Spot the small signs that mean big trouble

The Butterfly Effect was first described in relation to weather modelling, suggesting that something as tiny as a butterfly flapping its wings could alter the path of a tornado a few weeks later. Most maintenance engineers don’t have to deal with butterflies or tornadoes, but they will certainly recognize the idea that an apparently trivial cause can often lead to a potentially catastrophic effect.

The most obvious example is a noisy bearing. It might initially be no more than an irritating rattle, or it could be overlooked entirely in a noisy factory setting. However, things can go downhill fast if engineers don’t take corrective action.

Greasing Bearing

Tackle the problem right away and the maintenance might simply involve greasing the offending bearing. This will often get it running normally again and prolong the bearing’s life indefinitely. Let the problem carry on and you could be looking instead at medium-level degradation, where more intensive maintenance will be needed – perhaps dismantling the bearing and reassembling it, for instance. What’s more, the remaining useful life of the damaged component may now have a cap on it. Things will only get worse the longer you ignore the problem, making a total bearing failure inevitable as the deterioration progresses.

The trouble doesn’t end with a seized bearing. Knock-on effects can ripple out around the associated plant machinery: A motor burns out, cog teeth shear and fly off to cause secondary damage, drive couplings are destroyed, fan blades and pump impellers are shattered…there’s no end to the list of potential problems!

Worse still, the impact of a breakdown can extend far beyond the factory floor. If the damage interrupts production or impacts on quality, what started out as a noisy bearing can ultimately pose an existential risk to the business.

A bearing is perhaps the most obvious example but there are many more niggles that maintenance teams ignore at their peril. Unexplained increases in current, voltage or torque on a motor, for example, faulty electrical connections or small changes in cycle times could all be early warning signs of future breakdowns.

Major industrial sites are typically populated by hundreds or even thousands of machines, any one of which includes multiple bearings and other possible ‘butterflies’. Until recently, this made it impractical for even the most hard-working maintenance teams to keep every component under close observation.

That’s where the latest predictive maintenance solutions come in. These systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques to analyze machine data automatically and raise the alarm if changes in machine behavior signal that a failure is on the way. 

The ultimate goal is to spot when machines are about to go wrong, enabling technicians to fix them before they can disrupt production. This was possible previously using a manual approach, but only in a very limited way. That’s because the cost and effort meant it could only be applied to the most critical assets, effectively ignoring the peripheral equipment that often makes up the bulk of on-site machinery.

As the leading cloud-based Predictive Maintenance solution, Senseye PdM Complete is designed to minimize upfront investment and is readily scalable, making it easy to seamlessly roll out across the entire factory floor so that no machine is overlooked.

With machine data arriving from so many assets it would be easy for engineers to be overwhelmed, so Senseye’s unique Attention Index® rapidly learns to direct them towards those issues that need immediate attention, enabling maintenance teams to focus their efforts where they are most effective.

Senseye PdM Complete is already used by a number of leading industrial companies and the results are impressive, with a typical 85% increase in maintenance accuracy accompanied by reductions of 50% in downtime and a boost of 55% in productivity.  

Benefits like these are guaranteed to deliver savings in almost any business, but how can you be sure that investing in predictive maintenance is the right decision for you? ROI Lock™ is now included as part of the standard offering, meaning Senseye now offers a guarantee to refund the subscription fee if Senseye PdM Complete does not achieve full Return on Investment within 12 months. 

And in the end it’s all about managing risk. Can you afford to take a chance when you consider what an unexpected breakdown could cost your business? If you’re interested in finding out more about how Senseye could help you take control of your maintenance risks, why not get in touch and arrange a demo?

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