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Bringing gensets into the Internet of Things

According to research by Oneserve, machine downtime costs UK manufacturers more than £180 billion every year. To reduce the cost of downtime, several industries have connected their equipment to the Internet of Things (IoT) for an accurate understanding of their performance. Now, with the help of telematics software, generator operators can also improve fleet performance and avoid downtime by receiving near real-time information on their machinery. Here Becky Wallis, Finsight Supervisor at energy and transportation expert Finning UK & Ireland, discusses the potential for telematics in gensets.

 A growing number of companies are adopting fleet telematics technologies across different industries. According to McKinsey & Company, around 15 per cent of vehicles now come with telematics installed as standard and there are around 100 million telematics units currently in operation.

While digital connectivity is well established in vehicle tracking, the idea of using this technology in diesel generators is just starting to take off. If a genset has been equipped with connectivity capabilities, operators can simply download an app to their smartphone for a view of their engine fleet, allowing them to monitor machine health and performance.

A stitch in time

Preventative maintenance is scheduled at regular intervals according to the manufacturer’s service manual — a scheduled plan that is not adapted for the specific machine’s performance in an application. It may still be that, in between planned services, blocked filters can damage the engine’s valves, pistons and cylinder walls, increasing fuel consumption and reducing performance. Machine telematics offers an improved approach by allowing operators to monitor engine performance from a smartphone, facilitating the introduction of predictive maintenance and meaning problems can be dealt with before they significantly impact performance.  

Telematics software, such as Cat Remote Fleet Vision, can track engines and other related assets in near real time and present output data in a user-friendly dashboard. Operators can use this information to monitor engine utilisation, daily fuel use and to receive other service alerts. Operators can also customise the alerts to get the most important information for their application, such as to monitor the unit levels to see how long the machine has been running. If the software offers a storage function, operators can look back at historic data and identify performance trends. Although machine telematics is relatively new to backup gensets, it promises to reduce costs by preventing unexpected downtime.

Get the best from your engine

To maintain engine performance in the long term, it is important to determine whether each asset is working at the right capacity.  For continuous rated engines that run at high power and speed all the time, any asset working under capacity can indicate a problem. Operators can glean insight from connected software to understand equipment utilisation, run time and idle time across the fleet.

On the other hand, a backup generator should not be constantly running and, if it is, it can cause overheating, leading to engine damage that prevents the gen set from working during power outages. Measuring the energy output data in the software’s dashboard will indicate if this is occurring.

With manufacturers alone losing £180 billion every year to unplanned downtime, preventing machine breakdown is a priority for many. While most diesel engine operators will already use preventative maintenance in the form of planned servicing, machine telematics offers a new way safeguarding the performance of a fleet. By accessing valuable information on engine health and performance, operators can improve efficiency and reduce downtime.

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