By Robert Profilet on Jun 10, 2018
There is no sector on Earth today that doesn’t have to simultaneously look towards the future as well as work on the challenges of the here and now. The pace of change is relentless. This is no exception for an organization like Shell, where a fast pace of change is also the norm.
Dr Robert Profilet is Shell’s Product Application Specialist for industrial products, such as hydraulics, gears and compressors. He’s been working in the industry for over 25 years. It’s his job to delve into data, test out technologies and keep track of industry developments to find out what the company can be doing to help its customers make the most of innovation.
Technological advances are great for industry but they’re not without their challenges – for customers or for Shell: “Equipment’s getting smaller so there’s less fluid, it gets hotter, oxidiesoxidizes faster and doesn’t last as long. Manufacturers realize that fluid is as much a component of the machines as a gearset or a seal. So it’s important it’s compatible with the rest of the system. However, it’s harder to develop products to meet some of these new specifications.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Dr Profilet and the developers at Shell aren’t prepared for what’s ahead…The company has come up with new gas to liquid base oils that help lubricants last longer and limit the number of potential issues. But this is only part of the job.
One of the threads that unite all Shell Lubricants experts is their desire to maximize the health of their clients’ operations. Above all that means spotting – and stopping - problems before they occur through predictive maintenance.
Importance of a data delve
For a specialist like Profilet, that means delving into data.
There’s a boom coming in the services area for lubricants suppliers. Being able to accurately predict failures using sensors and analytics is an exciting area and we’re only at the start of it.
More than having the analytics though, is knowing what to do with it: “Sensors will make customers more data-focused. Today, customers get information back from whatever rapid oil analysis lab they have and it’s got a red, yellow or green check mark. Honestly, they’re not always sure what to do with that.
“Going forward, sensors will allow customers to understand what their failure mode is – perhaps they’re getting water in the oil and it’s causing a bearing issue.”
Profilet adds that the data benefits just keep coming, particularly for large clients with multiple sites. He advises that combining data across operations gives a valuable heads-up to issues that may be just below the surface, allowing predictive maintenance to take place. The preventative action can save customers time, money and reduce TCO on a potentially huge scale.
Helping customers get on board with sensor technology doesn’t mean that Profilet is automating his way out of a job. Technology – both for customers and lubricants – is constantly evolving. He sees his role as supporting clients to meet these new challenges as well as troubleshooting issues.
“A lot of it comes down to education and understanding lubricants. It can help to have a dedicated lubrication expert internally but sometimes additional help is needed. There should be someone to go to, particularly if there’s a new hire at the plant who needs guidance. Maybe that person is a Shell technical advisor. All customers need someone who is a resource of information. It helps good practices get implemented.”