Condition monitoring – vibration, thermographic, in-situ balancing, laser alignment and associated procedures – is an essential part of proactive maintenance, which is itself part of a chain of necessary maintenance. From the lower level of not carrying out any maintenance, through maintenance or repair only after failure or planned maintenance to repair before failure, to an upper level of pro-active and strategic maintenance, it is clear that the old adage of preventing disaster being more desirable than cleaning up afterwards is essential to remember.

Condition monitoring, like the machines that it helps to keep healthy, has progressed enormously in recent times, with the introduction of the Internet of Things, cloud computing and cyber manufacturing all contributing to advancement or calling for new techniques and procedures to keep machinery, plants and manufacturers all running smoothly, playing a part in the manufacturing whole.

This holistic view means that condition monitoring and manufacturing initiatives need to both keep pace with and work alongside each other.

As machinery becomes more complex, so condition monitoring has developed with the ongoing improvements to procedures. It is now the norm to utilise in-situ balancing of components, rather than have these parts taken off-site and repaired, inspected or re-calibrated. It is not difficult to imagine a near future when machines, having taken over all aspects of production, will carry out much of their own monitoring and maintenance. However, the machines are only as good as those who have programmed them, and there will always be vibration issues that the best algorithm will overlook.

Innovations in monitoring and maintenance procedures have also led to the ability for greater accuracy when it comes to predicting possible failure of parts. This is essential for smooth running, but at the same time it is also essential that machines are constructed to the highest standards. After all, the best condition monitoring and maintenance techniques will be able to keep a good piece of equipment running, but if the machine has in-built faults, no amount of monitoring will be able to replace any inherent faults. The future of condition monitoring is about harmony between machines.