Analysis Non-Destructive Testing Vibration monitoring

Move to Online Vibration Monitoring

EP Editorial Staff | December 4, 2019

Follow these recommendations to effectively move from route-based to online-based vibration monitoring.

Three recommendations help you realize the benefits of moving away from a route-based monitoring system.

By Pat Cornelison & Jamie Flerlage, Cornerstone Controls Inc.

Route-based vibration and maintenance programs have served the needs of plants for decades. Today, there is growing demand for more asset data to meet process-availability metrics. Route data collection is time consuming and less cost effective, particularly for heavy-industrial operations or plants with inaccessible assets in challenging environments. Many reliability engineers also find that the point-in-time snapshot that route-based programs provide is not enough to protect the critical equipment needed to ensure operational excellence. For plant operations and reliability managers to begin the journey toward real-time data collection using an online predictive-monitoring system, here are three recommendations.

Identify Your Critical Assets

Criteria for a route program are different from those for an online-monitoring system. In some cases, route programs overlook assets where access is difficult because the environment or guarding prevents optimal data collection. Start with a fresh asset list so management can properly evaluate criticality, probability of failure, and failure modes and effects. This type of assessment is a critical step in keeping upfront costs down and ensuring a high ROI, especially for those assets that tend to fail quickly or assets that could fail between route data-collection periods. 

Establish a Vision for Operational Certainty

With a fresh asset list established, operators can realign their quality and throughput metrics with their predictive maintenance and monitoring initiatives. By identifying the assets that have an impact on production efficiency or product quality, reliability engineers cannot only prioritize which assets to measure but also establish metrics for machine efficiency. In both cases, management will gain insight into overall operational
effectiveness by linking production success metrics to operational effectiveness. Finally, identifying these metrics enables management to establish short- and long-term metrics to determine internal rates of return for their online system investment.

Start with a Pilot Program

To determine if an on-line monitoring-and-prediction system is the right solution for your plant, consider a 30-to-60-day pilot program. Modern on-line vibration processors allow inexpensive and temporary connections to rotating assets. Pulling continuous robust data over long periods reveals the types of conditions that are missed between scheduled route collections. Continuous data also allows plant personnel to analyze vibration data alongside process data, thus determining whether operations or control methods are the root cause of degradation in mechanical integrity. Online-system pilots are also advantageous in that they can usually be conducted without having to shut down operations.

Once your operators have singled out a critical asset or “bad actor” from the equipment/machines in the plant, the pilot program can use the existing route-based system as a starting point for data collection.

Assets with rapid failure modes or where failures have not been detected by route vibration in the past are ideal targets. Be sure to include your vibration analysts in this process to help identify, define, and disposition alarms and notifications. Once the pilot program is completed, your provider should offer a comprehensive evaluation that includes project findings and technical recommendations.

Manual vibration-data collection is time consuming and difficult to integrate into automation systems and just-in-time decision making. Vibration-data snapshots, taken under optimum conditions, do not reflect true operating conditions. Online systems offer continuous-monitoring capabilities to determine when process conditions are detrimental to the health of the equipment, and when the equipment is being detrimental to the quality of the product. Start with a pilot program and use it to identify unknown risks to critical and essential assets and establish metrics that will lead to greater returns on your system investment and improvements to operational certainty and production efficiency. EP

Pat Cornelison is director of reliability solutions at Cornerstone Controls Inc., Cincinnati ( He has 30 yr. of experience in industrial automation, control, and reliability. He may be reached at

Jamie Flerlage is strategic account manager at Cornerstone, with more than 17 yr. of experience in digital-manufacturing systems. He may be reached at


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