Case Study: The Hershey Company

Always-On, Batteryless Steam Trap Monitoring Helps Hershey’s Plant Achieve Sustainable Digital Transformation

“If the IoT system
required battery
replacement, it is
a failed system.”

Background

Steam traps are critical components in the vast steam systems that power manufacturing processes worldwide. A properly functioning steam trap releases built-up amounts of condensate and safely keeps steam inside the pipes. Steam traps that fail open (”blow through”) allow steam to blow out of the system, continuously wasting energy and increasing costs, while traps that are plugged expose a plant to costly downtime incidents and catastrophic safety issues.

Phil Reynolds  Maintenance Manager, Hershey’s
Phil Reynolds, Hershey’s Maintenance Manager

At one Hershey’s chocolate manufacturing plant, when Maintenance Manager Phil Reynolds suspected that the plant’s steam system was not operating as efficiently as it could be, he began to explore options to monitor the health of the plant’s steam traps. He soon discovered the limitations not only of manual audits, but also newer Internet of Things sensors that require wired power or batteries. Then, he discovered that Everactive’s batteryless sensors offer a better approach.

Manual Audits

In the past, Phil had hired an outside agency to do an audit of the plant’s steam system. This provided some information, but not a complete picture of the health of the entire steam system.

A group of 20 plant maintenance personnel at the Hershey’s plant also completed training in thermal imaging and ultrasonics in order to do their own manual audits or spot checks of the steam system. While the team could see potential benefits, very few practiced thermal imaging or ultrasonics as the manual approach and time-consuming nature was not sustainable over time. Additionally, sporadic, manual inspections still left the maintenance team with an incomplete picture of the status of the steam system.

In both cases, even if a steam trap was determined to be in working order during an audit, that could quickly change and go unseen until the next audit—or never at all.

“We did the spot checks, we did the thermal imaging, but that’s just not sustainable,” Phil observed. “It can also be difficult to know if there is a steam system issue, until you see steam blowing out on the roof and that’s how you know there is a failed trap. I’ve been doing this for 27 years and often you’ll find a problem from some other reason and then try many different solutions or changing parts unnecessarily, and that’s wasting money.”

With a maintenance team already stretched thinly, the Hershey’s team began researching other solutions. After attending a building operator certification (BOC) course, Phil began learning about the benefits of continuous monitoring. But one issue remained—monitoring technology solutions required power for the sensors, of which there could be hundreds in this plant. This can be difficult to provide in the steam system environments or locations and relying on battery-powered sensors was not an option.

“If the IoT system required battery replacement, it is a failed system,” declared Phil.

Everactive Steam Trap Monitoring

“As I started to hear about Everactive, two things really got my full attention. The ability to use gateways independent from our internal IT system, and the ability of the sensors to generate their own power to provide continuous monitoring—that really hooked me and that’s when I knew I had found something different.”

“When you implement a system, you want to ensure that it is sustainable over time. When the system starts to run itself, you know you’ve really got something.”

Everactive’s Steam Trap Monitoring (STM) solution is designed to continuously monitor and analyze steam traps to deliver visibility into the steam system for cost-effective steam trap maintenance. STM is always on, collecting, transmitting, and analyzing steam trap data to offer a holistic view of the performance of the entire steam system.

STM consists of wireless sensors that utilize the heat of a steam system itself for power, meaning no battery or ongoing maintenance is required. Since the batteryless sensors can last for decades, facility managers can deploy these sensors across the thousands of steam traps in a plant without worrying about supplying power or changing batteries.

“When you implement a system, you want to ensure that it is sustainable over time. When the system starts to run itself, you know you’ve really got something.”

The remote monitoring and real-time alerts provided by the STM empower facility managers to dispatch personnel when and where they are needed and never get caught off-guard by steam trap failure again. This allows facility managers to minimize costly energy waste and safety concerns.

Success

“STM is sustainable over time, gives us the best possible chance to catch failures and I’m excited about the long-term partnership.”

“The STM really works well and it’s that easy to use—that’s difficult to say about a lot of things anymore. When a system works as it is supposed to, I can get my entire 70-person maintenance team to buy in—and they trust the system. My team can walk into my office, ask me to look at a specific steam trap, and in less than a minute, I have it on my screen. We can look at data together and make a plan for what is going to happen and how they’ll go on about it—that’s exciting stuff.”

Since implementing the STM, Phil estimates the Hershey’s plant has already saved several thousand dollars in steam system savings. Phil and his maintenance team are now piloting Everactive’s new solution for Machine Health Monitoring (MHM).

“We’ve had other solutions that we didn’t quite trust, but the STM just checked all the boxes and that’s unusual. The STM is sustainable over time, gives us the best possible chance to catch failures and I’m excited about the long-term partnership.”