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The trend towards digitalization has spread to all sectors in which Schaeffler operates, from the automotive industry to the energy sector. It is anticipated that data collection and evaluation in real-time will lead to increased productivity. Even today, Schaeffler offers digital services such as the online monitoring of wind turbines – a business model that is to be significantly expanded in the future.
Graduate electronics engineer Harald Reiners has headed Schaeffler’s condition monitoring services for the past ten years. Using a new service platform, he has machinery and equipment continuously under control even when he is out of the office.
Harald Reiners, based at the condition monitoring center in Herzogenrath, brings up data from one particular wind turbine. “This one here was fitted with a new gearbox several weeks ago,” he explains. “Our sensors provide an accurate picture of the vibration behavior of such plants. Using automated parameters, we can check whether they are running smoothly.” The graduate electronics engineer has headed Schaeffler’s condition monitoring services for the past ten years. Along with his team consisting of about a dozen experts, he continuously monitors around 1,000 machines, including wind turbines, steel rolling mills, paper machines and marine drives. “We want to provide peace of mind for our customers and free them of concerns regarding their machines so they can attend to their real business,” emphasizes Reiners. “If problems crop up, we give the operators concrete recommendations on what needs to be done.” In addition to performing digital analyses in the online monitoring center, the technicians carry out on-site inspections at regular intervals.
We want to provide peace of mind for our customers and free them of concerns regarding their machines so they can attend to their real business.
All sectors are now affected by the trend towards digitalization; digital services are becoming an important addition to the actual product. They can also form the basis for completely new applications. An example in the automotive sector is the further development of the active mechatronic roll control. This particularly efficient electric actuator, which is in volume production at Schaeffler, compensates for the rolling motion of the vehicle. The next generation of this intelligent system will have the potential to also act as a sensor which will capture data on the condition of the road. If combined with an accurate positioning system, it would be possible to produce detailed road maps in real-time, which could be accessed via the Cloud and alert the infrastructure operator, as well as vehicles following behind, to hazards such as potholes or bumps.
Digital solutions can also be of considerable added value to operators and manufacturers of rail vehicles. Accordingly, Schaeffler is developing mechatronic systems used in the railway sector for monitoring and predictive maintenance of axlebox bearings and drive motors. These are equipped with sensors that measure temperatures, vibrations and speeds. An intelligent processor unit processes the raw data which are then merged with further data in the Cloud where they are evaluated and made available as service data. The results are made available to the customer in a clearly structured overview.
The concept developed by the Schaeffler engineering specialists meets current European legal requirements for hot box detection used in high-speed trains. Thanks to proactive condition monitoring, it also allows for extended maintenance intervals and therefore longer operating times. In China, Schaeffler is undertaking the development of an axlebox monitoring system specifically for high-speed trains. Top speeds of up to 500 km/h place the highest demands on drive technology. Schaeffler is developing solutions as part of a strategic partnership with the leading Southwest Jiaotong University.
This principle also applies to the online monitoring center in Herzogenrath. “Depending on the application, we agree on certain service levels including regular status reports and response times with our customers,” says Reiners. In addition, he and his colleagues prepare concrete recommendations for action as soon as the measurement systems indicate critical anomalies. Sometimes all that is required is the addition of more lubricant, while in other cases components have to be replaced. Another digital service slotted to be available in the future will be the calculation of residual operating times for rolling bearings. This service can be used by operators to schedule maintenance based on the seasons, for example, and utilize less profitable months to replace parts pinpointed by the system.
Number of wind turbines, cold rolling mills, paper mills and marine drives that are already included in the Schaeffler condition monitoring network today.