Scottish natural refrigeration pioneer Star Refrigeration has called for a more proactive and predictive approach to maintenance of industrial refrigeration systems, arguing that a traditional “reactive” approach is too costly, considering the total life-cycle cost of systems.
In an article on its website, Star places maintenance efforts into three categories: reactive, proactive and predictive. For those opting for predictive, Star is touting its StarCare service, a planned, preventative maintenance (PPM) service.
Offering systems that employ ammonia (R717), CO2 (R744) or ammonia/CO2, Star serves a number of industries, including temperature-controlled storage, food and drink processing, pharmaceutical, HVAC and leisure. The company specializes in the design, manufacture and installation of chiller packages, including low-charge ammonia units.
Traditional, or “reactive,” refrigeration system maintenance includes a fixed schedule of site visits by engineers, where system health checks and adjustments are carried out. This type of approach is a “high cost approach to plant maintenance, with an increased risk of downtime,” Star argued.
“If plant performance is unmonitored between scheduled maintenance visits, faults will naturally occur resulting in inefficient, unreliable and potentially unsafe operation,” the company said. For optimized operation and efficiency, system owners should instead adopt proactive maintenance – a condition-based approach, Star argued.
In recent years, that is exactly what’s been happening, and this approach has become widespread in the industry, Star acknowledged. Standard remote monitoring systems now allow customers to collect systems data and use this data to create targeted task lists for the maintenance engineers during their visits.
Monitoring data via StarCare
Star’s own StarCare service offers predictive maintenance, where “live performance data is constantly monitored and analyzed.” The service is “designed to extend plant life, improve whole life cost and reduce client spend,” the company said.
For users of StarCare, the collected data is regularly reviewed to identify potential component faults and other issues for engineers to investigate immediately to avert potential system failures and costly downtime. “Performance data graphing and trend reports can also be compared with the manufacturer’s design parameters, with targeted adjustments made to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs,” said Star.
Star has a dedicated StarCare monitoring hub at its headquarters in Glasgow. The hub provides “intelligent” remote monitoring for clients. The team at the hub reviews performance parameters and reliability against the optimum design parameters provided by equipment manufacturers and make recommendations for the site engineers to improve system efficiency.
Possible condition-based maintenance routines recommended by the Star experts include “quality checks of refrigerant, oil and glycol; monitoring of electrical current, energy usage and tariff optimization; vibration monitoring of compressors, motors and pumps; thermographic system scans and airflow monitoring before and after cooler or condenser cleaning.”
The large amounts of data collected and analyzed by the StarCare team, is then fed into specialized software, which “produces insightful algorithms and trending data, which can be analyzed to accurately predict future plant performance and maintenance requirements,” according to Star. The knowledge created can help plant owners and operators to plan for future expenditures like component replacement and system overhauls.