Extreme work environments, time pressure, high demands on safety and the need for documentation are challenges that face the O&M sector every day and are not easy to handle.
Furthermore, the variety of bolted joint design today results in many different types of bolting tools being used by the workers. Hydraulic torque wrenches, bolt tensioning, electric nutrunners, battery tools, and even manual torque wrenches can all be found in use on-site at the same time. For all of these tool types, there is a requirement for appropriate operator training, calibration process, and maintenance cycle monitoring, and for the most part, documentation becomes a manual process.
These challenges can result in mistakes being made, and corners being cut, and the ultimate impact can be a dangerous and costly equipment failure or rework required. Even worse catastrophic failure in the field.
If the process control and documentation capability used in production facilities today were to be deployed in the O&M environment, this would have significant positive impact for OEM’s, contractors and wind Industry as a whole relating to higher quality delivered work, cost reduction, and improved operational efficiency.
This was not possible in the past, however the new availability of mobile connectivity, cloud and smart devices are enablers that make this very much a reality today. The availability of these solutions now make it possible to take the “smart factory” into the field based, operational, work environment.
In order to have a truly connected and efficient system it is critical that all bolting technologies (hydraulic torque, bolt tensioning, continuous rotation) have one common user interface, both for operational process control and analysis and traceability of data.
Shaping the Future
The wind industry is becoming more global and more competitive every day. Wind turbine assembly and construction is getting more complex. Larger bolts, in more extreme environments and with longer product life cycles means there is a need for new bolting solutions that support the goal of maintenance free bolted assembly.
To address these demands, the implementation of smart factory technology in the field based environment is a critical path to take that will ensure the best quality products are manufactured, installed and operated for the full product life cycle with reductions in both risk and cost.
Furthermore, this will enable the interconnectivity and data analytics to be applied through the full value chain of OEMs, from manufacturing to operations and even beyond to partners and service providers all of which drive faster product development, quicker problem resolution, and rapidly deployed process improvements across multiple sites or locations.
Technology enablers are allowing this to happen even today and products exist on the market that support the vision for smart connected bolting in all environments. Atlas Copco will, together with other eco-system partners continue to help the wind industry to navigate and speed up this exciting journey ahead, and make customers process and operations quicker, safer and smarter.