Remote peace of mind

Published:  04 February, 2007

Traditionally the ultimate aim of an asset monitoring system was to save money and give managers the best possible assessment of their plant condition to estimate and plan servicing and minimise significant damage.

However due to an increasing pressure on business to conform to tightening legislation, reduce costs and conserve energy, plus the need for preventative and condition based maintenance the latest asset management devices go one step further, offering business the opportunity for remote asset management, monitoring and control.

Modern asset management devices are integrated within or installed close to the chosen assets or equipment, for example air conditioning units, refrigeration systems or process machinery, and work by collecting and transmitting data on asset and environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, power outages, water and motion levels, and also offer remote control applications.

On installation the user sets operational parameters/ideal operational conditions via their PC to cover the assets and equipment to be monitored. For example, on a building's air handling unit (AHU), once the optimum operative levels are set by the users, the system will detect these deviations and act as an early warning device.

When a deviation has been detected it will send SMS text message or e-mail to any number of specified personnel, detailing accurate, information about the fluctuations , requesting action to be taken. This enables personnel to respond promptly, and on many occasions, even in advance of a hazard occurring or an equipment failure resulting in costly down-time to business. It is the precise status information collected and transmitted off-site that allows appropriate response actions to be taken more rapidly and effectively.

Those remote asset management systems that transmit information from many systems to a central managed server, allow users to instantly log-on, via the Internet, and examine the alarm details, take remedial action by remotely changing any of the settings on their unit and can easily download all collected information for management reports.

In addition, those modern remote asset management devices that are independent to the site"s equipment and IT infrastructure can, in the event of power failure trigger back up power sources.


Analysis

Another huge development in the industry is analysis software, which is designed to make the monitoring and viewing capabilities of asset management devices easier. Analysis software works by demonstrating, through on-screen customised or generic graphics, the sites, assets, machines or metering being monitored. It creates a real-time view of the area being monitored pictorially showing the activities on site, live data and statistics instantly.

Systems, which offer this facility on-line, help to reduce associated PC software and set-up costs as well as user access limitations.

A huge benefit of this system is that it can convert collected data into a more recognisable form, e.g converting raw energy readings or tariffs into meaningful business data such as money saved or indicating industrial machine vibration as high, medium or low alert for ease of viewer reference. It can also calculate how much energy is being used by each site, and draw comparisons on cost and energy savings easily. For renewable energy supplies, it can quantify energy generated from the turbine, ground source heat pump or solar panel for example; and even show energy used from the renewable source against amount taken from the National Grid.


Making a choice

Remote asset management systems are relatively low cost to install depending on the specification. There are huge advantages in these devices, not only do they allow users to view live status of one or multiple sites from a remote location, but its 24/7, always-on ability means it can: 

  • Reduce consumption
  • Carry out diagnostics on the equipment
  • Help conform to legislation and building regulations
  • Acquire accurate data for machine trend analysis and production of reports identifying and mapping inefficiencies and failures, energy use and run-times
  • Remote automate machines - personnel do not need to be on-site to turn the air conditioning unit on or off, they can do this from the comfort of any Internet connection
  • Pre-alert at the earliest possible stage
  • Help prolong equipment life
  • Enable pro active maintenance

By monitoring the condition of machinery effectively, businesses can identify inefficiencies in equipment instantly and fix any issues, often before they occur - which help not only reduce energy consumption but also extend machinery life-cycle. Effective maintenance can reap immediate financial returns, it can also boost energy and time savings and instil greater control and flexibility of business processes.

In terms of choice, there are a number of systems in the marketplace, with varying specification and installation costs. The most recent models incorporate wireless technology features in the devices. Devices which offer wireless communications over GPRS and remove the requirement for the system to be linked into the site's Ethernet; they are completely remote from the business" IT infrastructure and therefore a more versatile, user friendly and independent asset management system.

In addition, systems which communicate via GPRS have an 'always on’ approach to asset management whereby data can be transferred at very high speeds via the mobile GSM network and coupled with the readily available high speed broadband Internet access by the majority of the population both a home and at work, communications between sites and the office can be more easily accessible and faster.

Before investing in a remote asset management system, research should be undertaken to consider the system’s data logging and historical recording facilities as well as scalability – can it grow to meet your needs without having to purchase additional units? Users should also question whether the device comes with all necessary software and peripherals, as some devices require additional costly PC software, which have restrictive licences.

There are many key advantages to installing a remote monitoring system – the basic cost advantages of preventative maintenance of equipment and systems, reduced labour costs from managing asset monitoring remotely, and lowering infrastructure expenses. Another huge advantage of a remote monitoring system is that users can view live status of one or multiple sites from a remote location and acquire data, analyse trends and provide overview reports of efficiencies and failures of each asset. However one of the most significant benefits of all is more simple – peace of mind.

For further information please visit: www.t-mac.co.uk

 


Lisa Wilkinson is business development director at t-mac Technologies Ltd - the company behind the asset monitoring and control systems t-mac.

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