The I Io T Frontier For Motors Repair

The IIoT frontier for motors repair

Feb. 9, 2023
In this Big Picture Interview, learn how the internet of things is changing the landscape of machine condition monitoring, especially for motors.

Gene Vogel is a pump and vibration specialist with the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA). Before joining EASA, Gene operated his own business, General Maintenance Equipment Engineering, Inc., which is a marketing service and training organization for industrial maintenance and related technologies. He also has an extensive background in vibration and dynamic balancing. Gene sat down with Plant Services to talk about the state of motors maintenance and the impact that the IIoT is having on best practices.

PS  Last summer you presented on this topic at the EASA annual convention and observed that the goal is not to change the way you wind a stator or repair a bearing; the goal is to produce more useful information at a lower cost, and the new part of all this is how we get the data. Could you expand on your ideas about what the new part is and where IIoT is heading?

GV  I’m looking at this from the perspective of our members who are service centers whose main business is repairing machinery in their service center. And, of course, they have field services as well, and among those are predictive maintenance services for their customers.

You talk about IIoT and you talk about internet communications and artificial intelligence and someone whose job it is to repair machinery stops and says, “Well, wait a minute. How does this affect me?” And I say, if you’re working in the service center repairing machinery, it really does not directly affect the way that you do the repairs to the machine. Now, from a business point of view, it might make a difference as to whether or not you get that machine into your service center to repair it.

Many of our service centers, a majority of our service centers, are involved in some sort of field service with their customers, and among those are machine condition monitoring. This means going into their customer’s facility to measure vibration, measure temperature, measure motor current, find out what’s going on with the machines, and produce reports that say, “here’s some problem areas you need to look at.” Well, that’s a symbiotic relationship between that and repairing the machine in your service center. If you’re the provider that’s telling them “here’s some problems that need to be addressed,” then you’re going to be at the front of the line when that piece of machinery needs to be repaired.

So changes to the landscape in the machine condition monitoring business will affect your relationship with the customer and why you may or may not get that machine for repair. But when the machine comes in, it doesn’t change the way you do the business, it doesn’t change the way you repair that machine.

PS  Which IIoT-based data-gathering technology is your average plant team or perhaps your average service center most comfortable with right now? And is there one that people are less comfortable with?

GV  A primary component of that is a machine-mounted transducer, which is wireless, doesn’t require cables, and can communicate that data to places other than the immediate locality around the machine. That means you don’t have to have a technician there to take the data. That’s very attractive from a lot of different perspectives, probably more than we could even talk about here, but includes safety, training, and costs. If you can get good data to a computer anywhere without having to send a technician out there to stand next to the machine and endanger himself, that’s a big plus.

I think the thing that folks are least comfortable with is the internet communication. All of the companies who would be investing in this on a fairly significant scale have an IT department and they’ve got folks who they’re paying around the clock just to keep their data safe. They say, “OK, we’re going to put transducers on 100 different machines and it’s all going to talk to the internet and it’s all going to be really sweet,” and somebody in IT says “Oh, yeah.” And there’s concern there.

While very few people have a good understanding of artificial intelligence, it doesn’t elicit a lot of negative feelings. Most people’s perception of artificial intelligence is about the same as the way they perceive magic. Magic happens. People do that. It’s not a big thing. So, artificial intelligence, if you don’t understand it and you don’t even imagine how it might hurt you, it’s like, sure, why not let the computer do the decision making? But the internet part of things, when it encounters the IT department can really cause some snags.

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