CAFC water company in Italy serves 122 country’s municipalities over a vast territory extending in a north-south direction from the mountains at the Austrian border down to the Adriatic Sea and east-west from Slovenia to the border with Veneto.
"To cover all our water plants distributed across this vast territory," Tomaso Larice, Maintenance Manager at CAFC, says, "we have about 150 technical employees who perform periodic checks and maintenance interventions when failures occur".
"To reduce the number of maintenance people needed, and to optimize their activities, we have aimed to standardize the equipment we use, and select the most reliable products that, above all, are digitized. Digitalization brings specific benefits, offering us the ability to visualize the process and equipment status remotely. This has helped us transition maintenance practices, meaning now we can perform maintenance based on the actual condition rather than on a set time schedule", Tomaso Larice points out.
Thanks to ABB Ability™ Condition Monitoring solution for powertrains, the CAFC has achieved positive results in its management of drinking water capture, potability, adduction and distribution, sewerage, and water treatment in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy. With the help of data insights, informed decision-making, and ABB’s expert support, CAFC was able to optimize maintenance planning and costs, leading to overall improvements in both management and maintenance of the plants.
3 clear objectives – high reliability, high availability, minimal maintenance
Tomaso Larice further explains that the decision to use condition monitoring is a part of his efforts that are “focused on three key objectives: maximizing reliability of the products and solutions we choose, maximizing plant availability, and minimizing the need for maintenance. To do this we aim to use technology and solutions that can deliver continuous improvement to reduce energy consumption, while optimizing the processes and maximizing maintenance effectiveness."
Condition-based maintenance, so only done when needed
To meet both time and cost restraints CAFC has a two-fold strategy: on the one hand, optimizing costs and maintenance downtime, and on the other, focusing on predictive or "condition-based" maintenance.
"Intervening only when necessary and having visibility about the system’s true condition offers us great advantages in both planning maintenance actions, as well as purchasing services and spare parts at optimal prices. It is both cost and labor efficient,” says Tomaso Larice.
Before widely adopting the ABB’s water and wastewater dedicated ACQ580 drives and the condition monitoring system, CAFC partnered with ABB on a pilot project for digitization of their powertrains. By introducing this solution in a centralized manner, the company's technicians can now make better decisions regarding their monitored assets with the help of data insights and service expertise. The user can go into all the details to easily see any anomalies which, in the case of motors, can be temperatures, vibrations, or too-frequent starts. For drives, all parameters are monitored and analyzed as well: voltages, currents, torques, overloads, overtemperatures, component wear, condenser, or fan degradation.
See what’s happening in the field, from the office
For the water utility, it is very useful to be able to monitor their powertrain assets automatically and centrally: from his desk in the city of Udine, Tomaso Larice can monitor equipment up at the Mount Lussari ski area, which at 2,000 meters above sea level is not accessible to transportation in the winter season. But the waterworks must serve the restaurants and other high-altitude businesses. "Being able to remotely see the condition of assets and schedule any interventions in the summer is an invaluable advantage," Tomaso Larice points out.
Another pilot project was done at the Rivignano sewage treatment plant to digitize the drives. Initially ABB’s advanced NETA-21 – a condition monitoring connectivity tool - was used through a dedicated internet connection. Eventually the team decided to use ABB Drive Connectivity Panel, which is easy to install and commission for an immediate access to cloud services.
The Connectivity Panel can be configured at the same time as the drive is commissioned, with minimal technician time required. An NB-IoT modem, SIM card, and high-performance antenna are already installed to automatically connect to the network that provides the best signal.
"We installed this solution in our largest waterworks in Artegna, where phone coverage is poor, nevertheless it works fine with data being sent regularly," Tomaso Larice says.
Objective, accurate and reliable measurements - remotely
The benefits promised by the pilot projects have been attained. Today, CAFC performs once-a-year maintenance on all the motors and pumps in the aqueducts, involving an electrician and a mechanic. In the future, Tomas Larice expects to perform maintenance on-site with even longer intervals.
"The mechanic will continue to physically intervene for tasks that need to be done on-site, such as lubrication, but the electrician's physical presence is potentially not necessary since ABB's new digital technologies allow us to monitor the parameters remotely," Tomaso Larice points out.
"With ABB's Condition Monitoring we always know the situation in real time, with a sampling rate we can set at 10 minutes or 1 hour, giving us objective, accurate and reliable measurements."
ABB drives play an important role in getting greater efficiency and productivity
To help achieve these goals, CAFC identified ABB’s drives as a key enabler in terms of standardization and optimization of their installed base, since CAFC technicians are very familiar with these products and its technical support.
"By choosing ABB, we adopted a high-end product, meaning a true international reference with solid guarantees for reliability and service," Tomaso Larice says. "ABB's drives are now used in all our plants for the three services of water supply, sewerage and water treatment, giving specific benefits in each area."
For sewage handling, the main benefit is reduced energy consumption because ABB's ACQ580 water and wastewater drive makes it possible to adjust the speed of the compressors and pumps according to real-time need. This optimizes the process itself to get the best wastewater treatment at the lowest energy use, perfectly in line with the company's "green" mission, before it is released into the environment.
Another important aspect is starting, comments Tomaso Larice, since the ABB drive allows startups to use a ramp-up function, reducing the power peaks as specified in the electrical supply contract and relieving the stress on the electrical system.
"Wastewater lifting is done by submersible pumps controlled by variable speed drives. ABB has developed the ACQ580 with specific pump functionality built-in the drive. Not all drives have this functionality," Tomaso Larice explains. In addition, he says that the programming interface and diagnostics management is decidedly more user-friendly than competitive products. "In the configuration phase, if I can simplify the activities and make them safer, I have advantages in terms of both time and final quality result.”