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Condition monitoring techniques & how to apply them in your business

Published: 5 January 2021 - Rachael Morling

Ensuring that assets are working efficiently and effectively is vital for any business which relies on the use of machines for their day to day operations as well as driving sales and keeping profits healthy. Inevitably, machinery ages, needs repairs and requires ongoing supervision to make sure it is safe to use and in good condition. 

One way to help make sure machinery is fit for purpose and in good health is via condition monitoring. In simple terms, condition monitoring is the process of determining the condition of machinery while in operation through monitoring of key parameters.
 
Today’s focus is on condition monitoring techniques and how they can be applied to your business. 
 
The recipe for programme success
From health and safety compliance to mitigating the cost of unexpected downtime, there aremany reasons why businesses should consider adopting condition monitoring techniques. A successful condition monitoring programme comes down to three simple things: 
 
- Knowing what to look out for 
- How to interpret it
- And when to put the knowledge gained to use
 
Following these steps enables repairs to be made before machines fail and helps reduce the risk of catastrophic failures, instead allowing minor maintenance to be carried out and individual components to be replaced before the old ones stop working. You may be able to carry out all of these steps in-house, or you may need to consult with specialist engineers at some or all stages in the process. Condition monitoring can also help monitor machine performance to ensure energy efficiency – something which should be a priority for all businesses, both in terms of cost savings and reducing your carbon footprint. There are numerous reasons why the initial investment is likely to result in long term savings.
 
Electro mechanical condition monitoring
Electro mechanical condition monitoring helps identify problems with assets such as pumps, motors and generators before they become critical and potentially even more costly to a business. Using vibration, temperature and other key indicators, engineers can highlight issues and plan preventative maintenance – so they can carry out a simple overhaul before it escalates into a major failure requiring a full electric motor repair.
 
Condition monitoring technology and methods for rotating machinery range from the basic to the advanced, including:
 
- Vibration analysis – Monitoring vibration can help highlight trends or identify changes that may be a sign of underlying issues
 
- Shock Pulse Monitoring – A commonly used method to assess the condition of motor bearings by measure the amplitude of shock pulses at a specific frequency.
 
- Thermography – This is a thermal imaging survey that identifies poor connections, overloaded circuits, failing components or imbalanced loads. Readings can also provide a comprehensive report to allow corrective action to be taken. 
 
- Laser alignment – The use of lasers minimises any offset alignment problems. High-spec equipment can achieve 100 per cent alignment results, with detailed reporting showing results. 
 
- Oil and lubrication analysis – This technique is used to build a more comprehensive picture of the condition of a machine and predict its lifespan. Analysing the results will help pinpoint any required corrective action required and assist in planning ongoing maintenance.
 
- Electrical testing – Tests including Partial Discharge, HiPot, Surge, Polarisation Index and Phase Resistance and Inductance can be used stand alone to provide a snapshot of machine health. Alternatively, regularly testing can be used as a trending measure to identify changes that might indicate further issues.  
 
The productive benefits
Just two years ago, a study by Oneserve found that faulty machinery and broken components cost British manufacturing companies over £180 billion each year. It’s a staggering amount of money and lost productivity for something that can often be prevented, or at least where planned maintenance and downtime can mitigate the impact on your business.
 
It’s clear that the payoff of a well-planned and implemented condition monitoring and preventative maintenance programme could be significant. This shows just how important condition monitoring can be, with businesses across the UK able to benefit, both financially and operationally.
 
 
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