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08.09.2017 Maintenance on the way to the future

It is common knowledge that sometimes people are very reluctant to part with things they have grown fond of. But that isn't a bad thing. However, the bottom line is that remaining open to change in as many areas as possible is a tried and true approach, in particular regarding unusual ideas and taking advantage of new opportunities. This also applies to the current considerable potential for digital renewal with respect to maintenance of wind turbines.

A visionary head start – Maintenance 4.0
What might a vision for the future of maintenance look like? A fully automated wind turbine monitored with various sensors? Intelligent software would combine all weather data, contractual and qualification requirements, and other selected parameters in accordance with their relevance, and calculate the optimal date for upcoming maintenance or repair. All deployment planning and just-in-time spare parts management are also fully automated. Since the parts and tools are immediately brought to the facility precisely on time, storage is no longer required. And the technicians? They are flown in to the facilities with small, fast electric helicopters. The entire process is automatically documented, and it can be accessed from anywhere at any time, optionally via video. Invoicing, testing, and payment are managed by automated software.

Reality is the status quo
Admittedly, that is still a long way off. And yet, the changes brought on by digitisation are in full swing, including at Deutsche Windtechnik. For example, our digital world includes the following applications:

  • Education, further training, and qualifica¬tion are conducted using e-learning modules.
  • Our technicians work with mobile solutions on site. The recorded docu¬ments and photos can immediately be processed and/or shared with the customer.
  • Offshore: The customer can digitally track the site of opera¬tions, type and status of the work.
  • Remote data monitoring: Software systems detect trends in turbine performance as derived from algorithms. This is supported by the condition monitoring system providers.
  • Certificate management, hazardous sub¬stance registers, and much more are digitally created and can be shared with the customer via interfaces.
  • RFID technology enables automated detection, processing, and documentation of components and tools.
  • Digital applicant management spanning multiple units has been introduced.

Openness as the basis for change
When visionaries present their ideas, in most cases it is the economically driven users who determine whether an innovation gets a chance: Only when it becomes clear that introducing a system will lead to a productivity increase will it have real market opportunities. Many projects are in the works, but we and the entire industry are still facing many challenges. This also includes simple projects, such as IT interfaces to the wind turbines (e.g. OPC) or standardised labelling (e.g. RDSPP). Our current activities would not have been possible 15 years ago. Similarly, economically viable 8-MW wind turbines seemed unachievable to all but a few visionaries. All stakeholders need to remain open to change at a very fundamental level in order for the speed of development to continue at this pace.