Curiosity and customer service help Penn Waste find success with the ABB Ability™ Smart Sensor

Curiosity and a QR code led the Penn Waste maintenance team to discover the ABB Ability Smart Sensor for mechanical products. Penn Waste, a recycling and waste management company in Pennsylvania, recently purchased 60 Dodge® mounted bearings for a new project. While installing the bearings, the team noticed a QR Code tag on the bearing. Scanning the code took the team to the ABB website for sensors for mechanical products. Interested in learning more, Joe Wojciechowski, Maintenance Manager for Penn Waste, called into Dodge customer service located in Greenville, SC.

Joe spoke with Toha Poveda-Zambrano, Sensor Customer Support Engineer, and was then asked if he would like to speak to the product manager. “Honestly,” adds Wojciechowski, “I was surprised that I had spoken with engineering, and now the product manager was calling me.” That afternoon he spent over an hour on the phone with Artur Rdzanek, Product Manager for Dodge Sensor products. “Joe and I saw the same needs that the sensor could meet,” recalls Rdzanek.  “In fact, I joked that he must have read the project proposal for launching the sensor.” After the call, Penn Waste was ready to install smart sensors on their equipment.

“The decision was easy.” explains Wojciechowski. “Based on the history of quality and innovation from ABB, we knew that the technology would work. If the sensors could prevent unplanned downtime, save us time, and make maintenance safer, why wouldn’t we give them a try?”

Sixty-two smart sensors were installed on mounted bearings located on the debris roll screen – a critical application that breaks up glass in the recycling process. The movement and material involved in this process make it a high-risk area for bearings. Installation of the sensors was easy because most of the Dodge bearings in place were already drilled and tapped for a sensor. A team of four people was able to commission and install 62 sensors, plus install and configure two gateways on-site to provide easy, on-line access to all of them, in less than three hours.

Immediately, the sensors picked up vibration issues on the bearings. Upon investigation the team discovered that locknuts weren’t used when the bearings were installed. Tyler Cassel, Maintenance Technician, explains. “The sensor indication allowed us to get the locknuts before they went missing and before the vibration caused application issues.” And that was just the beginning.

The most recent alert was on an impact zone – a vibration alert and alarm. In another situation, a sensor indicated a high temperature alert, allowing the Penn Waste maintenance team to get grease in the bearing, and the bearing back to normal parameters, prior to failure. In each case, the bearing may be compromised, but the sensor alert allowed the team to extend its life until it could be changed at a planned maintenance.

The ABB Ability Smart Sensor for mechanical products has exceeded the team’s expectations. In the year since the sensors were installed, the Penn Waste team estimates that the sensors have alerted them more than 40 times before a problem occurred.  Joe Wojciechowski shares, “Since we installed the sensors, we have not had one second of down time that we didn’t know about ahead of time and accounted for.”

The sensors have done more than prevent unplanned downtime. They have changed how Penn Waste looks at maintenance. According to Ryan Coutts, Third Shift Maintenance Lead at Penn Waste, “The sensors have given the equipment a voice. We now have a broader data set of bearing life in different operating conditions which has allowed us to create an equipment profile for better understanding of normal wear and tear over time.”

Adopting to the sensors – and new philosophy – simply meant being mindful of the sensor and portal as a tool. “With the sensors, we are no longer guessing,” explains Wojciechowski , “we now have actual data that lets us know trouble exists and what needs attention or is a priority.”

ABB Ability Smart Sensors for mechanical products save Penn Waste time and money in their maintenance practices. “Traditional” maintenance practices had six employees spend a Saturday each month cleaning bearings for over eight hours. With the sensors letting the maintenance team know where there is a problem, they no longer need to spend this time on bearings that are not in need of maintenance.

The sensors have also made the work of the Penn Waste maintenance team safer. Zariff Valle, Site Manager at Penn Waste, believes that the sensors allow the team to work more safely and be more relaxed about the task. “The sensor allowed the team to work on a problem like a sniper on a specific target.” He says. “With information from the sensor they know which bearing is exhibiting a problem that needs to be solved without the potential danger of generally checking lots of bearings and equipment to see what may be wrong.”

An unexpected benefit of the sensors was the attraction to younger workers to join the Penn Waste team. Ryan Coutts shares, “One of the reasons I wanted to work at Penn Waste was the technology and innovation that they were investing in. These solutions help us engineer out of a problem by giving us all the data needed to fix an issue.”

Collaboration between the ABB Sensor team and Penn Waste has been critical to both sides. The Penn Waste team shares their likes and dislikes about the sensor, gateway and portal so that ABB can continue to adapt and improve the sensor offering. “We have been very receptive to the direction and comments they have given us,” says Rdzanek. “We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we started with the sensor technology.”


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