Breakdowns prevented by sensors in Bergene Holm production line

Just 3 days after El-Watch installed the first 5 wireless test sensors in the production line at the lumber producer Bergene Holm, a situation arose in which the sensors provided invaluable data to the company following a critical incident. The company immediately discovered the benefits of using the sensors, and they have since expanded their use with several hundreds of sensors up and running, monitoring production facilities at all 7 of their locations. 

The Wood Industry Company Bergene Holm first came into contact with El-Watch in February 2020, when they expressed an interest in gaining more knowledge about their production equipment. With smart IIoT sensors reporting the status of the equipment to which they are installed, the company can now operate in a smart, profitable manner with modern predictive maintenance. This way, they repair exactly what they need to, when they need it, based on knowledge and data instead of guesswork and good faith. This is far more cost-efficient than performing repairs at fixed intervals, or waiting until something breaks before carrying out repairs.

Focus on digitisation

Digitisation is high on the agenda at Bergene Holm, which has been aggressively adopting new technology and has established 4 new positions exclusively aimed at digitisation. They expect that this will yield benefits on multiple levels.

Technical Director Håvard Omholt at Bergene Holm states that the use of sensors naturally fits into the company’s general strategy.

‘The use of IoT, automation, and the improved utilisation of all data fits our strategy like a glove. We must manage our data and use it in a way that allows our end-users to reap the benefits at the final step.’

Technical Director Håvard Omholt at Bergene Holm aggressively invests in digitisation, and through the use of sensors has changed the entire company’s mindset around predictive maintenance. Photo: Bergene Holm.

With an annual revenue of approx. NOK 1.8 billion and 450 employees, over 1,100,000 cubic metres – or 250,000 lorry loads – of lumber are processed and refined in Bergene Holm’s production system. The head office and two production divisions are in Larvik Municipality, while operations in general are distributed across divisions in Åmli, Hof, Grue, Kongsvinger, and Sør-Odal.

Read more about Bergene Holm here

Sensors for success

The company emphasises quality and sustainability, and had been seeking and testing different types of sensors in their production environment for some time without hitting their mark. Before El-Watch entered the market with their wireless sensors, they had been unable to find any that were robust enough and that could withstand the rough industrial environment.

Sales Manager Hallvard Helgetun at El-Watch praises Bergene Holm for being at the forefront in their industry with regard to digitisation, and says that cooperation with the skilled people at the lumber processing company has also provided El-Watch with useful and important insights and knowledge, allowing them to take their products even further. 

‘Our cooperation with Bergene Holm has been exemplary. From our first meeting, I found them to be proactive and development-oriented, and they were quickly ready to install sensors without having to “sleep on it” for very long. For many companies, we see that their workday becomes their biggest enemy, and the process of making the decision and getting started with sensors is a drawn-out process. The ones that find success are the ones that face the challenge head-on, that have an IoT strategy and that develop a roll-out plan. A great many companies face the same exact challenges in their production: The desire to limit downtime, to get more out of the production equipment, to extend the lifespan of the machinery, and to improve the quality of their finished products. All this at a reasonable price, of course.’

Logs 24/7

From the early stages, Bergene Holm was clear that they wished to prioritise monitoring their most important equipment, and with expert guidance from El-Watch, the first large-scale test using sensors on 100 motors went into operation in April 2020. This was just 2 months after their first contact with El-Watch.

Automation engineer Vebjørn Rimstad Wille will soon have 1,000 sensors in operation to alarm whether the production equipment is working as it should. This helps optimizing operations at the wood industry company. Photo: Bergene Holm

‘In the early stages after installation, we had to learn to make use of the data from the sensors while the facility was in operation, which included setting our own alarm limits. We had regular meetings with El-Watch along the way, and have since prepared a roll-out plan through which all of our production units are now in operation. Today, we have about 600 sensors installed across 7 locations. We expect to pass 1000 sensors in our facilities over the course of the coming year’, says Vebjørn Rimstad Wille, automation technician at Bergene Holm

Håvard Omholt believes it is both important and right for them to take the next step and base predictive maintenance on sensor data.

‘With an immense number of rotating machines of varying ages, we have major maintenance needs. A lot of resources are consumed unnecessarily if we do this too soon or too late with regard to a breakdown. Different types of sensors that register logs 24/7 allow for direct alarm signals if a critical event occurs, but they also provide us with data for analysis that grants us a better foundation for maintenance and investment decisions. This ultimately provides us with improved HSE and improved machine availability.’

Low threshold

There is a low threshold for getting started with sensors in predictive maintenance. One may easily imagine the installation to be complicated and expensive, but Hallvard Helgetun from El-Watch says this is far from the case.

‘Installation is done by the company’s own maintenance staff. No cables are needed, and the equipment does not need to be opened, as the sensors are directly attached to the components using  embedded magnets. This way, they can easily also be moved as needed or to measure special conditions, such as uncovering suspected errors in specific places.’  

When Hallvard left his first meeting with Bergene Holm, the test sensors had been installed in production and every participant had received the system’s app on their phone, allowing them to read the data immediately.  Smart, easy, and clear.

‘Simplicity was also important for the company when selecting the sensor provider’, says Håvard Omholt.

‘There are many companies offering sensors for measuring vibrations. It was important to us that the user threshold was low, and that the system was easy to set up. We need a warning showing that something is up, not precisely what is wrong, e.g., a warehouse. Then we can go out to diagnose it instead. We found this in El-Watch’s sensors. The great variation in types of sensors was also a deciding factor. Our cooperation with El-Watch has worked well, and we feel that the requests we make are heard.’

Incidents avoided

Reports from the system are easy to read, and after having run it for a while with accurate and internally defined alarm limits, Bergene Holm can list a range of specific incidents in which the sensors provided key information to the production facility. 

‘This example comes from maintenance on one of our saws. We had planned to replace the machine, as we saw that both the vibration and temperature had started increasing and alarms were triggered by the system (red circles). Maintenance could therefore be done at the right time for the production equipment, and at a planned and suitable time for the crew. This let us minimise downtime, which of course was a financial benefit as well. After replacing the machine, we see that levels are back to normal with regular measurements.

Here is another example, in which an abnormally high temperature was measured on the motor of a sawdust blower in Larvik. When the mechanic and the electrician got up on the roof, they saw the entire motor was full of sawdust. It’s quite possible that this prevented a fire’, says Vebjørn Rimstad Wille

Håvard Omholt says that the installation of sensors has provided great value in general for the company.

‘The installation of sensors that continuously provide us with data on the state of a machine allow us to predict breakdowns in a completely different way than before, particularly in places that are difficult to access. This lets us work with predictive maintenance, and our entire mindset concerning maintenance can adjust to this goal.’

– From El-Watch’s side, Hallvard Helgetun notes that the customer is always the expert on their own production equipment, but that the sensors contribute key support for decisions made by maintenance staff. Bergene Holm has implemented a great number of vibration sensors, but with El-Watch’s wide range of sensors, the possibilities are many for what can be monitored and measured across different industries, and across both larger and smaller companies.

See our range of sensors here (link)

Also read about how the Wood Industry Company, Talgø MøreTre, saved millions by using sensors in their production line here.

Ready to try wireless sensors?

Please contact Sales Manager, Hallvard Helgetun, for some good advice and a nice sensor- chat.

Phone+47 90937847 /Mail: hallvard@el-watch.com