Providing a critical eye!

Published:  12 July, 2010

When a boiler on site develops a fault or goes down unexpectedly, it’s a race against time for the plant management team to arrange an alternative before the issue affects business continuity. For the well-managed plant the problem can be dealt with quickly: the team will already have an established relationship with a hire specialist (even if they have never actually needed to hire a temporary boiler before) and that specialist will have already done a site survey to identify the type of kit needed, where it will be sited and what will be required to get it in place.

Once the hurdles of getting the temporary boiler to site and connecting it up to the existing system have been overcome, then, the management team should be able to concentrate on the task of getting the permanent boiler repaired or sourcing a replacement.  Certainly the hire specialist will probably provide regular maintenance visits and any troubleshooting advice required, but they are not on site 24/7 and if the temporary boiler develops a fault or runs out of fuel, the plant could find itself back to square one with a business critical boiler failure.

Managing the hire equipment while it’s on site might seem like a fundamental task for the plant management team but it’s not always so straightforward.  While it’s true that it is the hire company’s responsibility to ensure that the kit is well maintained and fit for purpose, any boiler – temporary or permanent – can break down without warning, which is why the use of GSM telemetry technology to enable automatic fuel monitoring and fault reporting of temporary boilers is such a significant development for any plant manager that might need to hire a boiler.


Fuel Efficient

One of the biggest obstacles to efficient operation of hire equipment on site is the false security that the plant management team often feels because the kit does not belong to the company but to the hire firm.  The fact is, however, that, though it remains the property of the hire firm, it becomes the responsibility of the company that has hired the equipment while it is at their premises.  In effect, therefore, under normal circumstances, the plant management team needs to monitor the hire equipment’s fuel consumption just as conscientiously as they would expect to monitor fuel consumption for their duty boiler.

The problem is that the hire equipment is unfamiliar: whilst fuel ordering intervals might ordinarily be based on consumption trends worked out from years of data, fuel consumption rates for the hire equipment can only be based on the hire company’s advice about average usage and average is not a word on which to base anything with any degree of certainty. If the fuel is not monitored accurately and topped up at appropriate intervals, the plant management team could find themselves incurring additional costs for express deliveries or even running out of fuel unexpectedly and finding themselves in a downtime situation.

To combat these issues, a fuel monitoring device fitted to the fuel tank can be used to monitor fuel levels automatically and in real time.  Based on GSM telemetry technology, the system works with the fuel gauge to alert the hire firm to the fuel levels for each tank, providing the company with reliable data. The bespoke software developed to work alongside the device in the fuel tank then analyses the data and when the fuel tank reaches the 20% remaining level it automatically generates an email to alert the hire company’s service team who then contact the customer to advise them how many days of fuel they have left at current consumption rates. This enables the service team to help the customer to manage their fuel requirements by helping them to assess how much additional fuel they will need, order it for them and have it delivered in time for when they’ll need it.  As a result, the plant should never have to pay a premium for ordering at the last minute.


Early Warnings

Of course, running out of fuel is far from the only reason that a temporary boiler might fail whilst on hire.  Just as permanent boilers can develop an unforeseen fault, despite even the most rigorous of maintenance and servicing regimes, hire equipment too can break down without warning. If this happens, the hire company will certainly fix the fault or provide a replacement as soon as possible but the fault might not be spotted for several hours so prompt action from the hire company might still equate to downtime of a day or more.

Again, GSM telemetry technology can address this potential problem, ensuring that the service team is alerted to any faults before they can become a significant problem and enabling them to fix or replace equipment in a genuinely timely manner.

A GSM telemetry device is fitted to the boiler and pre-configured to meet the individual customer’s requirements.  If a fault is identified the system sends an automatic alert to the service team who can then let the client know that there may be a problem and send an engineer to site to address the fault.  As the system identifies the type of fault, the service team will know immediately whether it is something that can be easily repaired or if it would be prudent to replace the boiler instead.

The real added value of this technology is not simply in the speed of response it facilitates, however, but also in its ability to monitor equipment performance on a 24/7 basis.  While the plant management team will certainly carry out regular checks and the hire company will usually provide regular serving as part of the hire contract, only a real time monitoring device can really track equipment performance.  The technology might be used to monitor fluctuations in temperature or fuel consumption, identifying any anomalies that could be indicative of potential faults that have yet to occur.  In this way, the hire company’s service team can take pre-emptive action to avoid a breakdown, helping the client to avoid any business interruption issues.  The plant management team can use the data to analyse plant performance too as the client can download all the data securely online.


Peace of Mind

In most scenarios, boiler hire is a distress purchase brought about by the failure or necessary replacement of the duty boiler.  Ideally, what the plant management team wants to buy alongside the temporary boiler hire is peace of mind: confidence that the temporary equipment will provide a suitable interim measure and avoid potentially costly downtime.  Increasingly, hirers are looking to hire companies not simply to provide equipment but to offer a total solution and these GSM systems represent facilitate that added value approach.


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