The Value of Condition-Based Monitoring. Part II: Technology

Last time, we discussed how to prepare to implement an effective condition-based monitoring system for your operations.

In this month’s post, we’ll show you how to choose the right technology.

Choosing the Right Tool

With the operating parameters and failure modes defined, you can now add effective monitoring to your operations.. Many companies currently employ humans to monitor the conditions manually. Maintenance rounds are a common part of maintenance staff duties.. The employee will walk around with a clipboard, take measurements from the equipment, and then log the data into some log format. Ideally, they compare those data points to required operating conditions, and if they see some operating value out of bounds, identify impending issues.

Technology can help a lot here. A system such as an IoT software platform, can easily pull data from multiple pieces of equipment and automatically deliver warnings of potential issues.

There are two major components of success when implementing a technology-driven solution.

The Right Platform

The first key to success in a technology-driven monitoring solution is choosing an IoT software platform which is flexible enough to handle nearly any piece of equipment for configuring how the equipment operates, as well as the multiple ways the equipment could fail, and what automated notifications to send. Additionally, the software should be able to read the data from nearly any piece of equipment. Some software tools are proprietary to a specific hardware product and won’t work for all equipment, so you will want to avoid those.

A tool like ThingWorx from PTC has the flexibility to handle any piece of equipment and read data from nearly any data source. It can also be set up to provide warnings of any type, and it can integrate with a company’s CMMS. And it’s scalable. When installed, the reliability team can start small, tackling one component of a single piece of equipment for testing purposes. If that works, then they can easily add other components and equipment. The tools for setup and configuration allow for fast setup and long-term solutions.

Choosing the Right Factors to Monitor

The second key to a successful monitoring solution is understanding what the most impactful components, operating conditions, and failure modes of the component are. That information can be configured into your IoT software platform. Once an abnormal condition or failure mode is noticed by the automated system, it can throw an alarm, send a text message, or put in an automatic request for service from the maintenance team, etc.

Example

Let’s put all of this info into a short example. For a high-pressure air compressor, one of the components is a pump. The pump’s purpose is to pump oil to the compressor lubrication system at a target pressure of 25 psi. The machine can continue operating without affecting the larger equipment even if the pressure is maintained above 20 psi. So if the pressure drops below the optimal 25 psi but hasn’t gone lower than 20 psi ThingWorx could throw a “yellow flag”. Then, if a maintenance person has time they can look at it while it is still operating effectively. However, when the pressure drops below 20 psi, the system delivers a red flag which warrants immediate action.

Summary

Condition-based monitoring is important because 50% of manufacturers become aware of a problem only after a breakdown has occurred, which results in downtime, lost revenue, and high repair bills When an issue is caught and fixed before it breaks down, a company can expect a significant decrease in maintenance and repair costs as the equipment is protected from a more significant or catastrophic failure.

The Value of Condition-Based Monitoring. Part I: Preparation

Summary

Diligent monitoring of the condition of equipment at manufacturing plants (condition-based monitoring) can have a big impact on the company. This is an increasingly urgent issue  in a market where approximately $65 billion worth of automation systems are at or near the end of their useful life. The oldest equipment still in use dates back to 1938.

Condition-based monitoring can greatly reduce the cost of repairs and keep the company assets up and running for longer periods. At the same time, it allows the company to reduce costs and generate more revenue.

You’ll find below the way to begin condition-based monitoring in your operation. Keep in mind that the work outlined below should be performed within the context of a business case to ensure the work is has a good ROI, is based on an incremental process of Proof of Concept through Production, and that it is performed in a culture that drives and welcomes change for the betterment of the company and all who work there.

Solution

To monitor equipment, there are three prerequisites you need to ensure that you can prevent major issues and realize the resulting cost saving and additional revenue. They are:

  • Know the equipment
  • Know the Issues
  • Have a tool

Know the Equipment

Before you start hooking up sensors and software to equipment you need to know your equipment:  how it needs to operate for optimal  outcomes, its suggested limits, and how it can fail. The team working to set up condition-based monitoring must understand the technology and the operations of the equipment so they know what is normal and what is abnormal. They can then translate this information to the monitoring system.

You’ll want to record this information for both the primary function of the equipment (its main purpose) such as a high pressure air compressor that supplies compressed air) and also the functions of its components (e.g., electric motors, pumps, valves, etc.). If possible, this information should be organized into a hierarchical diagram, with primary functions at the top and lower level support functions further down the diagram.  It is important to document the individual component functions because those functions and breakdowns ( loss of function) can negatively impact the whole piece of equipment and ultimately, the performance of the plant.

Next, you must define and agree upon the operating context of the equipment. The operating context means the desired operating parameters of the equipment. For example, what are the capabilities of the equipment and its components, what are the optimal minimum and maximum operating parameters for the equipment (e.g., power, flow, pressure), andsuggested shutdowns and maintenance work. You can usually find all this  information in operating and maintenance manuals.

Know the Issues

Once you have defined normal operating conditions, you are ready to define the failures or potential failures What are the different ways that a component could fail? What is the potential impact on the equipment and other components if the component in question fails? How can that failure be identified in terms of operating parameters (e.g., pressure rises above 100 psi) or other data (e.g., temperature of the motor casing rises above 200 degrees). These definitions are referred to as failure modes. Along with defining the failure modes, the team should define proactive tasks that can be performed to mitigate or eliminate the issues.

Next time, we’ll discuss the keys to successfully implementing a condition-based monitoring system.