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With 2020– thankfully –In the rearview mirror, what will 2021 bring us? Hopefully, continued improvements in machine reliability! Throughout my career, I have kept an eye out for publications and technical articles related to asset reliability, specifically with respect to rotating machinery such as motors, pumps, fans, compressors, and gearboxes. Over the past 30-plus years, I have been involved with vibration systems, both portable handheld systems as well as permanently installed systems –including API 670 shutdown systems for the über-critical machines.
Having spent 23 years of my career in Houston, Texas – an area that is No. 1 in the world for installed rotating machinery – I have learned about and experienced firsthand the full spectrum of the asset reliability continuum. There are many facets to “reliability,” whereby vibration technology plays a key role in helping manufacturers achieve first-quartile reliability rankings.
Consider a manufacturing facility with 10,000 assets, for example. Assuming your job is to maintain those assets reliably and safely with minimal unplanned outages, how do you accomplish this?
Based on seminal studies performed in the 1970s (e.g., Nowlan & Heap’s “Reliability-centered Maintenance, "research by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and others) it has been conclusively established that the majority of machinery failures are roughly 80% random in nature. When assets fail randomly, the only way to manage them reliably is to implement one or more of the “big 5” condition monitoring techniques (e.g., vibration, oil analysis, thermography, ultrasound, and motor testing) and monitor the asset’s health on a regular basis. Condition monitoring is the only way to cost-effectively maintain assets that are widely known to fail randomly.
Reliability starts with a well-defined strategy-based on your business goals: Let’s say, your objective is to produce one billion widgets per year, and you have a defined set of assets as well as maintenance and operations dollars to hit that goal. The next step would be to review your plant assets, define the criticality of each asset (including rotating, fixed, and instrumentation), and identify the type of work that will be performed on each asset (by whom, at which interval, etc.).Maintenance work is managed through planning and scheduling activities that include having the right parts, people, and time to perform the work during a planned outage. With all the preparatory work completed, you execute the work defined in your strategy, using your previously identified human and technological resources, in a manner that is designed to minimize downtime.
Of course, having all these components in place and functioning effectively is not an easy task. For the best-run companies, this is part of their DNA with respect to a defined commitment from the highest levels of leadership as well as active participation throughout the organization and ample funding for technology, people, and training. Many facets need to come together for a manufacturing facility to achieve a reliability ranking within the top quartile. If one or more of these elements come up short, it influences all the other aspects of your reliability program.
Of the five key Predictive Maintenance (PdM) activities – vibration, oil analysis, thermography, ultrasound, and motor testing –an effective vibration program is the cornerstone of a good reliability strategy. When a criticality study is completed, the best-in-class practice is to collect a set of vibration readings monthly on Balance of Plant (BoP) assets (i.e., a manufacturing operation’s pumps, fans, motors, gearboxes, and compressors). In addition to BoP assets, a manufacturing facility typically houses more critical assets – such as a bottle filling machine, extruder gearbox, or high-pressure grinding roll – that, due to their cost structure (e.g., cost of production, cost to repair, time to repair), require an online, permanently installed system. In the paper industry, for example, the critical asset is the paper machine. In this scenario, any one of as many as 500 bearings can easily shut down production for 12-18 hours. Such unplanned downtime can cost a company $5,000-$10,000 per hour in lost production time.
For the past 40-plus years, portable walk-around vibration monitoring systems have provided excellent results on BoP assets. Until now, that is. The increasing availability of Industry 4.0/IIoT systems, such as OPTIME from Schaeffler, have finally brought technology and packaging together in a cost-effective platform to provide the end-user with easy-to-use, automated diagnostics capabilities. So, instead of supplying a single set of vibration readings per month, today’s battery-powered vibration monitoring systems can produce 180 or more sets of data per month that have the ability to provide an early indication of changing conditions in the asset’s health. Moreover, the safety aspect of being able to keep personnel away from rotating equipment cannot be overstated.
Thanks to next-generation condition monitoring solutions such as OPTIME, vibration and temperature data now collects and analyzes itself in a cost-effective manner, freeing up manpower for critical tasks such as resolving repeat reliability issues. Leading companies in the rotating equipment field, such as Schaeffler, are well-positioned to help end-users achieve improved reliability while minimizing downtime and costs. In addition to providing actionable information on the machinery being monitored while also improving operational safety, implementing this advanced yet easy-to-deploy condition monitoring technology can enable your reliability team to execute more valuable tasks. So, as you look to maximize asset reliability in 2021 and beyond, keep an open mind when considering Industry 4.0-designed solutions– and choose a trusted partner.