Is the pump industry ready to talk?

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Much has been written about the pace of technological change over the past 10/15 years. There was a period of time when it was believed that it would not be possible to sustain this acceleration and that the world would return to ‘normal’ at some point.

However, it is now accepted that the pace will not slow down and in fact if anything, it will continue to quicken as this period of rapid technological transformation continues unabated into the future.

Looking at the raft of developments we’ve seen over recent years, we all accept that these advances have, by and large, made the world a better place. Equally these developments have filtered away from the consumer demand for increasingly smart gadgets, into every strata of business - including within the pump industry.

A by-product of this has seen the opportunity to create an holistic intelligent design approach to integrate devices such as pumps, communication units, control and protection equipment, transmitters and drives within a pump solution to ensure that the system will operate to its maximum effectiveness and efficiency.  

Ready to communicate

One of the specific ways this has manifested itself is demonstrated with regard to many new communication platforms that today offer a wide range of important benefits. Some of the reasons behind these changes are because we are seeing demand moving away from a simple pump selection scenario into a much more integrated and systems driven approach that looks at the integration of an entire system. This now means all aspects of pump engineering are becoming much more synergised and the communication abilities ever more sophisticated.

This is in effect quite a sea-change for the industry as the previous focus had been on maximising the inherent engineering to deliver the best energy efficiency on an individual pump basis. Of course the economies of scale offered by being able to interrogate the system better, mean
that a focus on energy is certainly an important spin-off of improved communications.

Flexible data communication

The more technically advanced pump companies are now able to offer a wider and more sophisticated approach. This can be seen for example in remote management systems which are already available on a secure, internet-based platform. Such systems can monitor and manage pump installations in a wide range of applications including: commercial buildings, industrial processes, water supply networks and wastewater plants.

What this means is that pumps, sensors, meters and pump controllers are connected to a datalogger. Data can then be accessed from an Internet PC, providing an overview of your system. If sensor thresholds are crossed or a pump or controller reports an alarm, a communication will instantly be dispatched to the person on duty.

In this way changes in pump performance and energy consumption can be tracked and documented using automatically generated reports and trend graphs. These can also give an indication of wear or damage, and service and maintenance can be planned accordingly.

To ensure that you will get the best system available, this is a checklist of things such systems should ideally be able to support:

  • achieve a range of fieldbus connectivity protocols that have the approval to the relevantly accredited marques
  • enable data communication via open and interoperable networks
  • deliver a comprehensive range of feature and a range of documentation that will support specific demands
  • provide data transparency through motor protection/drives/sensors for total system optimisation
  • offer a robust additional mobile platform that gives access to data ‘on the go’
  • removes need for additional panels

Remote monitoring

Remote monitoring and control refers to a field of industrial automation that is entering a new era with the development of wireless sensing devices. This was initially limited to SCADA systems, remote monitoring and control and refers to the measurement of disparate devices from a network operations center or control room and the ability to change the operation of these devices from that central office.

Today there are other remote monitoring solution management options that offer an efficient and cost effective alternative that can be used in standalone solutions - for example in retro-fit applications; as complimentary to; or in partnership SCADA systems. This route will often deliver a more cost effective outcome.

Once again in order to ensure that you will get a system that is suited to your needs, below is a checklist of things such systems should ideally be able to support:

  • capable of monitoring a range of conditions
  • instant SMS text alarm messages to relevant personnel when needed
  • minimal initial investment and fixed operating costs
  • data security and system reliability
  • reduced need for onsite inspection work
  • monitoring of pump and system performance
  • an overview of energy consumption
  • simplified integration
  • proactive scheduling of maintenance.

Such systems have become more accessible with the introduction of cloud based remote monitoring systems.

Pump engineering will continue to improve but in stage steps rather than any radical new developments. This will mean that bigger wins will need to be achieved in other areas – such as improved overall systems design and fully integrated solutions.

The answers are out there – you just need to ask the right people the questions.