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Machine failure is one of the most common causes of lost production in food and beverage processing environments, but also one of the most avoidable Dennis Fischer, account manager and coordinator Lifetime Solutions Netherlands at drive expert Schaeffler, explains why condition-based monitoring has become a highly effective way to ensure equipment uptime while maintaining health, hygiene and safety standards.

Schaeffler boss on avoiding downtime in the food industry

A processing plant in the food and beverage industry consists of complex and highly sensitive equipment that requires constant monitoring and attention. ‘Because downtime can be very damaging, especially for a business that operates 24/7. Now that competition is tougher than ever and margins are under unprecedented pressure, irritations among relationships and customers must be avoided above all. Like the cost of downtime,’ says Fischer.

According to The International Society of Automation, 5 percent of production is easily lost due to downtime, rising to 20 percent. The cost to the food industry worldwide is estimated to be around 20 billion euros per year. “For food and beverage processing companies, minimizing downtime is as critical as maximizing quality and output.”

Changing products in production is one of the main reasons for this downtime. Product change is largely a necessary evil and is usually factored into an overall production plan. However, unplanned downtime due to machine breakdowns is much more damaging. Because if they are not announced, they take longer, resulting in huge production backlogs. Maintenance teams work under high pressure to resolve the issues. The longer it takes, the more damaging the interruption. This is compounded because a domino effect can occur: systems elsewhere in the line that cannot run at full speed are more likely to fail.

Health and safety

Malfunctions in machinery for food and beverage production are often due to wear and tear, according to the Schaeffler account manager. Defective components lead to unplanned maintenance of the machine. So manufacturers cannot afford to wait for something to break, resulting in pollution, waste and lost production time. They must know the status of their installations at all times.

Adding to the challenge, health and safety requirements are paramount, but they often make access to remedial work difficult. Operating conditions vary from wet, dry and humid to hot and cold, or even outright toxic. And through wear and tear, particles from machine parts and operating fluids can contaminate food and drinks. “When this happens, the cost and impact on profits is often significant,” Fischer said.

Link to more information about OPTIME Condition Monitoring

To improve continuity, the food and beverage industry is currently exploring the benefits of the cloud, Industry 4.0 and the industrial internet of things (IIoT), says Fischer. “Companies are increasingly aware that they can achieve greater uptime with IT-based solutions. With sensors that measure the machines’ performance, quality, efficiency and status, trends become visible, malfunctions are predictable and the remaining service life can be calculated.’ Based on that, maintenance is performed only when a consistent drop in performance is identified. This is in stark contrast to a planned preventive maintenance strategy. By doing so, components are replaced on a time-based schedule rather than when they actually wear out or function inefficiently.

Fischer: ‘It has been proven that this condition-based monitoring saves money and resources. But the high implementation costs that arise from using your own infrastructure or integration into an IT network infrastructure are often a reason not to switch.’ That changes with cloud-based technology: solutions become both easy to implement and affordable with a quick return on investment. ‘Putting sensors on motors, fans, pumps and gearboxes means that potential damage, vibration and misalignment can be detected before they cause serious problems. With this information available online, on-site inspection of a machine in extreme and hazardous environments need only be performed in the event of an alarm. This detailed information benefits the maintenance program because it can take into account staffing needs and purchase spare parts in a timely manner,’ he says.

OPTIME from Schaeffler

That OPTIMUM system According to him, van Schaeffler offers ‘a total solution for simple condition monitoring of a large number of machines’. ‘In the development of the system, emphasis was placed on very easy start-up, easy scalability and a number of potential applications.’ The concept is equipped with special wireless OPTIME sensors that form a mesh network with the OPTIME gateway. “Another important part is the service components, which run centrally on the Schaeffler IoT Hub, where the data is also analyzed and the results can be seen in detail. The results are also transferred directly to the OPTIME app. The app shows the status of the machine directly on site and thus enables optimal maintenance planning. Each user can adjust the selection of machines and thus has direct access to all necessary information,’ says Fischer.

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