Technology in the maintenance of machinery and equipment in agriculture | Venturus

Technology in the maintenance of machinery and equipment in agriculture

In almost every agricultural property, there is no shortage of machinery and equipment in use. Despite having a high cost, these pieces of machinery do not always receive proper care — some equipment does not receive proper maintenance, generating unnecessary expenses. This contributes to a drop in operation productivity and higher spending on emergency repairs — which, in turn, raise operating costs. To reduce the effects of these occurrences, investing in good management and maintenance of agricultural machinery and its implements is an essential step.

Regardless of the activity involved, the use of equipment, machinery and implements needs to be monitored in an increasingly efficient way, because no matter how technological they are, these pieces of equipment will always need maintenance, updating. If equipment, machinery and implements are not available at the crucial moment of a task, they can bring serious problems to the operation.

For example, imagine that the time has come to start planting corn, and, after 15 minutes of work, there is a problem with one of the nozzles of the planter. Stopping the machine for repair would generate a great loss — especially considering that it is usually necessary to find a new part and, in extreme cases, a technician has to come to the farm property.

In addition, usually, farmers wait for good weather conditions to begin planting. Thus, such a problem, at an unexpected moment, can cause great harm to farmers, as it delays the whole process. It is not only the momentary problem of equipment breakdown, but also the possibility of losing an important window, weather-wise. What happens if, after this window, it rains for 5 days in a row? It is a great loss, damaging all the farming planning for that specific culture.

Types of maintenance of machinery and equipment 

Drawing an analogy with equipment maintenance techniques in manufacturing, extracted from an article by our colleague Rodrigo Feliciano (head of Manufacturing at Venturus), there are three types of equipment maintenance:

Corrective maintenance

Corrective maintenance, as the name implies, occurs after equipment failure, reacting to the occurrence. This type of maintenance covers repairs, changes of parts etc. In Agribusiness, corrective maintenance is the most common type of maintenance done.

However, corrective maintenance in agribusinesses brings higher costs than in manufacturing, since, in the field, depending on the when the corrective maintenance is required, the equipment may be far from headquarters. Therefore, it is necessary to move to the equipment or bring the machine to a suitable location for repair, which raises the costs of the entire operation.

Another problem is that, if the property does not have the parts required for the maintenance in stock, there is a need to purchase them in the nearest town, or in many cases, it needs to wait until the part is delivered from larger cities.

Even so, this delivery is not always possible, as it may be that the part is not immediately available. The process of locating parts and transporting them to the property increases both the cost of corrective maintenance and the time until the repair can be executed.

These sensors can be installed on machines used in the field. Thus, when there is a problem with the equipment, they can signal the need for maintenance more quickly, by sending their location directly to a central station.

This type of solution is quite simple — as the sensors do not have to be complex, just able to send the equipment’s location — but it can represent great time gains in finding the exact location of machinery that needs attention.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance is done at scheduled intervals, to reduce the likelihood of failures in equipment, machinery and implements. That is, in preventive maintenance, pauses are scheduled.

Thus, preventive maintenance is done in order to maintain routine maintenance of machinery and equipment, including procedures such as correct lubrication maintenance, verification of the expiration date of parts and periodic checking of the state of equipment.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance seeks to predict when corrective maintenance will be required on equipment, machinery and implements. For this purpose, data on the operation of the machines. From the analysis of the information collected, it is possible to identify indicators that signal problems in the equipment.

For example, it is possible to identify problems with a machine’s belt because they are associated with high engine or external area temperature and low oil levels. That is, the analysis of the different conditions can lead to indications that may have gone unnoticed without a thorough analysis and training of data analysis technologies.

Another example of predictive maintenance is central pivot control. Central Pivots are irrigation structures that encompass a circular area of agricultural property. The central pivots work, usually, all day and all night.

Thus, knowledge of operating data — such as water flow, wheel drive speed, running time and engine temperature — can be used to predict which parts should be monitored or even changed before they need repairs. Thus, it is possible to prevent these components from becoming a corrective maintenance problem.

Predictive maintenance has been used for some time as a way to anticipate maintenance servicing. The increasing importance of predictive maintenance is growing considerably, mainly due to the new techniques of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

Machines and equipment, from the most sophisticated to the simplest, are very important assets for agricultural activity. However, their maintenance does not always receive due attention and importance in the general calculation of agricultural production — especially when considering that any machine or equipment, at some point in the process, will need maintenance and/or repairs.

Being prepared for predictive maintenance of equipment, for example, allows maintenance costs to be lower, since it becomes possible to avoid the need for corrective maintenance (and, thus, machines/equipment downtime).

Thus, it is possible to learn from other sectors and create new maintenance strategies for each business.

Venturus has been working for a long time and has expertise with manufacturing companies and monitoring production conditions, with a large history of projects in the area. Agribusiness presents several situations in which equipment can receive more active monitoring in order to further improve its production process, with quality and cost reduction.

By leveraging our manufacturing knowledge and adapting it to the specific conditions of agribusinesses, we can greatly assist in the administration of farm activities. Agribusiness has a lot to gain from the synergy of knowledge of maintenance/data extraction and correct handling of manufacturing.

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