TRELLEBORG, Sweden—With the onset of new technology comes new terminology, and that has never been more evident as Trelleborg A.B. advances its work in the digitalization of sealing systems.
Since 2016, the global seal and gasket producer has endeavored to improve both the safety margin and the bottom line for its customers—whether that customer is an offshore oil company or a producer of wind turbines—through "cognitive sealing," which, in turn, allows for "predictive maintenance" of sealing systems.
A third relatively new term makes cognitive sealing and predictive maintenance possible: the Internet of Things, a general term for the interconnection between computing devices and mechanical and digital machines, and the ability to transfer data that is gleaned between those elements over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
"The Internet of Things is where physical and digital objects get connected," said Johannes Kunze von Bischhoffshausen, manager for digital transformation and Internet of Things at Trelleborg Sealing Solutions. "More customers are beginning to monitor their assets remotely, and this includes any assets in the field, wind power or otherwise. Trelleborg is applying this same principle to its 30 manufacturing sites around the world, taking it to the next level and moving into the predictive area."
According to von Bischhoffshausen, predictive maintenance means not simply looking at what a machine is doing in a practical, literal sense, but also predicting with surgical accuracy what a specific mechanical system is going to do—and more importantly, when the machine might break down or the seal might fail.
The safety and savings brought by such knowledge, while not completely quantifiable yet for a company's bottom line, almost certainly brings value to a customer because seals, gaskets and dampers often can be the weakest part of an operation with the greatest consequence for failure.
"The cognitive sealing approach focuses on exactly this challenge," von Bischhoffshausen said. "Customers have been asking: 'Can you place a sensor inside a seal? Can you predict when the seal will fail?' There are different ways to achieve this. While we don't place a sensor inside a seal, we combine data from sensors all around a sealing system—from vibration to temperature and pressure data. This cognitive approach allows us to infer seal health indirectly.
"Customers see this value on a more strategic level. They may not be able to calculate the savings from downtime today, but they know they have to move toward digitalization to gain a competitive advantage."