condition monitoring guideCondition monitoring is the process of monitoring conditions in machinery such as vibration and temperature to look for signs that a fault may be developing. Condition monitoring is more efficient than reactive maintenance since faults can generally be avoided, thus reducing machine downtime, saving money and prolonging the life of the machine.

 

Condition Monitoring As An Advanced Maintenance Technique

Condition monitoring was carried out, at one time, by an experienced engineer holding a wooden stick against a piece of machinery and feeling the frequencies and harmonies of its vibrations. While this technique could reveal much about the condition of the machine, we are now lucky enough to live in the age of cyber technology and Advanced Maintenance Techniques (AMTs).

Use of the latest developments in computer analysis enables engineers to make better-informed judgements about the condition and future operation of machinery – either a stand-alone piece of equipment or as part of a multi-machine process. This allows engineers to better plan maintenance procedures, with only-when-necessary or just-in-time maintenance replacing old-style regular fixed-date monitoring. Condition monitoring engineers can now carry out assessment and maintenance at a more efficient time, leading to more efficient production and less down time.

Nowadays, machinery has less of a limited lifetime through inevitable breakdown of components, with condition monitoring providing the opportunity to prevent a knock-on effect through other parts of the machine. The greatest enemy of modern manufacture is built-in obsolescence, as manufacturing processes go through ever greater changes in techniques due to computer and other technology advancements.

Therefore, as technology advances, so do monitoring and maintenance move forward to keep pace. The world of maintenance has changed enormously since the days when all one could do was wait until a machine failed before repairing it. This was known as Reactive Maintenance, or the slogan: If It Ain’t broke, Don’t Fix It. The introduction of preventative maintenance led to what engineers have at their disposal today, with processes such as Reliability Centred Management, allowing machines to continue operating as normal while establishing a safe minimum of maintenance.

We are now in the era of Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance. Using these techniques allows engineers to keep efficiency at optimum levels by both detecting present or future faults and predicting possible failures. This enables maintenance to be scheduled to ensure as little down time as possible, and do away with unnecessary inspection procedures.

Condition monitoring and The Internet of Things

In the future, everything will be connected to everything else, as the kettle said to the fridge. But we are now living in the future, and almost everything is already connected to almost everything else. While newspapers gasp at hackers controlling our household items and try to frighten us with the words ‘Big’ and ‘Brother’, connectivity is overwhelmingly a good thing for all of us. Something that works for the good of everyone involved does not make people want to pick up a newspaper.

The Internet of Things is simply a grand name for devices being able to connect and communicate, independently of user interaction. This allows processes such as condition monitoring to run in the background while machines are operating, communicating between two or machines, even between machines in different locations, in different countries.

Any machine, large or small, that is now able to communicate with another is called a ‘connected’ or ’smart’ device. This could be your aforementioned kitchen equipment. driverless car or an army of car-manufacturing robots on three different continents.

The name we now use for this connectivity, the internet of things, was first used at a United States Commerce Department conference as long ago as 1985. It was only a couple of decades previously that the only communication between machines in a large manufacturing plant was two men shouting to each other over the noise.

The overwhelming benefit of this facility of communication is the ability for constant monitoring, with machines able to both provide and receive data, and running speeds, vibrations and temperatures to be constantly compared and evaluated. The more data that is available, the further into the future analysts and engineers are able to see. The future is looking very bright for condition monitoring.

With each new tool in the condition monitoring analyst or engineer’s toolbox, there is actually less investigative work to carry out, as more and more information is on hand to assist in detecting and correcting changes in the running of machines. Carrying out diagnostic and remedial procedures as and when is a vital aid to productivity.

Condition Monitoring While We Sleep

There is a story about Vidal Sassoon, who in the 1960s was known as the world’s most famous hairdresser. However, his earning ability was limited to how many hours he could work, physically cutting people’s hair. It was only when a friend advised him to produce a range of branded hair care products, that he realised that he could also earn money while he slept. Products were selling all across the world, all day every day, while he happily snipped away for only eight hours a day.

There are many methods available these days to make money or sustain levels of productivity while we are buy elsewhere, giving us more time to create, develop and plan for the future. The Internet of Things, often called IoT, is the term applied to any device that has the capacity to inter-connect with another. This can range from something as simple as a remote control to turn kitchen appliances on and off to a network of machines working together, but thousands of miles apart.

This ability for machines to both communicate with each other and measure and compare each other’s performance levels has been readily and quickly embraced in condition monitoring. The time taken to carry out thermographic and vibration monitoring on one machine can now be used to carry out those same diagnostic procedures on many simultaneously.

