Amazon Monitron, a Simple and Cost-Effective Service Enabling Predictive Maintenance

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Today, I’m extremely happy to announce Amazon Monitron, a condition monitoring service that detects potential failures and allows user to track developing faults enabling you to implement predictive maintenance and reduce unplanned downtime.

True story: A few months ago, I bought a new washing machine. As the delivery man was installing it in my basement, we were chatting about how unreliable these things seemed to be nowadays; never lasting more than a few years. As the gentleman made his way out, I pointed to my aging and poorly maintained water heater, telling him that I had decided to replace it in the coming weeks and that he’d be back soon to install a new one. Believe it or not, it broke down the next day. You can laugh at me, it’s OK. I deserve it for not planning ahead.

As annoying as this minor domestic episode was, it’s absolutely nothing compared to the tremendous loss of time and money caused by the unexpected failure of machines located in industrial environments, such as manufacturing production lines and warehouses. Any proverbial grain of sand can cause unplanned outages, and Murphy’s Law has taught us that they’re likely to happen in the worst possible configuration and at the worst possible time, resulting in severe business impacts.

To avoid breakdowns, reliability managers and maintenance technicians often combine four strategies:

  1. Run to failure: where equipment is operated without maintenance until it no longer operates reliably. When the repair is completed, equipment is returned to service; however, the condition of the equipment is unknown and failure is uncontrolled.
  2. Planned maintenance: where predefined maintenance activities are performed on a periodic or meter basis, regardless of condition. The effectiveness of planned maintenance activities is dependent on the quality of the maintenance instructions and planned cycle. It risks equipment being both over- and under-maintained, incurring unnecessary cost or still experiencing breakdowns.
  3. Condition-based maintenance: where maintenance is completed when the condition of a monitored component breaches a defined threshold. Monitoring physical characteristics such as tolerance, vibration or temperature is a more optimal strategy, requiring less maintenance and reducing maintenance costs.
  4. Predictive maintenance: where the condition of components is monitored, potential failures detected and developing faults tracked. Maintenance is planned at a time in the future prior to expected failure and when the total cost of maintenance is most cost-effective.

Condition-based maintenance and predictive maintenance require sensors to be installed on critical equipment. These sensors measure and capture physical quantities such as temperature and vibration, whose change is a leading indicator of a potential failure or a deteriorating condition.

As you can guess, building and deploying such maintenance systems can be a long, complex, and costly project involving bespoke hardware, software, infrastructure, and processes. Our customers asked us for help, and we got to work.

Introducing Amazon Monitron
Amazon Monitron is an easy and cost-effective condition monitoring service that allows you to monitor the condition of equipment in your facilities, enabling the implementation of a predictive maintenance program.

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Setting up Amazon Monitron is extremely simple. You first install Monitron sensors that capture vibration and temperature data from rotating machines, such as bearings, gearboxes, motors, pumps, compressors, and fans. Sensors send vibration and temperature measurements hourly to a nearby Monitron gateway, using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology allowing the sensors to run for at least three years. The Monitron gateway is itself connected to your WiFi network, and sends sensor data to AWS, where it is stored and analyzed using machine learning and ISO 20816 vibration standards.

As communication is infrequent, up to 20 sensors can be connected to a single gateway, which can be located up to 30 meters away (depending on potential interference). Thanks to the scalability and cost efficiency of Amazon Monitron, you can deploy as many sensors as you need, including on pieces of equipment that until now weren’t deemed critical enough to justify the cost of traditional sensors. As with any data-driven application, security is our No. 1 priority. The Monitron service authenticates the gateway and the sensors to make sure that they’re legitimate. Data is also encrypted end-to-end, without any decryption taking place on the gateway.

Setting up your gateways and sensors only requires installing the Monitron mobile application on an Android mobile device with Bluetooth support for gateway setup, and NFC support for sensor setup. This is an extremely simple process, and you’ll be monitoring in minutes. Technicians will also use the mobile application to receive alerts indicating abnormal machine conditions. They can acknowledge these alerts and provide feedback to improve their accuracy (say, to minimize false alerts and missed anomalies).

Customers are already using Amazon Monitron today, and here are a couple of examples.

Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is an iconic brand and a leading manufacturer of stringed instruments and amplifiers. Here’s what Bill Holmes, Global Director of Facilities at Fender, told us: “Over the past year we have partnered with AWS to help develop a critical but sometimes overlooked part of running a successful manufacturing business which is knowing the condition of your equipment. For manufacturers worldwide, uptime of equipment is the only way we can remain competitive with a global market. Ensuring equipment is up and running and not being surprised by sudden breakdowns helps get the most out of our equipment. Unplanned downtime is costly both in loss of production and labor due to the firefighting nature of the breakdown. The Amazon Monitron condition monitoring system has the potential of giving both large industry as well as small ‘mom and pop shops’ the ability to predict failures of their equipment before a catastrophic breakdown shuts them down. This will allow for a scheduled repair of failing equipment before it breaks down.

GE Gas Power is a leading provider of power generation equipment, solutions and services. It operates many manufacturing sites around the world, in which much of the manufacturing equipment is not connected nor monitored for health. Magnus Akesson, CIO at GE Gas Power Manufacturing says: “Naturally, we can reduce both maintenance costs and downtime, if we can easily and cheaply connect and monitor these assets at scale. Additionally, we want to take advantage of advanced algorithms to look forward, to know not just the current state but also predict future health and to detect abnormal behaviors. This will allow us to transition from time-based to predictive and prescriptive maintenance practices. Using Amazon Monitron, we are now able to quickly retrofit our assets with sensors and connecting them to real- time analytics in the AWS cloud. We can do this without having to require deep technical skills or having to configure our own IT and OT networks. From our initial work on vibration-prone tumblers, we are seeing this vision come to life at an amazing speed: the ease-of-use for the operators and maintenance team, the simplicity, and the ability to implement at scale is extremely attractive to GE. During our pilot, we were also delighted to see one-click capabilities for updating the sensors via remote Over the Air (OTA) firmware upgrades, without having to physically touch the sensors. As we grow in scale, this is a critical capability in order to be able to support and maintain the fleet of sensors.

Now, let me show you how to get started with Amazon Monitron.

Setting up Amazon Monitron
First, I open the Monitron console. In just a few clicks, I create a project, and an administrative user allowed to manage it. Using a link provided in the console, I download and install the Monitron mobile application on my Android phone. Opening the app, I log in using my administrative credentials.

The first step is to create a site describing assets, sensors, and gateways. I name it “my-thor-project.”

Application screenshot

Let’s add a gateway. Enabling BlueTooth on my phone, I press the pairing button on the gateway.

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The name of the gateway appears immediately.

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I select the gateway, and I configure it with my WiFi credentials to let it connect to AWS. A few seconds later, the gateway is online.

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My next step is to create an asset that I’d like to monitor, say a process water pump set, with a motor and a pump that I would like to monitor. I first create the asset itself, simply defining its name, and the appropriate ISO 20816 class (a standard for measurement and evaluation of machine vibration).

Application screenshot

Then, I add a sensor for the motor.

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I start by physically attaching the sensor to the motor using the suggested adhesive. Next, I specify a sensor position, enable the NFC on my smartphone, and tap the Monitron sensor that I attached to the motor with my phone. Within seconds, the sensor is commissioned.

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I repeat the same operation for the pump. Looking at my asset, I see that both sensors are operational.

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They are now capturing temperature and vibration information. Although there isn’t much to see for the moment, graphs are available in the mobile app.

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Over time, the gateway will keep sending this data securely to AWS, where it will be analyzed for early signs of failure. Should either of my assets exhibit these, I would receive an alert in the mobile application, where I could visualize historical data, and decide what the best course of action would be.

Getting Started
As you can see, Monitron makes it easy to deploy sensors enabling predictive maintenance applications. The service is available today in the US East (N. Virginia) region, and using it costs $50 per sensor per year.

If you’d like to evaluate the service, the Monitron Starter Kit includes everything you need (a gateway with a mounting kit, five sensors, and a power supply), and it’s available for $715. Then, you can scale your deployment with additional sensors, which you can buy in 5-packs for $575.

Starter kit picture

Give Amazon Monitron a try, and let us know what you think. We’re always looking forward to your feedback, either through your usual AWS support contacts, or on the AWS Forum for Monitron.

– Julien

Special thanks to my colleague Dave Manley for taking the time to educate me on industrial maintenance operations.

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