Futuristic Perspective For Remote Monitoring And Preventive Maintenance.

1. Synopsis

Evolving aspirations and needs of general public is compelling development of new age infrastructure
wherein “Smart” is an all pervasive expression. In all sectors – be it Energy, Infra , Petrochemical,
telecom or manufacturing, elements such as Internet, IOT, IIOT, Automation and Analytics , Big data,
predictive analysis are a part of evolving smart systems.

Remote connectivity in plants is thinkable when all plant systems are fortified with smart sensors and
robust control systems collecting huge amounts of real time plant data, enabling remote monitoring.
Depending on multiple factors like plant sector, control system configuration, etc. – decisions are made
to connect remotely for either control or only for the purpose of monitoring the plants.

Technology for remote monitoring has matured with sophistication by leaps and bounds over the last
few decades with advancement of high speed internet and availability of cost-effective smart
sensors/devices. This has enhanced the anticipation of plant engineers to prefer to look at the plant
process parameters through localized plant control systems in real time from any part of the globe.

Current trend in technology evolution proclaims remote monitoring of plants wherein availability of
plant data is imperative. Data availability enables remote monitoring and control as coined by the
metaphor “information is power” cycling around the globe. Further to data collection and consolidation,
superior expert predictive analysis and optimisation improves plant availability, whilst empowering plant
operator with work-life balance, also upholding plant productivity and safety.

There are numerous models available in the market with minor variations and advantages to suit plant
Owner requirements. Remote monitoring of plants could be based on unique models described herein:

  • Model 1: Owner monitors various capacity / fuel power plants located at different
    locations from a centralized single location power center.
  • Model 2: Engineering, procurement and construction contractor (EPC) firms monitor
    the contracted multiple capacity power plants at different locations from a single EPC
    command center.
  • Model 3: Multiple Original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) monitor plant’s critical
    systems like Distributed Control System, PLC and Vibration system for healthiness of
    their respective system on real time basis.

2. Insight

Desire to improve efficiency of industrial sector through detail insights have led to “Industrial Internet of
Things (IIOT)” – a technological revolution which is a significant driving force for advancement of plant

In a plant, sensors providing information and alarms of all plant operations are available for operator
view; however, plant operator can view only a part of them and may miss important data that could
help plant performance and maintenance planning. Large volume of data can create information
overload and as ageing workforce with vast experience retire, tacit knowledge on plant operation and  optimization decamps with them. With plant owners exploring ways to fill this knowledge gap – one of the possible solutions is remote monitoring enabling utilization of benefits of vast experience of available subject matter experts.

Objectives of remote surveillance and monitoring include:

  • Continuous monitoring of all data related to health and performance of major
    equipment of the plants.
  • Analysis and assessment of major equipment operating conditions to reduce
    operational risks of unwarranted schedule interruption or increased maintenance.
  • Analysis of data and review of alarms to identify and give advance warnings of incipient
    failure mode and impending equipment problems preventing outages and catastrophic
  • Use of latest smart analytics, algorithms, decision making tools and patterns recognition
    together with performance assessment.
  • Support generating plant with expert advice on equipment performance, health issues
    related to optimization.
  • Review maintenance/shutdown schedule along with inventory management planning.


3. Brief description of remote monitoring Models

Model 1: Owner monitors

Many public/ private utilities have multiple plants located in different locations.

Ten years ago, collection of important data pertaining to productivity, loss etc. and presenting the same
in a concise manner as required by top management began to be termed as management information
system ‘MIS’. However, in recent years – steadfast growth of internet and data analytic programs have
led to Owner’s remote monitoring and diagnostics service centers to monitor their own operating
plants. These Centers have plentiful vital requisite software related to data analysis and diagnostic
functionalities interfaced with data servers for real time and historical data availability.

This center is managed by a set of experts in plant operation or/and maintenance domain. These
personnel may also request assistance from respective OEM, when the needs arise. With this model,
instead of having multiple manpower to monitor plants at respective location, a central command and
control center with few subject matter experts is created to ensure effective remote monitoring, also
providing solution to the plant operational and maintenance issues surfaced proactively preventing a
catastrophe or probable major plant shutdown.

Model 2: EPC monitors

This applies to EPC’s who have supplied equipment to the Plant and are responsible for construction,
erection and commissioning of the plant.

Few EPC suppliers have set up 24X7 remote services center. These centers are set up with an intention
of providing customers around the world with field knowledge and experience accumulated from
analysis of data obtained from various plants. These centers collect and analyze data obtained from
operating plants to provide considered opinion on the predictive maintenance requirements.