In a large, multi-site production process, each machine in the chain, which need not be carrying out identical procedures, delivers information about its running speed, temperatures, vibrations and alignments through a sensor, often to a field gateway for data analysis locally. From here, the information and analysis is sent to a cloud server and the company’s central database, where condition monitoring can take place, even while we sleep. Information such as detection and analysis of any anomalies, possible imminent faults and the remaining useful lifetime of the machine or device can be stored and acted upon.

The sooner any change in running levels is detected in one or more of the machines in the chain of production, the more time operators have to assess and rectify any problems.

The Key Aspects Of Condition Monitoring

There are two main ways to avoid machine down time in manufacturing. One is to use condition-based monitoring to make the most accurate possible prediction as to when a piece of equipment will begin to fail. The other is to have regular planned maintenance whether it is necessary or not, then to run the machine into the ground with everyone’s fingers crossed, before the moment when it dies spectacularly.

Let’s look at the only sensible option of the two, to keep machinery running at optimum levels by having the information to decide when parts will need replacing or adjusting. The key aspects of condition monitoring include:

  • Vibration analysis
  • Laser alignment
  • In-situ balancing and calibration
  • Thermography

While all of these aspects are vital to optimum operation of production machinery, the best results are achieved when they are used together in a holistic approach – different processes may indicate the same possible fault, but none on their own can give a total overview of the machine, or others in its operating chain.

Vibration analysis performs its own unique function. Machinery will naturally find its own vibrating frequency, just as a piano is tuned, and will operate at its optimal output when this frequency is maintained. When the machine’s running frequency changes, with no outside interference, this indicates a possible future fault. These faults are not always self-contained, and can often have a knock-on effect to other parts, so early detection can save operators a great deal of time, money and stress.

Laser alignment is another key part of the overall condition monitoring picture. As with vibration analysis, laser alignment detects the smallest deviations in shafts to give accurate warning of possible breakdowns.

Another related aspect is in-situ balance and calibration. Having the ability to inspect and repair or replace parts on-site greatly reduces both costs and down time.

Infra-red thermography has many uses in medicine, firefighting and natural sciences as well as in engineering, and by measuring slight changes in temperature can add to the overall picture of the health of a machine.

Only by combining these key aspects we can monitor machinery and sustain its good health.

There are two main areas of condition monitoring that ensure smooth running and optimum maintenance. Vibration analysis and Thermography.

Both of these procedures will investigate all parts of the machine, from small cable connectors and switches to motors, pumps and gearboxes.

Another procedure commonly used alongside vibration and thermographic analysis is the studying of oils used in the machine. Correct fill levels, oil degradation and contamination are all areas that can have a massive effect on the running of the machine.

We may neglect to have our cars serviced regularly, to our cost, but this cost is magnified to a huge degree when applied to manufacturing equipment costing many thousands of pounds. So remember that prevention is a lot, lot better than cure.

What Industries Use Condition Monitoring?

Any industry that uses heavy plant machinery can benefit from condition monitoring. At CLENG we work in the Automative industry, food etc.

How Can Condition Monitoring Save You Money?

A stitch in time, we were all told at our Mother’s knee, saves nine. While we all know that it is better to prevent faults from occurring or growing worse in machinery, sometimes other factors come into the equation to delay monitoring and lead to major breakdown. A workman’s tools are the most valuable items in his possession, and so it is with machinery. Without all machines on a site, or sites connected through the internet of things, working at optimum output, the whole operation is at risk,

Possible faults should be the first thing to be considered at the start of a day’s operation. An operator should be conversant with its characteristics, its own sounds and vibrations and may get a hunch that all is not right. Modern machines are fitted with gauges, of course, to measure speed and temperature, for instance, but more complex measurement and diagnosis is only possible with specialist maintenance and monitoring.

Planned maintenance is essential, but if it is only planned for a time when the manufacturer would rather have the machine producing, it can be costly, especially if it shows that all is not well.

Condition-based monitoring can detect possible faults well before they are likely to happen, so is the ideal method of keeping a machine in maximum condition. By using advanced tools such as thermography, laser alignment and vibration analysis, it is possible to see a picture of the machine’s performance (and that of all of its separate components) over time, from one monitoring process to the other. It is then simple to predict when a machine part may need re-calibrating, repairing or replacing.

Predictive maintenance is now regarded as the only way to ensure the smooth running of manufacturing machinery, keep output at optimum levels and prevent the possibility of machine breakdowns. Any unplanned stoppage of a machine will naturally cost money, but if parts are damaged due to poor maintenance or lack of pro-active monitoring, the costs can be enormous.

Condition Monitoring and Preventative Maintenance saves companies vast amounts of money on repair and replacement of parts as well as preventing loss of production through down time.

