Digital tools, predictive analytics boost turbomachinery performance

Sept. 15, 2021

“Clients, especially in refining and petrochemicals, are losing key resources that understand turbomachinery.” Schneider Electric’s Hector Buchelly explained how the company’s portfolio of TMC Services digital tools can help the new generation of workers less familiar with the equipment to  boost the performance of critical turbomachinery assets across industry.

Based on decades of industry experience, Schneider Electric has created a complete suite of digital tools for optimizing critical turbomachinery performance. Matt Henderson, process safety business development leader at Schneider Electric, and Hector Buchelly, senior global director, TMC (turbomachinery controls) and advanced services at Schneider Electric, discussed at this week’s Innovation Talks the company’s digital solutions that help improve the performance of motor-, steam- and gas-driven generators and compressors, among other types of industrial rotating equipment.

Part of the push to adopt digital tools on the factory floor has been driven by the changing demographics of the workforce. The “gray crew change,” said Buchelly, means older generations leaving the workforce are sometimes also taking their asset knowledge with them. “Clients, especially in refining and petrochemicals, are losing key resources that understand turbomachinery,” said Buchelly. “We have a new generation that is looking to data analytics to better understand the performance of their machines.”

According to ARC research, only 18% of asset failures are based on elapsed time since last maintenance, meaning more than 80% of failures are not being prevented by routine maintenance practices. Schneider Electric turbomachinery digital solutions are designed to help customers target a bigger percentage of those failures, predictively identifying critical issues, preventing downtime and extending equipment life.

Especially with critical turbomachinery assets, operators need immediate support when problems arise. “You want to have immediate connectivity to your asset, but it has to be secure,” Buchelly said. Secure Remote Access for TMC Services is a new Schneider Electric tool that allows customers to connect to an asset in a secure way and troubleshoot problems remotely.

Using machine learning and pattern recognition, Predictive Analytics for TMC Services can diagnose problems likely to lead to future failures. With historical data from the asset, such as vibration data from sensors, the tool first establishes a baseline operating range with high and low limits. Artificial intelligence then recognizes when asset data has deviated from the norm. By identifying optimal conditions for an asset, operators can take steps to improve their performance.

Other specialized features of the company’s TMC Services portfolio include the compressor performance monitor, which can guide operators to optimal compressor performance settings—without pushing them too far. And with the use of the Predictive Analytics tool with data from the compressor performance monitor, they can tell if changes are too much, or how temperature or vibration conditions might be adversely impacted. “It’s a great use of one tool to feed into another,” Buchelly said. 

Similarly, the company’s dynamic simulation capabilities can test changes to asset settings without affecting real-time conditions. “In many cases, the actions that are required might not be safely done in real life, or there is a doubt about the approach,” Buchelly said. “We create a high-fidelity model then feed its performance with the new settings into the compressor performance monitor. We can then see what those effects will be.”

In addition to developing these digital tools, Schneider Electric’s team will work with companies to configure and engineer the right solution, Henderson said. “We’ll be on this  digital journey with you for the remainder of that product’s lifetime,” he added. And that prospect should be music to the ears of those left in charge of industry’s TMC assets as that gray crew change runs its inevitable course. 

The full suite of Schneider Electric tools for turbomachinery assets will keep machines running safely and maximize production by identifying potential problems and helping machines reach optimal performance. Trends like remote accessibility and the changing workforce are driving more customers to digital solutions. Schneider Electric is ready to help customers on that journey.

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