Maintenance, Test & Measurement, Calibration


Proactive condition monitoring service from SEW-EURODRIVE

February 2022 Maintenance, Test & Measurement, Calibration

Through its service division, SEW-EURODRIVE provides dependable on-site support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Increasingly important is the proactive maintenance side, which relies on the ‘prevention is better than cure’ philosophy to improve equipment performance and reliability, reduce unscheduled breakdowns and extend equipment life.


Eben Pretorius, head of SEW-EURODRIVE’s South African field services division.

Plant operators are often under pressure to keep production running at the expense of routine and necessary maintenance. Their focus is on making money in the immediate term rather than investing in a maintenance programme to ensure better long-term performance and equipment reliability. “Busy people onsite don’t always understand the real value of regular maintenance, so they often take unnecessary risks,” says Eben Pretorius, head of the company’s local service division.

SEW-EURODRIVE can offer a wide range of cost-effective services to help users take better care of their industrial gearboxes (IGs), gear motors and the company’s electronic and automation range of controllers and variable speed drives (VSDs).

At the starting point of this offering is field services and site assistance, which provides breakdown and problem-solving support for users of SEW-EURODRIVE equipment. “For mechanical drive trains, this service includes oil sampling and analysis, vibration and thermal inspections, laser alignment, as well as internal and external inspections along with onsite strip and repair work,” notes Pretorius.

He says that customers often start to experience minor issues such as oil leaks with their equipment a few years after installation due to lack of maintenance. This is an ideal time to do a site survey of the drive equipment in use. During an onsite walk-through of operating equipment, for example, SEW-EURODRIVE service specialists will typically take oil samples from the gearboxes, perform vibration analysis to determine the condition of the bearings and whether the gears are meshing properly. “We may open some of the inspection covers and inspect the gears for wear and if there are alignment issues we can re-align the drive train, which is necessary to ensure that bearings and seals do not fail prematurely,” he says.

After looking at the equipment onsite, a report is produced summarising the condition of the equipment and the remedial action necessary to improve reliability. The problems identified are clearly explained and maintenance procedures suggested. “We highlight where urgent action is required and also point out less critical issues that can be dealt with during the next scheduled shutdown,” Pretorius continues. By adopting the recommendations, equipment performance and reliability will improve, unscheduled breakdowns can be avoided and the life of the installed equipment can be extended.

For ongoing support, SEW-EURODRIVE offers plant operators service level agreements (SLAs). The information from an onsite survey is used to identify units that most need proactive services and how often equipment condition and maintenance requirements need to be looked at. “Typically we suggest a visual inspection every three months and a more comprehensive equipment survey every six months,” says Pretorius.

No one can guarantee that a machine won’t fail, but SLAs and the use of SEW-EURODRIVE’s DriveRadar condition monitoring can be used to predict when a failure is likely to happen on a unit and which of the units are in good condition and unlikely to fail. “From vibration analysis we can pick up if a bearing is worn and about to fail and from oil analysis we can see if the lubricant is contaminated. By responding quicky to such issues, unexpected and more serious failures can almost always be avoided,” he adds.

Looking further into the future and particularly in the context of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), DriveRadar is a connected solution for data-based predictive maintenance that automatically collects data from field equipment and uses it to track trends, monitor equipment condition and predict potential failures. DriveRadar prevents unforeseen failures in operation, detects and tracks wear rates and minimises downtime.

DriveRadar is an independent monitoring system, with all operating data sent to the SEW-EURODRIVE cloud using an LTE/3G SIM card or an Ethernet connection. All the information can be viewed on a secure portal where all operating history and operating events are readily available. “While there are costs associated with our proactive maintenance-based services, these are far less expensive than breakdown repair costs and by intervening before breakdowns occur, unscheduled downtime and massive production-loss costs can be avoided.”

Adopting an SLA and/or our DriveRadar services allows for the monitoring of:

• Unit operating hours.

• Rotational speeds.

• Vibration levels.

• Oil condition.

• Oil bath temperature.

• Oil quantity monitoring.

• Electronics temperature monitoring.

• Ambient temperature readings.

In terms of response times when an emergency arises, Pretorius says that SEW-EURODRIVE can react very quickly. “On field service work, if a client needs a service technician at 8-o’clock at night and we have an SLA or a field services order, we can send someone immediately. If a replacement gearbox unit is required, we are often able to build that unit overnight. We once had a call from a customer on a Saturday where we built the required replacement in Johannesburg in three hours that afternoon. Our field technicians picked the replacement up at 5-o’clock Saturday evening and drove for two hours to the site. The plant was back up and running by 4-o’clock on Sunday morning.”

The company strongly believes in training and enabling customers to be able to look after their own equipment. This helps to build confidence and understanding of the SEW-EURODRIVE equipment being used. “Service-related training will be an important part of our new training service, Drive Academy. We have specific training courses to help users maintain industrial and gear motor units and our range of electronic products. The condition of all identified drive equipment can be kept healthy, resulting in long-term reliability and peace of mind for operators and production managers,” Pretorius concludes.


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