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COMPREHENSIVE CONDITION MONITORING How can comprehensive condition monitoring optimise maintenance?

May 27, 2022

Despite the threat of high costs resulting from unplanned downtime, production facilities – especially balance of plant assets and supply systems – are not subjected to comprehensive and regular monitoring using modern condition monitoring tools. In most cases, comprehensive condition monitoring is not considered at all. Sometimes projects even fail during the proof-of-concept phase. This article discusses how comprehensive condition monitoring can work economically using new technologies.

In pulp and paper production hundreds or even thousands of electric motors, fans, pumps, and gearboxes play a key role in ensuring a smooth production process. 94% of all balance of plant assets in a typical paper production facility are either not monitored at all or only intermittently monitored. This is a classic example of how machines are monitored currently.

Only 6% of plant assets are monitored using online solutions. The advantages of using online monitoring solutions are it can help to ensure that specialised personnel spend the maximum-possible amount of time on key tasks, since good online solutions are largely automated and ideally require no expert knowledge. These solutions can be expensive.

The types of applications encountered by maintenance engineers

If you opt for comprehensive monitoring of your machinery, you will encounter machines that operate in a wide variety of applications. This means they are subject to varying requirements for a suitable monitoring system. Process relevance, operating conditions, and ambient conditions constitute the key distinguishing features between these applications.

Strategy: Application

  • Failure-based maintenance: Suitable for machines or components that are not critical to production, are easy to replace, and do not cause expensive damage.

  • Condition-based maintenance: Suitable for process-critical systems involving heavily interlinked processes.

  • Preventive maintenance: Usually prescribed by the warranty provisions, as defined in the maintenance schedule. When the warranty expires, a suitable monitoring strategy can be considered.

  • Predictive maintenance: Suitable for production-critical systems, which incorporate sensitive processes.

What are the expectations from comprehensive maintenance solutions?

The results of an authoritative survey conducted by Schaeffler are summarised here:

  • No additional qualifications: Using vibration-based diagnostics should not require additional qualifications

  • Easy installation: Monitoring technology should be easy and straightforward to commission.

  • Low costs: Acquisition costs should not exceed the maintenance budgets.

  • Increased safety: The solution should increase the safety of the maintenance team and reduce the risk of accidents.

What has prevented the implementation of comprehensive machine monitoring?

Even though the expectations of maintenance engineers have been clearly communicated, there are a number of reasons why many companies have never, or hardly ever, used vibration-based (let alone comprehensive online-based) condition monitoring.

The top three reasons cited as preventing the introduction of comprehensive machine monitoring are:

  • Requires additional knowledge: The use of vibration diagnosis usually requires specialist know-how.

  • High maintenance effort: Setup and commissioning of monitoring technology is a complex process. This prevents maintenance engineers from using vibration sensors to monitor machines on a large scale, as vibration analysis requires sophisticated planning.

  • Steep costs: Acquisition costs are another hurdle.

Can IIoT-based components and solutions help?

Current research studies confirm that the CM solutions that have been available up to now do not meet these requirements. There is indeed a willingness to adopt new types of solutions and approaches across all industry sectors, and money is also being invested in these options. But this only applies in the early stages, after which projects usually come to a standstill.

According to a study by Cisco, almost 70% of IoT – and implicitly IIoT – initiatives fail during the 'proof of concept' phase. The top five reasons cited by Cisco experts are:

  • Lack of clarity regarding business implications

  • No scaling roadmap submitted

  • Lack of know-how for implementation

  • Lack of cooperation between teams

  • Changing priorities and lack of management commitment

The breakthrough

New technologies and options – explained in brief

Notwithstanding the aforementioned obstacles, new technologies can be used to create IoT solutions for the various industries that enable cost-effective, wireless, and comprehensive vibration-based condition monitoring on an automated basis.

The key is to use a combination of the right technologies.

  • Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS): MEMS are tiny components that combine logic elements and micromechanical structures in a single chip. A typical application of MEMS is the measurement of acceleration.

  • Low-energy wireless networks: Just like MEMS technology, today’s low-energy wireless networks consume little power, which makes battery operation possible

  • Mesh technology: In contrast to conventional network topologies, which are based on the hierarchical connection between a small subset of nodes, mesh technology constitutes a network of nodes in which messages are sent via the network to the recipient

  • Cloud computing: Cloud computing refers to the provision of an infrastructure (eg, computing power and memory space), platforms, and software on the internet. This infrastructure can then be easily used there via defined technical interfaces.

There is no single technology for comprehensive condition monitoring. It often comes down to a healthy mix of several technologies and options.

In the right combination, new technologies and models such as mesh technology, NFC, cloud computing, machine-based learning and MEMS can make comprehensive and economical condition monitoring possible. Not only do these technologies help to significantly reduce the cost of the condition monitoring system, they also take on many conditions monitoring tasks themselves – which ultimately simplifies the use of the solutions considerably.

A modern condition monitoring solution should meet the following requirements

  • Easy: Comprehensive condition monitoring should include preset limit values and machine-based learning.

  • Automatic: When implementing a comprehensive condition monitoring solution, system maintenance and connection problems must be handled automatically by the network.

  • Scalable: Comprehensive condition monitoring solutions should be scalable and use a combination of different technologies. This ensures that the solution adapts to you and remains YOUR solution.

  • Self-explanatory: Comprehensive condition monitoring should not require expert know-how on the part of the customer. The analysis and recommendations for action should be intuitive.

  • Wireless: Wireless sensors are highly recommended to ensure a successful comprehensive condition monitoring solution. This provides greater security.

  • Cost-effective: A comprehensive condition monitoring solution should be cost-effective. After all, you will need hundreds of sensors for your network.

  • Versatile: Comprehensive condition monitoring systems using cutting-edge technologies are perfect for both new and existing (retrofit solutions) equipment.

Comprehensive – Yes or no?

When using comprehensive condition monitoring or other types of solutions, remember that it is not the machine’s value that requires the greatest consideration. Instead, consider its criticality and accessibility within the manufacturing operation.

Comprehensive condition monitoring has enormous potential to prevent downtime and transform maintenance activities across many industries.

Courtesy: Schaeffler Technologies AG

Image Gallery

  • Mesh technology constitutes a network of nodes in which messages are sent via the network to the recipient

  • New technologies and models such as mesh technology, NFC, cloud computing, machine-based learning and MEMS can make comprehensive and economical condition monitoring possible

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