Hitting production goals are key to driving revenue and growth for any manufacturer. But there are many unknown factors in the road to production. Equipment failure and downtime have no place in plants with aggressive goals.

In this article, we will discuss how conditioning monitoring can help diagnose potential problems and prioritize addressing those issues by revealing the presence and development of defects. By taking advantage of remote condition monitoring, those same manufacturers can gather the insights necessary to safely maximize production while minimizing disruption.

Remote condition monitoring is a very effective technique for organizations wanting to move to predictive maintenance. Vibration data, for example, can be used on rotating assets to identify issues as general as lubrication breakdown or as specific as a cracked impeller blade on a pump.

By continuously analyzing the vibration data more combining it with other sensor outputs such as temperature, technicians can stage an asset as merely troubled or near failure. This gives the production and maintenance teams the information they need to decide whether to make a repair immediately or to continue running with continuous monitoring.

Remote condition monitoring makes it possible to:

  • Detect issues in advance of catastrophic failure
  • Safely continue operation of troubled assets
  • Monitor difficult-to-reach assets
  • Protect critical-path processes

Remote Condition Monitoring in Action Case Study

A food processor’s 100,000 square-foot production facility depended on a single rooftop blower. When the blower failed, as it routinely did, operations had to be halted at a cost of $10,000 per hour. Tight production schedules did not allow for downtime and the asset was overworked with no time for unscheduled maintenance.

The company used route-based monitoring to monitor all assets in their facility. One day, the readings revealed an issue with a bearing on the blower fan.

Operations wanted to repair the defect and avoid halting production unnecessarily. After consulting with their reliability technician, they decided to continue running the equipment while tracking its health 24/7 with remote condition monitoring.

A remote condition monitoring system was installed on Oct. 17. It was configured to capture data continuously and send out email alerts anytime conditions exceeded certain thresholds.

On Nov. 3, it sent out an email alert that the bearing defect was worsening. The reliability specialist and customer analyze the data and decided to continue operations while ordering the parts for the eventual repair.

On Nov. 28, the system sent another alert. This time, the magnitude of all three vibration modes had more than doubled. At the end of the shift, the blower was shut down and repaired overnight.

Adding remote condition monitoring enabled the food processor to get an additional 43 days of service life from the bearing and secure a replacement while continue production. They also did not have to pay excess charges for rapid delivery of parts, nor being of the excess cost of replacing a blower after catastrophic failure.

How to Get Started with Condition Monitoring

For the best results, remote condition monitoring needs to be deployed strategically, particularly at the beginning. Don’t aim to broadly deploy the technology in your plant overnight; instead, plan to start small and expand outward.

Rather than deploying remote condition monitoring across the plant, start with an audit designed to identify the assets most appropriate for remote monitoring. Look for:

  • Assets with a history of failure
  • Assets critical to operations
  • Troubled assets (bad actors)
  • Difficult-to-replace assets
  • Remote and hard-to-reach assets

Next, prioritize assets. The goal is to identify “low hanging fruit” that will lead to a successful pilot program that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology. Rank assets based on:

  • Risk of Failure: Consider environment, regularity of maintenance and frequency of failure
  • Impact of Failure: Consider how many cells/lines/facilities will be impacted and any further processes down the line
  • Duration of Downtime: Consider if a replacement is available on site, lead time of parts and equipment needed for repair

Table: Example of prioritizing assets for remote monitoring

Look for assets likely to develop defects in the short term. The monitors themselves should be networked and configurable for automatic data acquisition and remote access to results.

They should be efficient to deploy and quick to begin data acquisition. Set quantitative goals such as reducing downtime by 20%. It’s important to know what success looks like.