Kevin Glass of BITZER UK discusses how intelligent compressors can help bridge the industry’s skills gap.
The need to minimise operating costs and reduce the impact of refrigeration systems on the environment has never been more significant. The key is timely information about how systems perform in the real world and the ability to adjust and optimise them easily.
The latest intelligent compressors, and the networks they are part of, provide us with direct access to real-time and historical data, which opens up tremendous opportunities to improve performance, minimise costs and reduce environmental impact.
The new digital infrastructure – the foundation for this revolution – is now being put in place. At its heart are intelligent compressors and refrigeration systems connected into a higher-level network for monitoring and sophisticated data analysis.
At this supervisory level, which gives rapid access to the wealth of data and insights, the power and potential of digital services come into play.
BITZER has been working on developing the new digital infrastructure for some time. Once the potential benefits became apparent, we made it a strategic priority. After successful trials in Europe and South America over the past two years, we are now globally rolling out our BITZER Digital Network (BDN).
The BDN brings together the company’s in-depth product and application knowledge with real-time intelligence and data from working systems. We use this to provide customers with actionable insights that can be used to improve all aspects of system performance.
It also gives access to the latest technical information relevant to compressors and components in systems. This includes everything from an electronic parts database, online documentation and software, in addition to compressor monitoring and advanced analysis.
I believe digitalisation has come at a critical time for the industry and helps address some of the key challenges we face.
Bridging the skills gap
Through the retirement of experienced people, we lose a lot of knowledge and skills from the industry with every passing year. Such deep experience is not easy to replace and cannot be formed out of thin air. It takes long-term, in-depth training, which in today’s competitive commercial environment is challenging. The Artificial Intelligence aspects of digitalisation help fill the gap.
In addition, as we all know, our industry operates in a highly time-sensitive environment. However, with the considerable value of food stocks and industrial products dependent on refrigeration today – not to mention the massively expanding computer server industry – downtime can result in colossal and unacceptable losses.
Through predictive analysis and genuinely intelligent preventive maintenance, digital networks enable us to pre-empt issues, dramatically increasing reliability and minimising downtime.
The real-time monitoring service gives access to current compressor status, alarm descriptions and trouble-shooting insights derived from data analysis
In the event of a breakdown, contractors can diagnose a problem remotely and identify work that needs to be done before attending a site. Any replacement components required can be sourced in advance, so everything is on-hand for a first-time fix.
Overcoming the need for multiple visits to inspect and diagnose the problem and then return to repair and replace parts delivers significant savings.
The nuts-and-bolts of how the system works in principle are relatively easy to describe, even if there is a large amount of digital processing going on behind the scenes.
Networking and security
IQ modules connect to the digital network via a gateway. Each unit can be registered and viewed on a customer’s accounts. It shows compressor status, operating temperatures and pressures, diagnostics, and any warnings and alarms.
There is no need to export data to another programme. Users simply log in to their account and run a report from inside the BDN. This can be customised in multiple ways to focus on particular issues and over various time-frames.
Data security has to be a priority, and the network uses the highest standards of encryption and online security available. Password-protected accounts are assigned to individual users, with different types of user given access to different types and levels of information. This tiered approach is important given the richness of data available.
Although building from a relatively low base, we anticipate these networks will grow rapidly as the advantages become apparent and – importantly – when customers have a go themselves and come to trust the new approach.
We are now working with customers to demonstrate the system and how it can deliver new digital-based services to end users.
I believe it won’t be long before remote reporting systems becomes the default solution. The benefits speak for themselves, and once customers experience this type of system access, it will become normal to expect it.