Telemetry Is Transforming Pumping Operations

Remote monitoring and instant alerts save time, money and manpower. 

Pumps are like toddlers: You have to watch them constantly. If a pump breaks down, it’s bad news because it likely means water is rising somewhere it shouldn’t. Yet paying someone to monitor your pumps gets expensive and drains precious labor resources. That’s where telemetry comes in. 

Telemetry systems, which collect and transmit information about remote equipment, are transforming the way many industries oversee their pumping operations, according to Tripp Brown, region product development manager for United Rentals’ Fluid Solutions.  

“They don’t have to hire someone to continually monitor the pumping system at its location or to physically inspect it throughout the day. Instead, they can simply pull up a dashboard on a computer or cellphone to check on performance indicators like engine speed, oil pressure, oil and coolant temperatures, suction and discharge pressures and flow,” Brown said. The pump owner/operator no longer has to hire people to monitor the system’s activity or pull workers away from other tasks to go out to the pump to make daily or twice-daily checks. 

Through the use of pump telemetry: 

  • Mine operators and contractors can ensure their pumps are working properly and that the water level in sumps or excavations is safe for worker entry. 
  • Municipalities can avoid having to hire someone to sit at the site of water and sewer operations to monitor the equipment. 
  • Industrial customers and contractors can monitor water flow and pump speed from the control room. 
  • Oil and gas customers, especially water transfer companies, can monitor all pumps in series and ensure they are running properly from miles away. 
  • Farmers can monitor the air temperature near their crops. If it gets close to freezing, they can turn on their irrigation system to protect the plants. 

 “Telemetry is basically a watchdog when people aren’t there on site,” Brown explained.  

Reducing downtime and improving reporting  

When there’s a problem with the pump, like the fuel pressure suddenly decreases or the coolant temperature rises, the telemetry system sends out an alert to designated individuals via cell phone and/or email. “Clients as well as UR technicians can start taking action within moments rather than going out to the site and taking an hour or two to start working on the problem,” Brown said. 

Operators can monitor pumps’ fuel levels and/or set up alerts so they get notified when the pump is low on fuel. That means owners don’t pay for unnecessary trips by a fuel delivery service, and they don’t risk downtime because they didn’t refuel quickly enough. Owners can also be notified via telemetry once the tank is full, which is invaluable when customers rely on third-party refueling services to fill their rental units. 

Efficient maintenance is also easier with telemetry. With United Rentals’ telemetry systems, the local office gets notified when a pump hits 250 hours of run time. “This eliminates wasted trips to visually look at hour meters only to find out that there is still oil left and ensures that our equipment is serviced on time every time. We don’t have to call the customer or try to guess when the unit is ready for service,” said Brown. “That extends the life of our fleet.“ 

“The most important advantage to pump telemetry is the increased efficiency and the increased uptime that our customers get."

Tripp Brown, Region Product Development Manager for Fluid Solutions at United Rentals

The United Rentals’ telemetry system is designed to be used on both United Rentals’ pumps and customer-owned pumps and is managed through the company’s Total Control and UR Control web platforms. 

It’s not only pumps that can be monitored. “We can remotely monitor a tank that’s 5 miles from the pump and let the customer know how much water is in that tank, how fast it’s filling or draining. We don’t have to have a pump married to the telemetry system in order for it to feed the data that the customer wants,” Brown added. 

Another advantage of telemetry is the historical reporting it provides. That’s especially useful to owners working under permit who have to document how many gallons of fluid they have discharged in a day, week or month.  

Increased efficiency 

United Rentals is continuing to add new capabilities to its pump telemetry system. Currently the system can allow pumps to adjust themselves as the flow rates and liquid levels vary. In early 2019, operators will be able to remotely adjust water level and other parameters as well without physically being at the pump.  

“The most important advantage to pump telemetry is the increased efficiency and the increased uptime that our customers get,” said Brown. “It’s not just about the customer calling in and renting a piece of equipment; it’s about the total cost of ownership during the rental. When we add a telemetry system, we can tweak the system for optimum performance. That in return cuts down on the cost of ownership of rental by saving fuel and man hours.” 

To learn more about United Rentals’ pump solutions, visit the pump solutions page

Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.

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