What is Condition Monitoring for Machinery Health

Condition Monitoring Definition

Condition Monitoring for machinery health has become a bit of a buzzword within the Industry 4.0 revolution. At its core, the term describes a series of activities that allow maintenance, reliability, and production engineers to know, at any point time, the condition of a:

  • Single, specific machine;
  • Series of machines; or
  • Complete process

Condition Monitoring is Similar in Concept to the Way We Monitor Human Health

Some people equate Condition Monitoring to the way we monitor the condition of the human body. We use blood tests, blood pressure, body temperature and other measures to know our condition from a health perspective and we do the same with industrial machinery and equipment.

It is the measurement of certain parameters on equipment to note changes or warnings that may indicate impending failure. These checks include machine vibrations, oil condition and bearing temperature. Many consider it to be critical to optimizing the lifespan of specific equipment, as it helps to detect defects before they result in devastating failures.

These checks are also essential to business continuity. Condition monitoring ensures that your machines remain functional, so that production doesn’t break down and impede operations. According to a 2017 survey, up to 70% of companies are completely unaware of the appropriate time to maintain or replace equipment.

Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance

Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance are alike and can be used interchangeably. However, monitoring must come first. You need the monitoring data first before you can begin predicting machine failures.

The four types of generally accepted maintenance philosophies are as follows:

  • Reactive Maintenance – Fix it when it breaks
  • Preventive Maintenance – Perform maintenance on a time schedule
  • Predictive Maintenance – Fix it before it breaks
  • Proactive Maintenance – Engineer out the failure modes

Maintenance Philosophies and Actionable Intelligence

Condition Monitoring gives the user data that can be turned into Actionable Information that can positively affect each of these maintenance philosophies:

  • Reactive Maintenance – This refers to a strategy where maintenance activities are performed in response to equipment failures or breakdowns. This is the most costly type of maintenance.
  • Preventive Maintenance – This is a proactive approach to maintenance where regular and planned activities are performed on equipment and machinery to prevent potential issues and avoid unexpected breakdowns.  Monitoring machine conditions can provide information so these time-based activities can be optimized. It promotes more of the, “If it isn’t broken, don’t mess with it” mindset.
  • Predictive Maintenance – The only way to understand what the failure modes are and how fast they are progressing is to monitor various parameters on the machine.
  • Proactive Maintenance – To engineer out the failure modes. Knowing which ones exist on the machine and how fast they can progress is a key portion of this activity.

What role does condition monitoring play within predictive maintenance?

In order to optimize the maintenance activity, you have to capture big data from plant equipment and machinery. True predictive maintenance happens when intelligence is captured for long periods of time from your machinery. Data is collected, intelligence is captured, and over time, AI (Artificial Intelligence) steps into the predictive maintenance process to begin providing alerts and notification on predicting when maintenance should occur to eliminate failure and downtime.

How is Condition Monitoring Utilized in Business?

Condition monitoring’s impact on the maintenance practices at the plant can cause the following:
  • Increase in machine uptime. Machine uptime refers to when a machine or system is performing its expected functions without any hitches. Businesses that use the appropriate monitoring solution will keep their machines in top form, thereby ensuring that production doesn’t stop due to unforeseen machinery breakdowns and that the company doesn’t record losses.
  • Make Preventive Maintenance more efficient. As we’ve mentioned, monitoring the condition of machinery helps identify  the failure modes of a machine and address  them before they happen. This makes the company’s effort towards machine maintenance more efficient since engineers know the precise spots to review and repair.
  • Improve maintenance planning. Maintenance planning refers to the schedule you keep for maintaining your equipment. A well-functioning monitoring system helps to draw up a better roster for this exercise. The business knows the right engineers and technicians to call for a specific repair and if special expertise is needed.
  • Reduce unscheduled maintenance. Unscheduled maintenance is synonymous with unplanned expenses. Certain equipment costs hundreds of thousands to repair, and when they break down unexpectedly, they negatively affect a company’s finances. However, thanks to the proactive approach offered by a robust monitoring solution, plant maintenance staff experience fewer unplanned and unscheduled machine downtime from impromptu repairs.
  • Less waste. Some companies use perishable raw materials for their productions, such that a breakdown in production for a day or two leads to spoilage of these materials. These include, but are not limited to, food and beverage manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. Verified research suggests that in food manufacturing, unplanned downtime can cost up to $30,000 per hour, and the figure may be higher even. However, thanks to effective monitoring solutions, such companies can ensure continuous production, thereby avoiding waste.
  • Increased production. Often, production levels in a plant are not optimized due to the amount of machine failures and the corresponding reactive maintenance that is performed. Fortunately, with monitoring systems in place, companies can avoid these breakdowns and, by doing so, increase production. For instance, if a company manufactures 20,000 units of a product weekly despite unplanned downtimes, that company may produce up to 30,000 units if the machines don’t break down throughout the week. Maintenance can be performed on weekends or other non-production times, in a more orderly and planned fashion.
  • Longer machinery life. Maintenance is essential to machine longevity. A piece of equipment that is not maintained will reach its end of life faster than one that is regularly maintained. These maintenance activities are not random. They are carried out according to the condition monitoring analysis, when performed effectively, will address the most worn out and damaged components.
  • Increase in Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Overall equipment effectiveness refers to the measure of the effectiveness of a manufacturing process relative to its maximum potential during the actual schedule. In other words, are you getting the best out of a specific manufacturing process? Thanks to less waste and increased production, businesses can enjoy better OEE. You may calculate the overall equipment effectiveness by multiplying availability, quality, and performance.
  • Increase in ROI. The ROI of the production department depends on the availability, quality, and performance of man and machine. And while the first factor (employees) is also within the scope of condition monitoring from the analysis perspective, the second is greatly improved by the system. A functioning condition monitoring solution helps increase machine uptime, improve maintenance rounds, avoid waste, increase production, and reduce how often you buy new equipment. Therefore, it’s natural that it leads to a significant increase in the production ROI.

