A platform for drilling rigs is the cornerstone for predictive maintenance

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4 minutes Reading time
4 minutes Reading time

Drilling rigs for trenchless pipeline installation perform heavy-duty work and must be closely monitored in the field. Manufacturer Tracto uses a central cloud platform to collect status data and analyze it in a dashboard. An initial service is a customer platform for retrieving drilling data and a “cockpit” for monitoring the machine park. 

The challenge: Sending condition data in real time

Broadband expansion or new installation of underground lines such as power cables usually require extensive underground engineering work. But to get these lines into the ground as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, special drilling machines are now used for trenchless line installation. The innovation leader in this field is the special machine manufacturer Tracto from Lennestadt in the Sauerland region.

The drilling rigs have a cabin and can be operated and monitored from it. But as an alternative, they offer remote operation. For this purpose, there is a specially developed remote control equipped with a touchscreen – similar to smartphones or tablets. This enables the extensive automation of all processes. Integrated cameras also give the operator the optimum overview of all important areas of the drilling rig.

For the newly developed generation of the Grundodrill family of drilling rigs, Tracto has pre-designed a central IoT platform to which drilling rigs in the field send metrics and condition data in near real-time. On this basis, the machine builder commissioned the IT service provider consileo to optimize the machine and cloud architecture.

The solution: A central cloud platform for device and sensor data

consileo’s solution provides a seamless and fault-tolerant connection to the cloud that can cache data in the event of a patchy network connection. With powerful cloud capabilities for real-time analytics and machine learning, Tracto’s operators and service department can simplify maintenance, avoid downtime, and get early warning of problems. The platform used for the project allows for elastic scaling of resources and simplification of deployment and integration.

For the solution, the machine is the hub of all data streams. The first measure was to implement a data buffer on the machine to buffer connection failures. It transmits the data as soon as a network connection is established and automatically adapts to the available bandwidth. Filebeat, a service from Elastic that is technologically capable of taking over the task of the “buffer”, is used for this purpose. In addition to the elementary machine and sensor data, the devices send additional log files that provide extended status information. These are, for example, operating states or error logs.

Microsoft Azure serves as the basis for the entire infrastructure. Each operator of a machine receives access to the central cloud platform with the associated data. There he can analyze and visualize his data. The central storage of all data as well as the additional condition data creates a database for digital services such as predictive maintenance in the future.

The result: Higher data quality and availability for new services

The systematically built, centralized cloud services have significantly reduced the platform’s operating costs. In addition, data quality and availability increased. The centralization and storage of all error messages reduces the workload for Tracto’s service technicians, who can now identify malfunctions and weak points much more quickly.

The cloud architecture with Kubernetes offers Tracto the opportunity to offer its customers precisely tailored digital services and to build up a corresponding portfolio. Kubernetes helps at this point to quickly further develop the services and roll out updates. In addition, a Kubernetes cluster can scale elastically to respond to varying load demands, such as when many users are retrieving information simultaneously. The advantage: There is no need to maintain expensive servers; they are provided as needed. In addition, it is also possible to incorporate developments from partner companies into the resulting Tracto ecosystem.

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