Turbo Expo Report: MRO and digitization

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The annual Turbomachinery Expo often has a dominant theme. For 2018, the focus turned to digitization, additive manufacturing and analytics. each day’s keynotes and an entire track looked at every aspect of the digital revolution.

The overriding message: there is value in adopting digital technologies, insight to be gained by investing in analytics, and better performance to be found by adopting additive manufacturing (AM or 3D printing). However, attendees were cautioned to avoid over-generalized digitization efforts. They were advised to find high potential value targets to showcase the benefits.

Experts from companies such as Delta Airlines, Lufthansa, GE, Siemens, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, Bechtel, Strategic Power Systems, Ansaldo Energia, PSM, Equinor (formerly Statoil), Air France, MTU Aero Engines and Pratt & Whitney were front and center in the digital push.

Digital keynote

The opening day’s keynote set the tone for the week. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Gas Turbine Segment Leader Jaroslav Szwedowicz introduced the concept of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) in the Light of Digitalization. He noted trends impacting the gas turbine (GT) such as the fluctuating power output of renewable generation. As a result, GTs need to be more flexible, being able to operate in peaking and partial load modes as well as base load.

“IGTI is involving more stakeholders in MRO and digitalization,” said Szwedowicz. “We have also added an AM track for the first time.”

Before introducing the guest speakers, he offered a history lesson and part of the reason Lillestrom in Norway hosted this year’s show. 115 years ago, Inventor Jens Elling built the first ever GT in Lillestrom. This 1903 model could provide 8 kW of power operating at 12,000 rpm. It comprised a six-stage radial compressor, intercooling, variable diffuser vanes, steam injection, and a single stage centripetal turbine with a turbine inlet temperature of 400°C.

“All these years later, the GT industry continues to innovate,” said Szwedowicz. 


Dr. Zuozhi Zhao, CTO of Siemens Power and Gas, began with a more recent historical reference. He has observed a radical shift in the industry over the past five years. Renewables and the introduction of batteries are bringing about challenges and opportunities in MRO. Digitalization is being looked upon as an answer to changing industry dynamics. However, it is a broad term that encompasses big data, cloud computing, edge computing, analytics, automation and more. As such, there are many different interpretations of digitalization. Zhao said it is important to define clearly what you are talking about to know how to harness digitalization properly.

He was positive about the future. Yes, automation, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will take over many functions performed by people today. But world electricity demand is going to double by 2045. That will generate plenty of new work opportunities. 

“Digitalization is required to address the complexity of modern energy systems,” said Zhao.

Siemens has spent over 10 billion Euros over the past decade in acquiring and developing software for digitalization and automation. In the past year, the company has spent 1.2 billion in digital R&D. Siemens, a company known for its hardware prowess, now boasts 25,000 software engineers.

One result of increasing emphasis on software is Siemens MindSphere. It is a cloud operating system that connects plant systems with digital, Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics applications.

“High-quality sensors are so cheap that you can deploy as many as you want,” said Zhao. “When you combine them with modern compute power, a cloud infrastructure and digital twins, you can enable a lot of things.”

You can read the rest of this article in the July/August print edition of Turbomachinery International