How Can Condition Monitoring Help You Plan Machine Maintenance?

We all use monitoring in our daily lives, often without realising – keeping an eye on the family car’s petrol gauge, for instance, noting how many tea bags are left or knowing when direct debits are due to go out.

Monitoring is the effective way of avoiding problems in the future. While it is no great hardship when we run out of tea bags, it is essential when running machinery to effectively monitor the condition of all machines, either running independently or as part of a chain.

Condition-based monitoring is used as part of an overall strategy to keep machines running smoothly at optimum output and efficiency levels. While a machine may be running correctly at any given time, it is essential to monitor its performance regularly to predict accurately what will happen to its operation.

Regular servicing is vital. Condition-based monitoring may show that the machine is the best ever built and should go on working forever. On the other hand, it may show that the equipment is due for a fatal breakdown in the next 24 hours While these are extreme examples, there is no knowing what state the machine is in without using the tools of condition-based monitoring – thermography, vibration analysis or laser alignment, for instance.

Where CLENG’s expertise really has the edge over planned scheduled maintenance is in the scheduling of monitoring procedures. Checks and data collection are carried out at the most convenient time in the running of the operation, thus avoiding costly down time or disruption to shift patterns.

Diagnosing when a part or parts need to be repaired or replaced, and more critically when this needs to happen, is essential for the optimum use of not just one machine but others that rely on it as part of an efficient overall operation.

Condition Monitoring Keeps Complex Systems Running Smoothly

People are often told to ‘Keep It Simple’, but the amount of simple devices and processes grows less every day. The more components involved in a process, the more that can potentially go wrong. But modern life, and manufacturing in particular, necessitates a vast number of complex procedures to facilitate the most simple actions.

However, once the procedures are implemented properly, although they may seem to be working efficiently, there is still the need for condition monitoring. This can be carried with analysis of vibrations, temperature fluctuations and laser alignment, either on a per machine basis or by monitoring more than one machine through the Internet of Things.

Modern procedures in monitoring and manufacturing efficiency are primarily concerned with the collection and analysis of ever more complex data. There is now greater opportunity to assess the possibility of a future breakdown, and more components that may possibly break down. But the more data that engineers have at their disposal, the less chance there is that anything will break down. So the world is becoming both more complex and simpler at the same time.

But everything has its price. The cost of greater efficiency through complex systems is time spent through research and development – for every successful idea there are many more that never leave the drawing board. However, the risks taken in implementing these designs can lead to massive success. As machines advance through technology, so condition monitoring advances alongside. Machines are now integrating condition monitoring from the outset. Although at first only individual parts of machines were being monitored, now it is essential for the whole of the machine, and others in its manufacturing chain, to be monitored as part of an integrate complex system.

The key consideration now, and as far as we can see into the future, is to take on board complex component parts of the manufacturing process and incorporate them into a system that has parts that may work independently, but are always an essential piece of an efficient, holistic manufacturing process, leading to greater efficiency and output.

How Can Condition Monitoring Make Your Machinery Run More Efficient?

Condition based monitoring can be used to decide what maintenance work needs to be done.
We all use monitoring in our daily lives, often without realising – keeping an eye on the family car’s petrol gauge, for instance, noting how many tea bags are left or knowing when direct debits are due to go out.

Monitoring is the effective way of avoiding problems in the future. While it is no great hardship when we run out of tea bags, it is essential when running machinery to effectively monitor the condition of all machines, either running independently or as part of a chain.

Condition-based monitoring is used as part of an overall strategy to keep machines running smoothly at optimum output and efficiency levels. While a machine may be running correctly at any given time, it is essential to monitor its performance regularly to predict accurately what will happen to its operation.

Regular servicing is vital. Condition-based monitoring may show that the machine is the best ever built and should go on working forever. On the other hand, it may show that the equipment is due for a fatal breakdown in the next 24 hours While these are extreme examples, there is no knowing what state the machine is in without using the tools of condition-based monitoring – thermography, vibration analysis or laser alignment, for instance.

Where CLENG’s expertise really has the edge over planned scheduled maintenance is in the scheduling of monitoring procedures. Checks and data collection are carried out at the most convenient time in the running of the operation, thus avoiding costly down time or disruption to shift patterns.

Diagnosing when a part or parts need to be repaired or replaced, and more critically when this needs to happen, is essential for the optimum use of not just one machine but others that rely on it as part of an efficient overall operation.

What Next For Condition Monitoring?

Technology changes all the time, so what does that mean for the future of Condition Monitoring? We thought this deserved a post all of its own. You can check it out here >> The Future Of Condition Monitoring

What Next For You?