Uptime: Turnkey Industrial Revolution


Howden designs, engineers and supplies air and gas handling equipment, including industrial fans, process gas compressors and rotary heat exchangers. Established over 160 years ago as an engineering firm, Howden has grown to become a worldwide organisation with its footprint covering 26 countries and a reputation for high performance, reliable and state-of-the-art rotating equipment. Our products may be found in virtually every industry from power generation, petrochemicals, mining, steelmaking to cement manufacture where the most arduous air and gas handling duties are encountered.

Over decades, Howden introduced many innovations to the world, from the forced draught system and the invention of the Diaphragm Compressor to the commercialisation of the Rotary Heat Exchanger and the Screw Compressor.

This is the Howden you know, but where do you think Howden sits today, on the verge of the fourth Industrial Revolution?

Our reality is a mix of difficult markets, complex customer needs and a global Internet of Things (IoT) uptake. In fact, according to a recent Gartner study, "two-thirds of all business leaders believe that their companies must pick up the pace of digitalization to remain competitive."

Uptime in pictures


In this context, the Howden you know from yesterday, today is laying the path of its digital transformation to further enhance our high performing, reliable products by leveraging world leading IoT technologies and our 160 years experience of designing rotating equipment to deliver Uptime - Smart connectivity for Performance Optimisation on Demand.


The need

Declining markets seeing decreasing OPEX investments, further pressurised by the global environmental targets for emissions reduction, create a complex scene with many end user customers choosing to invest less in new equipment and more in prolonging the life of existing plants. In many cases, the Howden rotating equipment operates as critical asset and its continuous operation is an essential KPI for the overall plant performance. The ability to plan maintenance around such critical assets in the least disruptive way, that is synchronised with the overall maintenance cycle of the plant is essential and any unplanned downtime typically results in costly shutdowns.

Having equipment operation strategies powered by the "clairvoyance" of predictive maintenance is the solution to such an intrinsic problem and more operators today are looking to turn their operations into data driven organisations. As a consequence, condition monitoring and Big Data are no longer sufficient and the concept of smart connected devices, where the focus is on the right data not all data, is increasingly becoming the new driver for technology investments. This is now even more relevant than a decade ago, because the mechanisms to collect and interpret data have become so sophisticated to the point where very little human interference is required and the costs and computational power of such technologies are no longer prohibitive.

To ensure we develop a solution aligned to the current business environment, we have combined the voice of our customers and the pulse of our markets into what we call the Complex Need, shown in Figure 1.


Figure1: The complex need

Figure 1: The complex need

The solution

Another recent study published looks at the 10 major technology trends in 2018 and the message of the right data is underlying every single one of them. In this context, Howden is proposing a solution that 1) addresses the complex need and 2) aligns to the intelligent and digital trends below.

Our solution is fuelled by our Data Driven Advantage (DDA) strategy, which is combining

  • simple inputs around the location of the equipment, status and health and any other type of ancillary information that references the condition of the asset
  • a wide range of enablers, from simple sensors to connectivity protocols and complex analytics, including Digital Twins

to deliver customer value through enhanced decision making support and equipment performance optimisation.


Location Information

Status/Condition Information

Ancillary Info






Storage/Real time analytics

Digital Twins



Decision support (predictive and prescriptive maintenance)

Process and resources optimisation



Various capabilities enabled by data collection, storage and processing technology



Our building block for an all encompassing IoT solution is the instrumental enabler for the DDA solution we are proposing with Uptime, because it is focused on the most important IT related innovation in recent years: the digital twin representation of our equipment, which enables stakeholders with the ability to monitor and make decisions about the actual asset, its context, and its current and future state.

The brain of the Uptime operation is built with a unique blend of Howden engineering expertise focused on the performance of the rotating equipment through the Digital Twin model and leverages world leading IoT solutions to deliver turnkey industrial innovation.

Figure 4 Uptime brain

Figure 4: Uptime brain

Figure 3 Uptime - IoT building block

Figure 3: Uptime - IoT building block


The system combines active inputs, such as temperature, pressure, vibration and any relevant telemetry with reference parameters from design manuals, specifications and maintenance reports.

This enables the accurate assessment of the condition of the rotating equipment and provides a detailed and reliable basis on which to make decisions about the timing and scope of inspections and maintenance.

Connecting the operating data of the real-time performance to the digital twin representation of the equipment enables the platform to predict the optimum moment for replacing parts, thus improving Uptime. Digital calculations also enable the performance mapping of the equipment and corrective actions to bring its operation around the best efficiency point.

When the data is analysed, Uptime delivers a unique foundation for:

  • Providing a unified view of the equipment health, anytime and anywhere
  • Implementing maintenance strategy tools to help our customers understand efficient and reliable equipment operation, while reducing operational costs and risks
  • Getting ahead of failure and unifying operations through data intelligence and visibility
  • Enabling equipment and plant performance optimisation

How does Uptime work?

