Condition monitoring, is it a modern day Crystal ball?

Cartoon about a fortune teller contacting the ...

Do you see a failure in my future? Can I plan for it? When will the failure start to affect my manufacturing performance?

The short answer is : “No”.

We do not only have one “Crystal ball” when it comes to condition monitoring, we have many, for example :

  • Vibration Monitoring & Analysis
  • Motor Current Analysis & Monitoring
  • Acoustic Emission Monitoring & Analysis
  • Thermal Imaging Monitoring & Analysis
  • Oil Monitoring & Analysis

The list could go on but I will stop for now.

I have through the years gotten to know all these and more methods of condition monitoring, I would like to say that they are all great. Some people might disagree with me when I say this and want to express that the only great condition monitoring technique is this … or that … technique. Like with many “opposing” technologies, their representatives like to point out their superiority in some way over other existing techniques. However the fact is that all condition monitoring techniques have their weak and strong points.

When implementing a condition monitoring program it is smart to use the different techniques to confirm each other or go deeper into the analysis of the problem. For example if oil analysis reveals unusual fragments of metal you could use the vibration measurements to further analyse what it is that is wearing or breaking down.

The challenge is quantifying the problem. Production wants to know, understandably, how long they can run the equipment before the failure appears in less production. Maintenance planning also wants to know how long time they have to plan the repair. Just like the people who visit the lady with the Crystal ball we all want to know when things get better in any way people want it to be better. The problem is that this is knowledge the team will get with the years of running the Condition Monitoring Program. This knowledge is very much based on the experience of each plant in their operating context of their respected processes.

Another challenge is that there is always the possibility of unusual loads, unusual operation of equipment and other aspects that can not be foreseen, even with all the great condition monitoring techniques to our disposal.

In conclusion I can say that the investment in condition monitoring is well worth it for most manufacturing plants. However it takes resilience, patience and perseverance to get the condition monitoring program to a place everyone wants it to be right out of the gates.

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5 thoughts on “Condition monitoring, is it a modern day Crystal ball?

  1. I like your post and would like to share a few comments.
    The value in maintaining machines by condition is in the everyday maintenance of reliability. CM investment for finding failures only pays off when a known failure is found early and disaster averted. This was the way that CM was initially sold in the 1980’s. This is not an acceptable way of managing assets as it is effectively a gamble, as if you experience no major failures then the only difference is additional cost.
    My experience of the use CM as a primary tool in a risk based maintenance management approach is that CM for known failure signatures and performance variables linked to function, can be used to verify on a continuous basis ongoing reliability. Return on investment is received for each day of trouble free operation. Additional benefits arise in finding early failures that were not expected.
    That is not to say that by simply monitoring machines we get savings – as you outline above the knowledge CM brings to the maintainers and managers of machines allows them to focus attention only where it is needed and to continually learn and optimise their management systems behaviour.
    This is why I have adopted the maxim of “maintaining reliability not machines”.
    Thanks you for an interesting post.

  2. Pingback: How long do I have left? | Bjarni Ellert Ísleifsson, CMRP

  3. I agree with the ‘potential’ value of CM from robust application of appropriate technology based on historical failure modes of critical assets. I would also add that these technologies are only effective when deployed in the context of a comprehensive maintenance program including corrective or preventive maintenance. Keep in mind that CM only identifies impending failure earlier when the objective of maintenace should be to eliminate failure.

    • Thank you for your comment Bill, I do appreciate it and it generates great value to get insights from the comments made here.

      I can see that we are in agreement and of course the focus should always be on eliminating failures and one element in the toolbox for eliminating failures is CM. CM helps to better identify the root causes of failures (with the appropriate analysis) that occur and therefore assist in identification of actions, process changes, operational changes, etc. that can be developed and implemented to prevent that kind of failure mode in the future.

      Thank you again very much for your participation on this Blog, I do appreciate all feedback!

      All the best, Bjarni

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