The analysis of data finds the root cause for any estimated occurrence of abnormality along with an
optimized action plan for avoidance of the same.

Model 3: OEM monitors

{Remote monitoring of critical systems like Distributed control system(DCS), Programmable logic controllers(PLC),
Supervisory control and Data acquisition system(SCADA), Vibration system(VMS) for rotating equipment}

This approach involves availability of monitoring and diagnostics center for critical equipment such as
DCS, PLC, SCADA, VMS etc. at OEM’s works. Generally, these systems are proprietary in nature and
OEM’s have the complete know-how of equipment supplied in terms of design, performance,
malfunction modes, diagnostics, and predictive maintenance.

Most of the plant owners need experts for trouble shooting problems in DCS, PLC’s, SCADA, Rotating
machines etc., in addition to their own skilled plant personnel and therefore get into long term
maintenance service agreements with OEM’s. To ensure OEM expert monitoring and guidance, plants
are remotely connected to OEM’s terminal and required real time data is collected at OEM’s service
center. With expertise built into their own diagnostic software by OEM’s, immediate detection of
malfunction is possible from online real-time data collection and analysis in addition to predictive
corrective actions (if not taken care of). OEM centers facilitate plant operations with their right
expertise at right time through prioritized notification at client sites through remote monitoring support
– further reducing average downtime, enhancing machine reliability and ensuring lower maintenance

Earlier OEMs would tend to provide “Two pass repairs”, i.e., first inspection visit to identify and access
parts and collect data, followed by root cause analysis and suggestions for repair. However, with
remote asset health monitoring using IIOT & analytics, OEM’s get advance alarms and plan for zero
downtime maintenance. This also enables best practice sharing across their equipment at different sites
and lessons learnt from one site may be useful for avoidance of a similar problem at another site located
in an entirely different geography. With the above benefits, OEM’s have huge opportunity to make
maintenance a profitable business by remotely monitoring their equipment.

4. Benefits

As stated above – with emerging technologies such as IOT and analytics, IIOT; concept of remote
monitoring of plants would be embraced by most customers in the near future. In the earlier section,
different models to remotely monitor plants have been discussed. Each one of these approaches has
their own benefits. Depending on the plant and the plant owner’s choice, one of 3 models can be

Benefits of each approach:

Model 1

These companies are already existing firms/utilities having a large base of generating plants spread over
different locations with in-house monitoring cells in each location. Now they are shifting to a centralized
location and with the help of few experts monitoring multiple plants at various locations, advise local
operators on various issues such as performance improvements and predictive maintenance. Domain
knowledge of plant is retained within the organization in this model.

However, though performance and health monitoring of large equipment is possible- due to lack of indepth
knowledge of OEM practices, assistance of OEM’s may be required.

Model 2

This model is applicable to EPC’s who have engineered and supplied complete equipment for the plant.
EPC’s could depend on OEM’s in this model. OEMs with availability of in-house expertise, using remote
monitoring facility and smart analytics, provide advance warning and maintenance services during
planned downtime. This approach is effective in the power industry and is now being utilized in wind
sector. This approach is useful for customers who do not have necessary expertise and prefer single
point for maintenance support.

Model 3

This approach is active in plants with large critical equipment. In power plants, proprietary equipment
such as DCS, PLC, Pumps, compressors need specialists to monitor and diagnose equipment operation
and maintenance problems. These systems / equipment can be remotely monitored by respective
OEM’s on long term service contract. In this model, monitoring of equipment along with spare
inventory shall be OEM’s responsibility. This is an effective and popular model for both OEMs and
plant owners.

5. Conclusion

Conclusion of this study catalogues utilization of remote surveillance integrated automation in all
sectors with specific fact based references in energy sector as listed below:

  • Owners should begin IIOT adoption for their new procurements
  • Three important advantages from remote monitoring of plants are faster resolution
    with improved efficiency, proactive maintenance, valuable insights based on the
    available expertise.
  • Remote monitoring and diagnostics is suitable for adoption in renewable energy sector
    including solar plants, wind turbines and mini-hydro plants.
  • With availability of domain experts becoming scarce, remote monitoring tools and
    diagnostics centers is the only solution way forward. Optimal solutions are provided
    without visiting the sites to the extent possible.
  • Remote monitoring has potential for tremendous growth in energy sector with
    availability of intelligent / smart maintenance and diagnostic programs providing data
    acquisition, analysis, reporting capabilities as well as early detection of impending

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