Let's take one of Howden's early innovations, the screw compressor [did you know that in 1938 Howden was the world's first company to commercialise oil-free rotary screw compressors and in 1961 developed the world's first oil-injected screw compressor?].

These compressors are complex flow systems, but operate upon simple considerations: they are positive displacement machines consisting of two helical meshing rotors contained in a casing to form a working chamber, whose volume depends only on the angle of rotation.

Figure 5 shows a standard Howden oil-injected screw compressor, where the most critical sub-assemblies are on display: gas suction, screw rotors and discharge bearings assembly. These bearings must support rotor loads and help ensure accurate radial and axial rotor positioning. Also, to help improve energy efficiency, the bearing arrangement must optimize the clearance between the two meshing rotors. And they must do so reliably, often at high speed, above the recommended manufacturer limits.

Figure 5 Howden screw compressor

Figure 5: Howden screw compressor

The Uptime dashboards can be customised to suit existing sensor suites, specific applications, equipment, operating environment, etc to ensure that a contextualised solution is provided with every installation, based on capturing the right data for the customers' operations.

In our example, getting the right data meant the target screw compressor was fitted with a suite of sensors to capture suction and discharge temperatures and pressures, rotational speed, power and bearing loads and temperature. The Uptime solution for this compressor and its system at T0 is shown in Figure 6. We refer to T0 as an instant in the life of the rotating equipment where operating parameters are kept within the design specification and recommended duty point.

Figure6: Uptime Screenshot

Figure 6: Uptime solution deployed on a screw compressor at T0


In the Uptime environment, T0 is described by

  • a series operating parameters (the dials shown in the dashboard)
  • a historical averaged performance, captured in trends
  • relevant asset documentation and maintenance records
  • instantaneous performance evaluation based on live data streams, through the digital twin (DT) calculations. In this case, the dashboards display the following DT lines: mass flow, compressor efficiency and remaining bearing life.


At T0, the operation of the equipment is within recommended parameters and the compressor is running at the duty point, i.e. rotational speed of 2000 rpm and a pressure ratio (discharge to suction) of around 4. The DT model is displaying the compressor efficiency and bearings performance. Smart machine learning algorithms embedded in the platform are continuously assessing the current values against the system's learned normal behaviour and no anomalies are being detected.


Let's assume the operating conditions are changed due to a sudden increase in the demand of compressed gas, which is requesting more mass flow. The system operation is now being moved to T1, where the operator increases the rotational speed to 2500 rpm, as shown in Figure 7.

The DT model immediately records the change in inputs and readjusts to provide an updated compressor performance interpretation. In this case though, the Ai behind machine learning has recorded a deviation from the historical data, especially around the bearing life, which is a critical factor for the efficient operation of the compressor. From T0 to T1, the bearing life has dropped by nearly 50% and on the driving side, this is now highlighted as an anomaly that requires correction.

Figure7: Uptime Screenshot

Figure 7: Uptime solution deployed on a screw compressor at T1


This scenario is very illustrative of the advantages of Uptime, as it enables informed decision making in respect to the rotating equipment this system is installed on. The operator of this compressor now has the ability to make one of two choices:

  • return the compressor operation to its duty point or
  • accept the consequences of running this compressor away from its recommended design envelope because plant duties demand it and have the exact knowledge of what these consequences are going to be.

In this case, delivering early maintenance to the compressor in order to change the bearings ahead of approaching the end of their life can be scheduled in line with the overall plant maintenance, enabling the operator to keep downtime costs to a minimum. The same warning will be displayed on the Howden Service screens and new bearings will be on order well before the anomaly detected becomes critical, affecting the integrity of the compressor.


Augmented reality

The Uptime service is delivered with full Augmented Reality (AR) experience, a technology that superimposes the computer-generated 3D model of the Howden equipment on the user's view of the real world, providing a hybrid view. This experiences can be deployed on any type of mobile device and smart eyewear.

There are many advantages of using AR, but to list a few:

  • Allows a physical object that doesn't exist to be placed in the customer’s physical environment > helps make the product viewing experience memorable
  • Helps in three-dimensional thinking > visualize in 3D rather than 2D
  • Immense opportunity for training and product design troubleshooting
  • Increases engagement and interaction and provides a richer user experience
  • Helps with content personalisation

Why is Uptime different?

  • Deals with a complex need, recognised at all levels within our customer's operations
  • It proactively helps avoid unplanned downtime around critical plant and process assets
  • It prevents core equipment operating away from best efficiency point and prescribe the optimum operation of the rotating equipment based on the actual operating conditions with the customer's plant
  • Increases engagement and interaction and provides a richer user experience
  • It helps minimising the time lost accessing and mobilising the key technical experts to address problems when they happen