SmartSignal Summit 2004: Interpret data, avoid failures

Chicago, IL—The next runaway opportunity for business advantage will be data interpretation, and much of that intelligence will connect with an organization’s primary assets, including those on the plant-floor, according to presenters at SmartSignal Corp.’s first Predictive Monitoring Summit on Sept. 20-21.

By Control Engineering Staff September 28, 2004

Chicago, IL— The next runaway opportunity for business advantage will be data interpretation, and much of that intelligence will connect with an organization’s primary assets, including those on the plant-floor, according to presenters at SmartSignal Corp. ’s first Predictive Monitoring Summit on Sept. 20-21. First-day session topics included predictive maintenance in various industries; software security; impact of service, maintenance and diagnostic centers; plant-floor and IT integration; and global device integration.

SmartSignal analyzes sensor data over time to predict when equipment is most likely to fail. Algorithms help SmartSignal’s software recognize patterns too subtle or too buried for traditional analysis, which allows businesses to predict previously unpredictable problems, and change the outcomes. Users can virtually eliminate unscheduled downtime, according James Gagnard, SmartSignal’s president and CEO. SmartSignal’s early-warning Equipment Condition Monitoring (ECM) software is used by airlines, locomotive operators, electric generators, natural gas transmission companies, among others, to improve reliability of critical assets. It’s one of those investments about which companies subsequently hesitate to release hard numbers relating to value because of the competitive advantages they believe the software/service provides.

“You are the early adopters,” Gagnard told the summit’s attendees. “Hundreds of companies are behind you that don’t have this on their priority list.” He welcomed participation by customers and prospects “to make our solution more beneficial, more effective.”

Other presenters at the meeting included Michael Bakewell, Entergy Corp.’s fossil operations VP, who described using SmartSignal’s software at 31 power plants, which generate about 30,000 MW in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Bakewell says one of the biggest challenges while implementing the ECM software was to convince operators and plant personnel that its goal wasn’t to be a “Big Brother,” but rather to reduce costs of undiagnosed problems, give advice, and improve safety and environmental performance.

In continuous, 24/7 operation from May 2003 to the present, the Entergy Monitoring and Diagnostic Center has had 252 total catches at Entergy’s facilities, including 30 that were deemed “significant.” This produced value for Entergy exceeding 200% of the cost of implementation. Bakewell adds that the best part is SmartSignal software’s speedy pattern-recognition capability, which searches 15,000 data points frequently and up to twice as many less frequently. “With that much data, early detection of slowly developing failures was unmanageable,” he explains.

SmartSignal also helped Entergy build the models needed before implementation. In addition, authorized personnel at Entergy’s plants were given access to ECM’s WatchList information via browsers, so the software wasn’t seen as a threat. “Everyone wants to stay more alert,” adds Bakewell. Training was especially helpful, he says.

Other companies that use SmartSignal’s software include Delta, IBM, General Motors Elec-tromotive, Progress Energy.

Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief
MHoske@cfemedia.com