Condition monitoring pitfalls and potential for factory maintenance

In a competitive marketplace, enhancing machine reliability by implementing a condition monitoring (CM) program can make all the difference in helping to reduce operational costs. Promising to slash machine downtime, extend asset life and cut maintenance costs, CM has a lot to live up to. But realising your CM ambitions takes planning, commitment and continuous improvement. Here we look at some of the common pitfalls and give an insight into ways organisations can realise CM potential.

Poor equipment and failure mode selection

Installing a full-scale CM solution can be expensive and the volumes of data, analysis and resulting actions can be overwhelming. The best approach is to start with the critical and most problematic assets, with easily available data and scale up over time. Historical data and downtime records can show where the problematic machines are, which should be added to the critical list.

Once the equipment priority list has been created, the correct failure modes should be identified and suitable monitoring put in place. The aim should be to identify problems early to minimise asset damage and give time to plan any required maintenance.

Ineffective manpower planning

Effective CM is about culture, arguably more so than technology. Having the right people in place with the right skills at the right time is critical in creating and supporting a CM program. An experienced team is required to establish and manage the program effectively and full training should be given to enable intelligent, timely decision-making based on a thorough understanding of the data, analysis and resulting actions.

It is also important to ensure that there is sufficient manpower available for the inevitable bulge period when both CM and routine maintenance tasks have to be carried out.

Lack of support

Related again to culture, support for CM needs to be in place at every level in the business from the top down. From committing resources, training, investing in continuous improvement and effecting changes to maintenance across the whole production line, getting staff on board is critical to success.

Alongside training, communication is crucial to build and maintain support. This makes the measurement and documenting of program results an important task. Successes should be celebrated and communicated so everyone can see the benefit and appreciate the longer-term vision of CM, as opposed to the more familiar, short-term reactive maintenance approach. Read our blog: Preventative vs Predictive Maintenance and why you need to get on board for more information on CM benefits.

Areas where CM potential can be realised

Embrace opportunistic maintenance

Organisations should be ready to take advantage of stops in production to carry out maintenance. In many sectors, such as pulp & paper, there are unexpected stops in production e.g. for material supply delays. By putting in place a planned procedure for these unexpected stops, maintenance teams can take advantage of these periods to work on required tasks without affecting production, carving out an effective and precise opportunistic maintenance strategy.

Put CM at the centre of decision-making

By putting CM analysis at the centre of the discussion, production and maintenance teams can work together to assess the severity of issues arising and reduce the time taken to make decisions and resolve problems. Making decisions based on real-world data analysis results in more objective, productive and decisive action.

Avoid over-maintaining

A CM system can detect changes indicating a potential problem at a very early stage. Judgement and expertise are required to assess any advance notifications of failure so these can be actioned at an appropriate time. Rather than carrying out work immediately, it may be that no actions are needed for weeks or months, giving time for maintenance to be scheduled at a convenient time. Reacting too soon can result in chaotic scheduling and over-maintained equipment – negating any potential benefits.

Review calendar-based maintenance schedules

As predictive maintenance and CM systems mature, companies can revisit routine calendar-based tasks and extend the intervals. This gives organisations the opportunity to claw back some costs by reducing regular maintenance. Processes need to be in place where data can be regularly reviewed in order to have the confidence to extend routine maintenance intervals.

In conclusion: experience counts

Experience ties all the above together. The value of an experienced CM program lead who continuously listens, reviews and communicates cannot be underestimated. By approaching CM with extensive experience and a continuous improvement mindset, pitfalls can be overcome and opportunities for more effective working can be identified and acted upon.

Artificial-intelligence based CM analysis tools can help to augment and direct this experience, ensuring that valuable time and effort is directed to where it can make the best difference.

Download our free Condition Monitoring: Past, Present and Future white paper to learn more.