Pump-Maker Grundfos Gives Machine Health Monitoring a New Look

The Grundfos machine health monitoring service for rotating equipment forges partnerships with customers aimed at achieving new levels of reliability.

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The days are fast vanishing when treatment plant operators monitor pumps, motors and other equipment by making rounds, doing spot checks and recording data on paper.

Today, equipment health monitoring is all about electronic sensing and increasingly about feeding data wirelessly to a central digital monitoring platform for review, analysis and reporting. The aim is to give plant operators and maintenance people timely and accurate data that they can use to structure maintenance programs cost-effectively and extend equipment life.

Now pump manufacturer Grundfos offers a machine health monitoring service that’s designed not just to collect and compile machine data, but to present it in ways operators can easily understand so they can act on it appropriately.

The actionable insights found in the reports are extremely precise and allow for immediate, targeted responses to ensure continuous reliability. Anthony Stanley, business development director for digital services, talked about the offering in an interview with Treatment Plant Operator.

TPO: How does this offering fit with your company’s products and business?

Stanley: It’s part of our larger portfolio of digital solutions, one of a number that we are planning to roll out globally. It’s about connecting critical equipment to our network and to the cloud so we can assess machine health in real time.

TPO: What is the marketplace need you are addressing with this capability?

Stanley: The industrial world is changing, and that includes the water and wastewater sector. Our customers increasingly expect digitally enabled offerings. By offering monitoring services like machine health in addition to our efficient and reliable pumps, we become a full-range solution provider. This is a proactive move on our part to participate in the innovations going on in the market.

TPO: In a basic sense, how does this offering work?

Stanley: Our approach is unique. We’re providing more than an off-the-shelf, out-of-the-box solution. What we’re doing is much more comprehensive. We partner with users to understand what is critical to them and what they trying to protect and prevent. It involves integrating with their team, installing Bluetooth sensors at critical points on the equipment, marrying those sensors to our web platform through the cloud, and then transmitting and translating our findings or insights so users can easily understand and react to them.

TPO: What is the most different aspect of this technology?

Stanley: This is much more than the setting of alarms. When there’s an alert, we let the customer know, but we’re very specific about what the alert is, where it’s located, what is causing it and, most important, what they should do about it in the short term to make sure it doesn’t turn into a more serious problem.

TPO:: Is there a component of artificial intelligence in this monitoring platform?

Stanley: Absolutely. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are factored in. We are constantly getting better at identifying what certain vibration, temperature and magnetic flux signatures represent. The more data we collect, the better we are at identifying issues. So there is an automated side that sends out insights and helps identify problems and their causes.

TPO: Is there a human component to it as well?

Stanley: Yes, there is a need for human interaction to confirm some of the insights, make sure we’re understanding things correctly and customize the insights for the users, so it’s not just a canned answer. It’s a personalized view of the facility with insights that relate to the user’s business objectives and capabilities.

TPO: Where on the equipment are the sensors located?

Stanley: We’re a pump company, but this solution is equipment agnostic. It’s designed for all types of rotating equipment. The type of equipment determines the locations of the sensors and how many we need. Typically, we focus on the bearing points where we can detect sources of vibration and catch issues the earliest.

TPO: Is there an operations center where Grundfos personnel watch the data?

Stanley: We have teams that monitor platform data 24/7. When something changes in health status, such as when a machine goes into an alert state, our team will look at the equipment signatures, confirm the insight and immediately share that insight with the user.

TPO: Do you then provide any type of support to help the user rectify the issue?

Stanley: Some of our customers have robust technical service and maintenance teams that can react quickly and fix things in-house. Others who don’t have that expertise can tap Grundfos and invite us to come out and fix it for them.

TPO: When a machine has a change in health status, how is the customer notified?

Stanley: The customers have access to the same portal that we do, and they can view it at any time. We also work with them to determine how best to deliver the insights and who should receive them. It could be by text message, email or a phone call.

TPO: What do you do differently in presenting the data?

Stanley: Traditional solutions deliver insights that are rather general and very technical. That makes it hard for operators to tell the story up the chain of stakeholders, such as to finance and leadership teams. Our platform is designed so that any authorized person in the organization can understand the conclusions being drawn and what needs to happen. It’s presented in language everybody can understand and discuss so decisions can be made quickly.

TPO: Can you provide an example of how this might work?

Stanley: A traditional solution might deploy sensors with threshold alarms. When there is an alarm, it essentially acts like a flashing red light on top of the equipment. For example, the vibration has exceeded a threshold, here is the reading, go check it out. Our solution also detects vibration, but not just that it has crossed a threshold. It is anomaly detection that allows us to be more specific and more personalized: Something has changed, this is the likely cause, this is when to act on it, and this is how to fix it.

TPO: So you’re helping them assign priorities to the issues that are detected?

Stanley: Yes. If it’s urgent, the machine health assessment will reflect that; it will actually be in the red. But that’s what we want to prevent. With a successful implementation, we really shouldn’t get into the red. We should get into the yellow, which tells us we’ve found an anomaly and something needs to happen.

TPO: How might a plant team interact with this solution?

Stanley: It’s designed so that first thing in the morning they can log in and see the state of all the equipment. Is there a trend? Has something changed status? If everything is in the green, then they can plan their maintenance and service teams’ schedules accordingly.

TPO: What is the net benefit of this solution to operator and maintenance people?

Stanley: Sensing is the future. If you’re not able to measure the health of your equipment, that’s a major blind spot. We offer partnerships with extensive support, regular discussions and best practices so that we can help our customers get to a new state of reliability.


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