Making the transition from volumes of paper to an entirely electronic, cloud-based data solution is no small undertaking when you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of quality measurements recorded each year. US-based EthosEnergy, specialized in gas turbine refurbishment for the oil, gas and power-generating industries, has partnered with SKF, using the pioneering iPad system SKF Data Collect to record and manage its data.
“I saw the product at the SKF Asset Management Conference in Dallas in 2013,” says Mike Fisher, president of EthosEnergy Light Turbines LLC, in Houston, Texas. “We’re dealing with 240,000 precise dimensional measurements made and recorded over the year, and we need it to be digital and alive so that we can analyse them.”
Fisher says he had seen other similar products but none provided the versatility that SKF promised: a highly customizable, configurable product that could display data, drawings and tables as well as store information and photos. Fisher asked Jerry Schick, key account manager for SKF, whether such a tool might be adapted to benefit the turbine reprocessing lines that Fisher oversees.
EthosEnergy takes in a range of sub 12 MW gas turbines and driven equipment and overhauls them to extremely high quality standards – ISO 9001, 9004, 14001 and 18001. The task can be daunting, with more than 4,000 components per turbine. Technicians first assess the condition of each part, then record precise dimensions and assess repair procedures to return the component to “as new” condition. Finally, all the data are re-recorded and the machine is full-load tested. The process takes up to 16 weeks, cataloguing the state of the parts along the way with technical details and photos. All measurement data are stored for years, and may need to be referenced for various reasons. To check on the status of any given engine or part would require walking to each station, looking up the work order and talking with the technician.
Nelson Muchacho, quality control manager at EthosEnergy, says the SKF Data Collect solution has been a blessing.
“To put it into perspective, today we have 74 project work orders open. Each requires about 500 pages of documents, so the numbers gather quickly. We’ve converted to this iPad app to digitize and automatically access multiple projects at any given time – that’s 35,000 pages no longer in storage boxes.”
While SKF is well known in the bearing business, developing this kind of technical solution is an evolution for the company.
“It’s quite a different step from SKF’s typical heavy-machinery bearings, but we have developed cloud-based tools and see this as the growing trend for computer-based systems,” says Schick. “The model is software as a service, so customers don’t have to reinstall software or worry about keeping their system up to date. We take care of updates – it’s all part of the service.
This data-based process has a dual function:
“It is an integrated system, so you can have work teams in different sections working with the information, and in SKF Data Collect you have a visual display at each stage of the disassembly and remanufacturing process,” says Schick.
“The whole team can be alerted as to where a work order is during the entire process,” he continues. “Photos are electronically attached to the inspection data, and the iPad supports a final signature from each technician as he completes his work. SKF Data Collect resynchronizes and shares that information every five to 10 minutes through the SKF cloud.”
The iPads have heavy-duty cases for the shop. “They can be dropped on the floor or dipped in water; they’re pretty robust,” says Schick.
Fisher couldn’t be more pleased. “It’s a super-slick product,” he says. “I can walk out to the shop floor, pick up an iPad, drill down to any component and examine the data for that component from any position in the shop, and it’s very user-friendly – anyone with an iPad or iPhone quickly adapts to this system.
Fisher and Schick both expect the system to take off as a valuable addition to multiple industries. “In the utility industry that we work with, it would be a great tool for outage management and tracking. It can provide tremendous advantages for field crews. I see a lot of opportunity.”
SKF Data Collect
SKF Data Collect system combines the intuitiveness of an app, the power of SKF’s knowledge in data collection and machine inspections, and the safety of the SKF cloud.
- Improved data quality and consistency
- Fast access to actionable information
- Safe storage of information in the SKF cloud
- Machine inspections
- Operator instructions
- Audits and quality assurance
- Work orders
- Checklists and much more