Vibration Monitoring Keeps Aviation Fuel Flowing
Gary Parr | June 30, 2016
Wireless solution increases reliability, safety, and efficiency within a critical transportation operation.
At busy airports around the world, the ability to provide a constant, reliable supply of aviation fuel is key. For one major international airport, this responsibility falls to a single fuel-services provider. It stores all aviation fuel transferred to the airport and is the facility’s only fuel-receiving terminal.
Because fuel services are so crucial, the organization’s primary goal is to ensure that the operation stays up and running 24/7/365. At the same time, the plant needs to operate as an efficient business, meaning it is essential to run with minimum manpower.
A case in point
In 2015, the fuel-services company decided to expand and improve its automation system. This move would increase safety, reduce downtime, and free-up time for operators and engineers to focus on other mission-critical tasks. The organization found a solution in Emerson’s AMS asset-management software, coupled with the manufacturer’s CSI 9420 wireless vibration transmitter, both produced by Emerson Process Management, Austin, TX (emersonprocess.com).
The facility manages four fuel-transfer pumps—two of which are running at any given time. Their location and function makes these units notoriously difficult to monitor. Also, due to the heavy workload and ambient temperatures that can exceed 100 F, the pump bearings frequently fail.
Operators needed a solution that collected more information without increasing the cost or man hours. The solution was wireless vibration monitors, which, in turn, have helped create a safe, efficient maintenance environment.
Although the fuel-service pumps had been monitored for many years, the costs and complexity of running cabling made continuous monitoring out of the question. Before implementing wireless vibration monitors, the plant had to monitor the pumping system through motor and bearing temperature profiles and the intermittent use of handheld vibration monitors. This process presented several problems.
Operators were only able to record intermittent vibration values for the pumps, making it difficult to see true trending. The effort required significant time and did not provide constant monitoring. In the case of an intermittent impact or similar event, it was possible for operators to miss important data.
Collected vibration data were entered into a complicated spreadsheet. The problem with such an approach is that even the most robust spreadsheet has significant limitations in its ability to track trends and processes—and provides no predictive-maintenance data whatsoever. Furthermore, while detecting mechanical problems was relatively easy, it was much harder to detect problems that came from process mistakes. That’s because the spreadsheet couldn’t provide an accurate timeline for comparison.
Although personnel could react to events they saw happening, there was little data to show what exactly was going on—which, ultimately, led to the need for more operator and engineer hours to evaluate detected problems and determine a solution. The commitment to operating with a limited staff made it essential that the company reclaim these man hours as quickly as possible.
Implementing wireless vibration monitors, along with a predictive-maintenance software application, dramatically changed this fuel-service provider’s processes. Having pump vibration constantly monitored means that the organization can feel confident personnel will quickly be made aware of any change in function.
In short, operators know that a bearing is heading for failure long before the problem results in process upset. This type of predictive-maintenance capability is vital, as servicing a pump means taking it offline for approximately two months to have it repaired by the manufacturer.
Because the fuel-service facility can’t afford any downtime, the ability to predict pump problems provides peace of mind by allowing personnel to schedule maintenance, not act out of desperation.
Wireless pump monitoring has also increased operator safety. With remote capture of vibration readings, plant personnel have less contact with running machinery than they did when manually recording vibration values. Less contact with the running machines translates to fewer opportunities for accidents that might result in injury.
Moving from recording machine-health data on a spreadsheet to the automatic recording of those data in an asset-management application has been one of the most significant improvements in the operation’s processes.
The asset-management software allows the organization to observe trends in equipment health that simply could not be tracked through a spreadsheet. Alarms are now raised with any abnormal situation and operators are equipped with the tools they need to make decisions quickly. MT
Payoff From Understanding What Could Happen
Managing equipment through an asset-management application allows an organization to better understand what is happening and what could happen on the plant floor. In the case of the aviation-fuel-services company, having vibration and temperature data continuously tracked, stored, and analyzed in the asset-management software lets the plant’s operations and maintenance teams build a timeline around events. This ability is particularly important when a change in process is the catalyst for hardware failures.
Because the software can show exactly when a problem arises, the plant can compare the data with maintenance logs to see if a process change occurred at the same time. In turn, management can rest easy regarding deployed process changes, i.e., know that, regardless of how seemingly insignificant, such changes will always pose a low risk to operations.
On the plant floor, engineers see the most benefit from the plant-wide automation-system enhancement, as they can now spend their time on operational matters instead of pouring over spreadsheets, tracking temperature and vibration data for maintenance. The front-end operators are also relieved that they have reduced their equipment checking time.
Wireless vibration monitors provide the fuel-services people with the flexibility to move toward a holistic machinery-health-management plan. Plant management can feel confident that detailed pump health information is always available and no unexpected shutdowns are lurking around the corner. Management also gains peace of mind that safety is improved, as maintenance teams have fewer reasons to be working around dangerous equipment.
For more information, visit Emerson Process Management at emersonprocess.com