9 ConExpo questions with Xylem’s Ken Albaugh

By |  March 24, 2023

We do a lot of energy audits for customers. We’ll go out and use our optimyze units, putting them on equipment so we can see vibration. With our different controllers, we can see amp draws. We can look at where [customers] are on their pump curves and say: ‘This pump is running way out here and being inefficient, and you may be using more horsepower than you need to in the application.’

Condition monitoring tools now provide health guidance and predictive maintenance advice for rotating and fixed assets such as pumps and motors. Photo: Xylem

Condition monitoring tools now provide health guidance and predictive maintenance advice for rotating and fixed assets such as pumps and motors. Photo: Xylem

Yanik: You just touched on monitoring technology and knowing what your equipment is doing. Where is Xylem with that right now, and where do you think the company is going with it?

Albaugh: Digital is a huge focus for us as a company. It’s also a huge focus for pretty much everybody I talked to, whether it’s our Aquavar IPCs [or] smart technology for our diesel-driven pumps. All of our products can be lit up so the owner/operator can see how they’re performing. Pit operators can look at their cellphone on a Saturday if it started raining and see if their pump’s pumping and know if their water quality is good.

Yanik: How much of digitization is being driven by the manufacturer versus the customer?

Albaugh: It varies. Almost every one of our solutions is scalable. With our Field Smart Technology, if somebody just wants to see if the pump is running and if it’s got fuel, they can do that. But if you’ve got a reliability engineer who wants to see engine loads and those things, we can provide that as well.

With a lot of our customers, we’ll start with entry-level data. Some of your national-level people want everything.

Also, I think it all has to be tied back to actual maintenance and production. It has to be tied back to something tangible. You can get data overload very quickly. You can blast parameters to people who are never going to change.

As an equipment OEM, when we say this parameter is important to monitor, it is definitely tied back to a functionality feature or a maintenance feature of that piece of equipment. We’re not just feeding them data to feed them data. We’re saying: ‘You need to watch this vibration, temperature or these bearings in order to keep the process running – and to possibly intervene before something completely implodes and shuts your operation down.’

Yanik: For aggregates, how would you say the most sophisticated users of your technology are managing it? You mentioned the idea of overload, and we’ve heard that over the years and again at this show. How do the best users of your tech manage it? 

Albaugh: The companies that are best-in-class with using the data are using it to feed their maintenance programs. They’re using it to make sure equipment is maintained.

We’re talking about rotating equipment, and, at some point, something is going to go wrong with it. So being able to uses predictive analytics to determine something as simple as oil quality can be done with pumps.

A lot of this [trend] has come over from the mobile equipment side. They realize they don’t need 75 parameters on their haul truck. They need five.

Now that we’re coming in with our equipment, the customer is saying: ‘I don’t need these 30 but these few.’ And they’re tying that back in with their maintenance intervals, practices and when they need to stop a piece of equipment.

Yanik: There are so many different monitoring tools out there right now. Is a consolidation of the many tools going to have to take place at some point between equipment manufacturers?

Albaugh: I think there probably is a point where that will happen. For us, we have what we call our NOC (National Operating Center) in Boise, Idaho, where we monitor our digital cloud services. We can do that for customers.

In our Sensus water meter business, we’re monitoring water meters, gas meters and electric meters all over the country from utilities. Our folks monitor those all day. We have the ability to feed Godwin data, Goulds data [and] Flygt data through that NOC and [monitor] all of that for customers. They have one interface and one platform they can see data on.

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