.”

The data has brought operations and maintenance together. “Now we have people looking at data they've never seen before,” she said. “It was important to build a positive operations and maintenance communications tool. Somebody's looking at data that tells the health of the equipment. We had to build the communications, and this was an important piece of the success.”

Read Mike Bacidore's monthly column, From the Editor.

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