On average, downtime cost $260,000 per hour!

A 2016 research study found that downtime cost an average of $260,000 per hour — a 60% increase from 2014. However, specific industries can experience extremely high unplanned downtime costs. For instance, in the auto industry, unplanned downtime may cost about $50,000 per minute, or $3 million per hour. In essence, condition monitoring has numerous positive benefits when correctly implemented. Without this solution, manufacturers will have a much harder time with production.
— The Aberdeen Report

What Industries Utilize Condition Monitoring Solutions?

All types of industries use Condition Monitoring because almost all machines rotate, have lubrication and use electricity. Thus, we have condition indicators that can be monitored in every plant and every process.

The following industries are driving the growth of these monitoring solutions:

  • Oil and gas
  • Energy and power
  • Metals and mining
  • Automotive
  • Chemicals
  • Aerospace

Biggest Industry Impact

However, some of the biggest impacts happen in industries that have constrained capacity. This means they can sell all the products they can make. Current examples include:

  • Vaccine manufacture
  • Certain medical equipment
  • Wood products for construction
  • Certain semi-finished and finished steel products
  • Semiconductors

These industries may not always have constrained capacity. As market conditions ebb and flow, companies need to be able to maximize their return on the opportunities, as they arise. Some industries, even when not experiencing constrained capacity, use some form of condition monitoring regularly. Typically this is because of the nature of the process used to make their products.

Some processes experience high costs if there is any upset to it, or unplanned downtime. In other words, these processes are  expensive to start and stop. Their machines need to run reliably for a fixed and planned period of time.

Some of these industries include:

  • Pulp and paper
  • Power Generation (especially Nuclear)
  • Steel
  • Oil and Gas

And, finally, you see machinery health monitoring used in industries where timeliness of delivery is crucial. Industries where the process has to operate flawlessly for a few hours each day to meet some time constraint can benefit from condition monitoring

Such industries include:

  • Food and Beverage manufacturers
  • Food and Beverage storage and distribution
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Material Handling and Parcel Delivery (package shipments for example)

Key Components of a Successful Condition Monitoring Solution

This is vital to every machine, but do you know what’s more essential? Teaming up with a capable solution partner.

Often, companies make the mistake of jumping at any technology solution that others may be utilizing or they have heard of, without performing proper due diligence. Impromptu decision-making can be disastrous in the long run. Why? The solution of choice must provide results that align with the overall strategy of the plant. For example, if a customer doesn’t have the expertise needed to analyze vibration data, the wrong  solution could be a waste of money. Finding a supplier who can do all the analysis and provide actionable information in a timely manner would be a solid choice. Partnering with a supplier who can provide all the analysis up- front and a comprehensive training plan to build the proper in-house skills for plant personnel in the long run would be an effective choice.

Proven, Innovative Solution with Knowledge and Expertise

As such, it’s highly advisable to work with a proven solutions partner in the industry. Rely upon a provider with inventive solutions to the challenges facing industry-specific machinery and the overall environment. To help you select a capable solution, you may consider the following components when searching for a successful turnkey solution:

  • Knowledge and expertise
    • Inclusive of  architectural design
  • A solid plan and process
  • Hardware for all types of environments
  • Multi-monitoring techniques
  • Powerful sensor technology
  • Powerful Condition Monitoring Software
  • KPIs for success tracking and reporting
  • A deep and experienced analysis team
“It is now estimated that the total cost of unplanned downtime for all the process industries worldwide is easily in the range of $1 trillion.”
— ARC Key Performance Metrics and Indicators Survey

Critical to Uptime Success

A seamless production flow is critical to the success of every plant, and companies can only achieve such with a well-functioning condition monitoring program that enables them to proactively tackle challenges. Plants without an advanced condition monitoring solution and process in place to detect machine problems are more likely to cause production downtime, and when they do, the consequences can be disastrous. ARC Advisory Group commissioned research in key performance metrics and indicators industry by focusing on end users, system integrators, consultants, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and others. They all agreed that downtime costs, on average, have been immensely underestimated. Figures recognized can be much higher in some instances. For example in the petrochemical industry it is estimated that unplanned downtime costs $10-$20 billion per year alone. In essence, production breakdown can be damaging to a company. A company may lose 5 to 20% of its productivity during its downtime. Therefore, companies must pay intense attention to condition monitoring to prevent the phenomenon. What else? Companies must partner with capable solutions providers in the industry. Doing so will save them the shock of unexpected downtimes and assure them of hitch-free production flows. In the end, the company reaps the rewards of selecting the right condition monitoring solutions partner. Prices may differ according to the quality of these systems, but better secure a capable solution at a high price now than settle for less with costlier consequences over the years.

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