Custom-made Machine Condition Monitoring Software using Microsoft Azure

custom made condition monitoring

Every machine is doomed to fail! That's the thought that keeps maintenance engineers up at night. And rightly so.

Machine failures cause insurmountable losses to the company in terms of time, money, and even reputation.

Studies suggest that equipment downtime hampers productivity by anywhere between 5% to 20% for an average factory. That explains why monitoring equipment is essential.

Let's understand how machine condition monitoring software transforms value proposition for smart machine manufacturers.

Why machine condition monitoring is necessary?

Inefficient maintenance is one of the prime contributors to unplanned downtime, and research suggests that the average manufacturer has to face 800 hours of downtime every year. To put things in perspective, the average downtime cost in the automotive industry is around $22,000 per minute.

Every manufacturing operation is challenged by forces of nature: heat, pressure, moisture, vibrations, chemical reactions, etc. These forces can also have a compound effect based on the environment in which machines operate.

For example, at the customer's site, vibrations experienced by your machine can be different if they are close to other machines compared to testing environments. Temperature changes in your machine may fluctuate due to unpredictable fuel or air supply stoppage. Changing humidity levels can also affect the sensitivity of sensors.

Although almost all companies are vulnerable to issues like these, only some are well-equipped to tackle them. Many companies still rely on traditional preventive maintenance methods involving periodic maintenance checks. Planned stoppages ensure machines' smooth functioning but add to the hindrance in overall productivity.

What if you could know the Remaining Useful Life of your machine from its current behavior?

How about knowing the best time to schedule routine maintenance? How about knowing well in advance when the parts likely need replacement? Insights like these make machine condition monitoring an essential part of any future-focused production line – it identifies potential failures before they occur. For manufacturers, this translates to better planning and less costly repairs.

In a 2021 survey, the top 400 manufacturing companies reported having better control over their processes even during the pandemic. 56% of these companies attributed this success to adopting digital technologies that monitored machine operations and helped them effectively respond to crises.

The data that an intelligent machine condition monitoring system gathers is used to train algorithms and deploy solutions that can predict a machine's remaining useful life. This dramatically reduces downtime by making your systems more intelligent about failures, availability, and operating efficiencies.

As an instructive example, check how the UK-based instruments engineering company builds custom software to capture, manage and analyze data, for real-time insights and take timely preventive actions to avoid downtimes and improve productivity.

Machine condition monitoring systems can also set alarms based on severity and highlight red flags that can be attended to and avert impending damages.

Why use custom-made machine condition monitoring software instead of off-the-shelf alternatives?

Custom-made machine condition monitoring software allows you to integrate and streamline your predictive maintenance efforts with your existing systems. Unlike readymade software targeted to a broader audience, custom software is made from scratch, focusing on your requirement only.

Furthermore, different machines might use different sensors that follow different protocols suited to the specific machine. This can create another problem on an enterprise level for the customer. They'll have data scattered all over the place which can delay critical analysis. A customized solution integrates all your data into unified dashboards. When you have eyes only on necessary parameters, decision-making becomes quicker and more efficient.

As an instructive example, check how a Test & Measurement instruments manufacturing leader builds a common platform, which captures data from various sources & platforms in real-time, orchestrates it, and delivers it to a variety of applications via APIs. Thereby, providing Intelligence-as-a-Service for equipment monitoring.

Not just that, only a custom solution gives you the flexibility to isolate, acquire, and analyze data at different endpoints, be it edge or cloud. You can have isolated systems at the edge or cloud that can integrate for overall analysis. Off-the-shelf products can limit the end user if their components demand connectivity beyond the standard protocols.

When you set baselines for parameters affecting the machine's condition, you can build applications with real-time analytics. Even if the parameters are unknown, with sufficient data, the customized solution builder can analyze the correlations in parameters with maintenance and inspection data. This helps create the correlation matrix, which helps identify the suitable algorithms to leverage.

If one uses machine learning, the algorithm must be trained with the training data set, fine-tuned, and then tested and deployed. Once this gives satisfactory outcomes like timely alerts with fewer false positives or negatives, one can integrate this with other applications like spares management, maintenance management, etc.

What makes Microsoft Azure the preferred platform for building custom-made machine condition monitoring software?

Over 65% of companies in the US and UK use Microsoft products. Microsoft Azure's IoT tools have revolutionized asset condition monitoring. The cloud-based solutions provided by Microsoft Azure are the most reliable and efficient means of deploying a machine condition monitoring solution.

Microsoft Azure's modules can acquire high-fidelity vibration data, analyze it, and give real-time diagnostics. Its high-performance computing resources, storage, and networking capabilities simplify data analysis.

Furthermore, Azure services such as IoT Hub, Event Hub, Stream Analytics, and Data Factory have the flexibility to integrate with most industry protocols and create a data platform that can be leveraged for several custom applications. In addition, Azure services such as Azure ML, Synapse, BI, and various Azure functions help in real-time diagnostics as well as analyzing historical data for identifying patterns and predicting failures or red-flag situations. Azure's comprehensive and elaborate infrastructure enables the building of robust solutions without compromising quality or security.

These cloud-based solutions allow for the rapid deployment of new features and updates, as well as the ability to scale the solution up or down as needed. If you have a single machine at the customer site or a cohort of machines running continuous shifts, Microsoft Azure solutions can be tailored to your specific requirements.

What’s Next?

To ensure that your critical machinery always performs well without downtime, here’s a step-by-step process that you can refer to:

  • Identify the suitable parameters that affect the condition of the machinery, e.g., vibration, temperature, pressure, etc.
  • Ensure the right sensors that transmit data are integrated with your machinery.
  • Identify which type of solution would fulfill the end user's requirement – off-the-shelf or customized.
  • If you opt for a customized solution, identify a suitable partner or an in-house team to build the solution.
  • Identify the ways of acquiring data from various sources such as sensors, PLCs, OPC Servers, Gateways, etc.
  • Choose what data needs to reside on edge or what data needs to be on the cloud.
  • Create a scalable & robust architecture with suitable modules from the Azure platform.
  • Acquire data into the Azure platform using the various Azure services, functions, and processes.
  • Make the processed data available for alerts, notifications, flags, and KPIs and bring it to final dashboards.

An excellent custom-made machine condition monitoring software built using the above steps needs to be flexible, scalable, accurate, and reliable. Because, in the end, insights from well-designed machine condition monitoring software empower quick decision-making, decrease downtime, save machine maintenance costs, and improve productivity.

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