Digital Transformation Steps Through Continuous Remote Monitoring

Many of us are experiencing digital transformations in our homes in small steps. Devices like Emerson’s Sensi wi-fi thermostat that can be controlled via a smart phone app, digital voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and Apply Siri, and smart locks to lock down the house are a few examples. These change the way we interact with technology and how we get things done.

Emerson's Brian Joe


Similarly for manufacturers, digital transformations have been coming in small steps. Non-traditional wireless measurements for vibration, sound, corrosion, etc. allow new ways to improve safety, reliability and efficiency.

One example from an efficiency standpoint is from the Flow Control article, Continuous Remote Monitoring versus Manual Rounds, by Emerson’s Brian Joe.

Manual operator and maintenance technician rounds have been the traditional way to check readings from the process and identify abnormal conditions in the processing equipment.

Brian opens citing an example:

As maintenance technicians patrol the facility looking for problems, they may ask:

  • Is this steam trap leaking?
  • Is that motor making more noise than usual?
  • Is the pressure relief valve on top of this tank fully closed?

Traditionally, large critical assets such as compressors and pipeline pumps have been instrumented with continuous monitoring. Given the costs of installation, many other important, though less critical assets have relied on periodic, manual inspection by:

…sending individuals out at prescribed intervals with ultrasonic listening devices, machinery vibration analyzers and infrared temperature readers to look for developing problems. If they are careful and methodical enough, a technician might catch a problem using those portable diagnostic tools while there is still time to schedule a repair before a failure and outage.

Industrial wireless technology, such as WirelessHART digital communications, avoids much of the traditional wired installation costs. Wireless measurement devices:

…can be installed for one-third to one-fifth the cost of a wired 4-20mA or fieldbus transmitter.

Brian shares some wireless measurements which could be added for an important pump:

  • Pressure transmitters to measure pressure at the inlet and outlet (suction and discharge)
  • Vibration transmitters for the bearings
  • Seal condition monitoring transmitters
  • Temperature transmitters on the pump and motor
  • Flowmeter transmitters for the main outlet

Measurements alone won’t improve safety, reliability and efficiency. Software applications are needed which incorporate:

…prebuilt analytics with embedded domain expertise to diagnose the health of a specific type of plant asset. The resulting information and insights can be accessed and visualized on a web-user interface running on PCs, laptops, tablets or smartphones. Prebuilt dashboard and chart templates make navigation and interpretation of information simple, so minimal training is required.

The Plantweb Pump Insight application is an example of this type of application. It provides warnings of pump cavitation, plugged strainers, early bearing and gear wear, as well as imminent seal leaks.

Read the article for other examples of performance improvements possible with monitoring heat exchangers, corrosion, pressure relief valves (PRVs), safety showers, and eyewash stations.

You can connect and interact with other digital transformation experts in the Wireless and Improve & Modernize groups in the Emerson Exchange 365 community and/or face to face at the October 1-5 Emerson Exchange conference in San Antonio, Texas.