Can remote monitoring help your plant replace the expertise of retiring workers?

If you’re not in Hannover, Germany, this week, you can find numerous ways to get the latest news and announcements from Hannover Messe, the annual showcase of new technologies and automation.

Atlas Copco is introducing SmartLink, a compressor monitoring program that works with its Mark V controller. Remote monitoring is not a new concept, but, as plants lose experienced maintenance and reliability personnel to retirement and other means of attrition, the solution of replacing some level of that expertise with outsourced capabilities becomes all the more enticing.

The week prior to Hannover Messe, I visited Atlas Copco’s U.S. headquarters in Rock Hill, South Carolina, visited a significant number of its facilities and its customers, and had some incredibly insightful conversations, including this one with John Brookshire, president of Atlas Copco Compressors US, who talked about recruiting new service technicians and remote monitoring systems.

Atlas Copco’s SmartLink, which will ship at the end of the month in smaller units, will allow for 24/7 data monitoring, and, when integrated with the Elektronikon controller, it allows access to a Web-based monitoring dashboard.

SmartLink is DIN-rail-mounted and connects to Mark V controller via Ethernet cable. It also includes a power wire and an antenna that uses GSM communication technology. The SmartLink program alerts customers and service technicians in real time to compressor performance changes, allowing a service technician to address a maintenance issue before it could result in any downtime. When necessary, warning messages are sent to customers via text message and email.

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 or check out his .

Any brand of compressor upgraded to a Mark V controller can use SmartLink to monitor temperature, pressure, SPM, warning levels, and shutdown levels remotely. A standard level of service comes standard with the device, while upgrades for uptime and energy monitoring can be purchased for additional fees.

Atlas Copco also is in the process of staffing a national technical support center in Charlotte, North Carolina, with up to 20 technical staff members in a new building. In fact, the 140-year-old company is still growing strong around the globe, as Brookshire explained in another interview he did with me.

I also had the opportunity to visit with several of Atlas Copco’s customers. One in particular, Gaston Systems, an innovative machine builder in Stanley, North Carolina, has redefined textile dying with its foam-application technology, and the machine design incorporates Atlas Copco’s nitrogen generator. I had the opportunity to speak with Christoph Aurich, managing director, and Dieter Zeiffer, product manager, during the visit.

Sustainability is a big part of every company’s long-term strategy these days, and Atlas Copco, with 140 years already under its belt, is all about long-term growth. Paul Humphreys, vice president of communications at Atlas Copco North America, offered a very insightful look at how to improve corporate sustainability with engaged employees. Along those same lines, Atlas Copco’s OriginAir is refurbishing compressors, elements, and valves, making them available under warranty to interested plants. I spoke with James Fowler, OriginAIR Marketing and Sales Manager, Atlas Copco Compressors, about the initial success of the relatively young endeavor.

Take a look at any or all of these videos. When a company turns 140, as Atlas Copco did a few weeks ago, it’s a good time to give a listen to what that experience has taught.

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