SKF is conducting Remote Diagnostic Centre (RDC) analysis at its Jet Park head office using vibration and temperature data retrieved by its online condition monitoring systems (COMO) on a new coal mining and processing plant in Mpumalanga.

The customer aims to position this brand new plant as a state-of-the-art facility that utilises all available technology resources and to show value on the COMO systems for future expansion.

“We are able to conduct our analysis seamlessly for our customer, even during COVID-19 restrictions and regulations as the remote service does not require the need for travel or site access,” states SKF product manager: COMO, Lourens Zeelie.

“The customer remains informed about the condition of the assets and is thus able to plan for maintenance and spare parts. Moreover, early detection of underlying problems on relevant equipment enables our customer to take timeous and corrective action, subsequently preventing potential costly failures and maximising uptime and productivity.”

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According to Zeelie, the COMO systems, which were supplied to the mine by SKF partner, Control Systems Integration in February 2020 for performing front-line machine health monitoring, are not being utilised to their full capacity given some on-site breakdowns and a few other problems being encountered.

“Realising that they needed a solution in the form of analytical support from vibration experts like SKF, the customer awarded us an order to conduct RDC analysis on the complete installation over a six-month period. The customer has also smartly put a reliability team on site in order to reap the full benefit out of these systems.”

Read more: Commissioning a new coal plant in Zimbabwe

The scope of work involved the installation of 20 SKF Multilog IMX8 data acquisition devices and 58  SKF CMPT2310T sensors. “Everything starts with the SKF sensors which are installed on various customer assets including motors, fans, pumps, crushers, etc., to measure vibration and temperature,” states Zeelie.

The vibration and temperature measurements are sent as raw data to the SKF IMX8 devices, which has some built-in processing capabilities conducted in the field for relay and alarming purposes, and then to the Distributed Control System (DCS) where it is stored on the server in a SQL local or SKF Cloud-based database.

The data can be viewed in the analytical software, SKF @ptitude Observer, which is used by analysts for detailed analysis on possible mechanical, bearing and/or lubrication defects. “Some of these defects can also be detected automatically by setting up diagnostics in the software,” adds Zeelie.

At the same time, live data is sent on a continuous basis through Modbus to the customer SCADA for live display and trending in the control room. Any defect will immediately be detected by the operator enabling further investigation so that corrective action may be taken if required.

“The fact that our COMO system and RDC analysis enables us to ensure the plant condition and reliability for our customer without the need for travelling or site access proved to be particularly significant during the challenges prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“During lockdown, our expert analysts were still able to seamlessly do RDC Analysis from any location, the only requirement being an internet connection. We are of course putting in every effort to ensure that all remote connections are kept secure.”

The RDC Analysis conducted by SKF from August 2020 to February 2021 is assisting in delivering fewer breakdowns, increased reliability and production throughput for the mine and processing plant.