James Parle / President / Muir Data Systems
Ever been seated at a restaurant by a waiter who had a tablet in hand? Many facilities are starting to use industry-specific software to more efficiently run their daily operations. The restaurant benefits from increased efficiency and it can analyze the data to improve its process and increase revenue. These benefits are making purpose-built software systems ubiquitous in a variety of businesses, including the wind industry.
So why are wind farms not managed with the same efficiency? Given the high cost of wind turbines, improved process, and data availability should have greater value to wind industry decision makers than restaurant owners. If the restaurant industry can do it, so can the wind industry.
One program for doing just that comes from Muir Data Systems (MDS). It builds software that reduces the cost of wind energy.
The Sequoia Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is software used by Independent Service Providers (ISPs) in the wind industry to streamline their field-data gathering, data review, report generation, and the report delivery process. The system saves about an hour per report when compared to the traditional paper, pencil, digital camera, and Microsoft Word approach. In addition to automated report generation, there are a host of benefits such as increased field data accuracy, improved control of the inspection and repair process, and a higher level of accountability. MDS can provide this capability to ISPs and asset owners alike.
Sequoia is tailored to field-based applications where internet connectivity is not always available. The web-based system at the office is integrated with a tablet application for data entry in the field. When a wireless data signal, such as 4G, is available, the system provides real-time data movement back to office administrators. When no 4G connection is available, the system stores data on the tablet’s memory or SD card and transfers it once it detects an internet connection.
Wind operations and maintenance providers should not have to be IT specialists. MDS makes using its software easy by providing Sequoia through a Software-as-a-Service licensing model. All upkeep is handled by MDS and users login into the website and mobile application in a similar fashion to using web and mobile email software. MDS customers only pay for software that they are actually using. ISPs are charged on a per report basis, while owners are charged per turbine.
One challenge in digitizing maintenance records is that the source of the data is a human technician. Unlike a SCADA sensor that outputs the same readings given similar circumstances, human technicians are in a rush, don’t enjoy paperwork, and have difficulty standardizing the subjective aspects of their field efforts. Efficiently and accurately documenting field work is at the crux of routinely using digital work-order data for analytical purposes, including complementing SCADA and condition-monitoring system (CMS) sensor data.
Given the technological change on the horizon, one key differentiator will be how well a company’s employees can use these systems to get work done. A few questions the new systems prompt include:
- How fast can a new hire train to use the system?
- How quickly can technicians accurately document field work?
- How easily resolved are non-standard situations?
- Do technicians and managers have ready access to historical asset data?
- Are human resources managed at the highest level of efficiency?
- Do other company systems, such as inventory, procurement, ERP, and reporting, have access to data collected in the field?
Work-order systems of this nature seem foreign in the wind industry, but in an increasingly data-driven world, it is inevitable that these tools become standard issue.
A technician with mobile devices and an ever-connected data link will become as common as a hard hat and a haul bag of tools. The best software will integrate into the organization’s workflow with minimal switching costs and increased revenue.
The data collection system from CMMS helps solve human-machine interface issues in a way that makes documenting field work as painless as possible. Properly chronicling the field process is tedious when the long-term benefits of the data are hard to actualize. Purpose-built software systems can resolve the problem two ways. First by defining and controlling the data in-take process, and second, by reducing the amount of time required to properly document field work. MDS aims to provide a system tailored to the wind industry that makes predictive maintenance the new standard, increases revenue for its customers, and helps reduce the total cost of wind energy.
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Filed Under: News, O&M