Context-aware tech, part 1: What does it look like, and what's it worth to my company?

Here’s what context-aware tech looks like today and what it means for asset management in your plant.

By Christine LaFave Grace, managing editor

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Small’s reply: “If you ask most of these manufacturers, ‘Has your line ever actually stopped because you couldn’t find X?’ almost inevitably all of them say, sheepishly, ‘Yes, once or twice a year, we get stopped because someone can’t find this.’ ”

The cost of a line stoppage and the hourly rate of the line running are numbers that companies “have a pretty good handle on,” Small says. And with RFID tags, “We can’t guarantee that (a search-related stoppage) will never happen again, but if we reduce the likelihood of that substantially, that can be factored usually into a pretty significant ROI.”

When planning maintenance tasks, too, having data about an asset’s performance history in varying operating conditions can help schedulers make more-strategic, cost-saving decisions, IFS’ Veague says.

“What if you didn’t have to maintain your assets as often as you think because their operating characteristics are actually in less harsh conditions than what the manufacturer built their maintenance intervals around, so you can safely extend your maintenance interval?” he asks. Further, he adds, “If you had better insights into the nature of a failure or the nature of maintenance condition requirements before you go out, you can be sure you have the right spare parts with you, (and) you have the right knowledge and skills when you go.”

The more-comprehensive perspective generated by context-aware tools can help companies avoid unnecessary costs of sending personnel out to a remote asset to verify a possible issue, too.

(Context awareness is) assisting in the decision-making that has to happen on an hourly basis for these plants.

– Sandra DiMatteo, Bentley

Bentley, which acquired 3D modeling software solution ContextCapture in 2015, is looking to help businesses use drone-provided aerial photography and sensor technology to more cost-effectively analyze remote assets. Consider a utility company substation, says Sandra DiMatteo, who leads marketing strategy for Bentley’s asset management and operations products.

“They no longer have to run out, if there’s a problem, and take a trip out to the substation to verify (it), because we virtually flew in and captured it using a drone,” she says. That’s exactly what’s happening with ERDF, which manages public electricity distribution for most of France. The company is using ContextCapture and asset sensors to capture images and data for 10,000 brownfield substations throughout France, Bentley senior product marketing manager David Huie notes, in an effort to support maintenance efficiency and worker safety.

“The concept we term is continuous inspection, as opposed to a single-point-in-time thing that you do on a very infrequent basis. It can now be done regularly because of the ease and inexpensiveness of doing so.”

Whether it’s at a substation, an oilfield, a wind power farm or another remote site, the use of asset sensors and aerial/digital photography can enable the automatic creation of 3D models of a facility or a particular asset as it exists right now. When looking at whether, how, where, and when to tend to a problem at a remote site, that’s powerful, Huie and DiMatteo say.

Context awareness is “assisting in the decision-making that has to happen on an hourly basis for these plants,” DiMatteo says.

Part 2: Who's leading the charge?
Part 3: What are the hurdles to adoption, and what's next?

2 of 2 1 | 2 > View on one page
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