Customer-Driven Condition Monitoring

Today in the consumer space, smart appliances are the norm. We connect everything from thermostats to light bulbs — and control it remotely via wi-fi.

Factories too have gotten smarter, with many large manufacturers connecting equipment to complex condition monitoring (CM) systems. Those systems deliver endless data points and detailed insights, but require advanced IT development, support and security teams to keep them up-to-date and working correctly — and to make sure all that data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Male engineer with a tablet computer working at manufacturing factory.  Not every manufacturing plant has a team of IT pros on call, however. “Many facilities producing thousands of dollars of product per hour have no digital eyes yet,” says Brett Laubacher, Timken program manager.

Laubacher managed the development of the new Timken® Wireless Sensor and Monitoring Solution, which is designed to address the needs of companies looking to get started with condition monitoring — on their own terms.

“Our mounted-bearing customers were asking us for CM,” he says, “but they didn’t want to deal with the IT complexity, recurring fees, security risks, and large, ongoing investment required for the other systems out there.”

Timken’s wireless sensors offer a simple warning system for expensive equipment, alerting operators when temperatures or vibrations change and helping them address unexpected failures before they become catastrophic. Unlike other CM systems, they do it without complex IT, recurring fees or off-site data storage and analysis.

Simple, self-service set-up

Timken’s wireless sensors are ideal for any manufacturing environment with large equipment, such as steel mills, paper plants, power plants, aggregate quarries or cement plants. They use mesh technology, connecting and transmitting data from each other and ultimately to a single gateway receiver.

The sensors and the gateway together make up the solution, which comes complete with customer-friendly videos for easy, out-of-the-box set-up. “In no time, without getting IT involved or calling anybody, you can set this up and go,” says Laubacher. Once you establish a baseline, you can begin monitoring temperature and vibration, setting alert thresholds and linking the gateway through your own IT infrastructure so it can send alerts via email.

“It’s a great way to safely and inexpensively monitor bearings in places that are dangerous or hard to get to. It also allows you to free up maintenance staff for more valuable projects.”

Brett Laubacher
Timken Program Manager

The sensors have a five- to seven- year battery life, and no additional investment is required. “It’s a great way to safely and inexpensively monitor bearings in places that are dangerous or hard to get to,” he says. “It also allows you to free up maintenance staff for more valuable projects.”

Launching point for customer-driven innovation

Timken wireless sensor. The Timken system is a launching point for customers looking to achieve CM benefits quickly, without additional IT investment. It also gives them the flexibility to expand and upgrade their system at their own pace.

“We partnered with an industry-leading IoT solutions provider for our sensors because of their reputation and expertise and because they gave us that flexibility,” says Laubacher. “We can expand this initial offering in a variety of directions, as customers come to us with their requirements.”

Timken is already exploring more powerful sensors that can detect a greater range of feedback from the machines they’re monitoring. The company is also looking at offering sensors that are certified for more hazardous or challenging environments.

It’s possible that Timken may one day even connect CM systems to the cloud. Laubacher is part of a cross-functional team working on ways to increase data quality and availability for customers. “We have the capability — it’s about meeting customers where they are and providing the products and services that work for them,” he says.

Timken companies such as Cone Drive and Des-Case offer products with sensors that help customers monitor lubrication and automate warehouses. Learn more about Cone Drive’s magnetic encoders.