Overcoming reliability challenges through digitalisation

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Every industry has its own specific set of problems and objectives. But there are common challenges that these industries face across the board.

For mobility, power generation and energy, a common challenge is reliability.

To overcome this problem, a variety of digital solutions are available. 

 

Mobility

Transportation providers are expected to offer services that are reliable, punctual and safe. Ideally, these services should also be energy efficient. 

Meeting those needs is a hefty task, but digital tools like Siemens' Smart Guidance, Smart Monitoring and Smart Data Analysis help make it a lot easier. 

The most common causes for delayed trains are technical and/or mechanical malfunction. Appropriate maintenance is the only way to avoid any unexpected problems.

Locomotives, trains, components and train automation systems are all sources of data. Once this data has been processed, Smart Data Analysis, in synergy with Smart Monitoring, can be used to analyse trends and constantly monitor the status of machinery. 

The result: predictive maintenance for vehicles and infrastructure. This significantly reduces overall maintenance time, and subsequently increases service reliability and availability. 

Spanish railway operator Renfe has achieved over 99.8% availability with the Velaro E train using Siemens' digital tools. 

 

Power generation

Reliability and availability are key factors in the power generating industry as well. 

Traditionally, routine servicing of machinery like turbines is scheduled far in advance and at pre-set intervals. But there are the occasional unplanned visits to tackle ad-hoc problems. 

Digitalisation offers flexibility in both settings. Scheduled servicing can take place much more accurately, based on real-time information provided by sensors that constantly monitor the generators. This data can be transmitted to a central data platform like Siemens' MindSphere and Sinalytics, a powerful analytics platform, via the Internet of Things (IoT) using wireless communication technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. 

Digitalisation also provides operators with options on timing. This is particularly valuable when power generators may need to keep their turbines running during peak periods, thus having to postpone scheduled maintenance. Siemens' sensors and analytical tools can judge whether that's advisable, offering the operator much more flexibility - and profit.

The same applies to other parameters. The information provided by digitalisation means a turbine can be "overfired" - in other words, run above its ideal capability - to meet demand peaks. 

Overfiring may be costly in terms of extra wear and tear and maintenance. But thanks to the data available, operators can make well-informed decisions about the marginal profit potential against any likely extra cost. The same applies to "underfiring". In the past, the lack of data and appropriate analytical tools meant an operator never had such options.

 

Energy

The energy sector's top priority is to provide reliable and safe power supply. 

A major power supply failure would be horrendously expensive for a nation. Therefore, in the event of an unexpected drop in energy production, a power system needs to be able to compensate for the sudden loss of available energy. 

High-performing transmission grids are the backbone of such a system. The integration of renewables into the power grid has brought additional challenges to the industry as some of them are more unpredictable than "conservative" energy. The energy output of a wind turbine farm can highly vary depending on the wind speed. 

Siemens has compiled a solution-oriented, integrated portfolio for grid operators. It comprises products and solutions for efficient and reliable power supply with a focus on long-distance transmission, grid integration of renewables, and strengthened grid stability. 

A good example for this is the Monitoring and Support Centre (MSC) that Siemens built for Australia's energy supplier, Origin Energy. The MSC system constantly collects data from monitored plants, wind turbine farms and other power generating facilities. This enables energy to quickly get transferred where it is needed. 

The MSC also makes it possible to actively regulate the output of the entire system or certain parts of it, depending on current demand, by automatically ordering plants to increase or decrease their production in a matter of seconds. In theory, this system does not even require any human input.  

 

Conclusion

In the future, digitalisation will be even more important than it already is as the above-mentioned industries face new challenges.

With fossil resources slowly running out, power generators will have to raise efficiency and operators of power grids will have to integrate further renewables into their power mix. 

The transportation sector will have to deal with a growing population that will increasingly rely on public transportation due to overwhelming traffic in cities, making it even more essential for trains and trams to be reliable.       


For detailed information on digitalisation in these and other industries, visit www.siemens.com.my