Analysis Non-Destructive Testing Vibration monitoring

Use Vibration To Advance Reliability

EP Editorial Staff | September 1, 2021

Data from strategically placed vibration sensors can play a significant role in developing and sustaining asset reliability.

By Frederic Baudart, Fluke Corp.

An effective reliability strategy optimizes operations by increasing predictability across the board, i.e., maximizing safety and production while reducing downtime, waste, and spending. Accurate, up-to-date vibration data is an important factor in a successful strategy.

When maintenance and reliability (M&R) teams understand which assets are most critical and know when they need attention, they can plan effectively and extend peak performance. Reliability also depends on other aspects, such as core-team training, strong support from leadership, and knowledge of asset criticality.

Vibration sensors capture asset condition data, detecting potential wear and tear or abnormalities. Paired with software, vibration sensors can let M&R teams know when assets require attention.   

Selecting vibration sensors

Measuring vibration patterns to spot when and how they change offers a useful view into a machine’s health. Vibration, in and of itself, is normal, but excessive vibration can cause premature wear and tear, and changes in vibration can signal problems.

Sensors placed on machinery capture vibration frequencies, which are then transmitted to software to alert teams and enable analysis. When an asset’s vibration data indicates a fault, teams can decide how to proceed after considering asset criticality, history, and fault severity.

The correct action may be gathering more data, performing testing, or scheduling a repair. When M&R teams can focus their time and efforts on the assets that need it most, they can extend asset lifecycles while reducing overall downtime and costs.

There are sensors available to fit every need and budget. The most critical assets may require sensors that collect detailed vibration data around the clock. For less production-critical assets, sensors can capture snapshots of data. Assets in dangerous or difficult-to-reach areas can benefit from “set it and forget it” battery-less sensors.

Vibration as a practice

With training and experience, maintenance professionals can use vibration data to identify and diagnose faults. Most machine faults fall into four categories:

• misalignment
• imbalance
looseness
bearing wear.

Changes in vibration patterns can indicate that assets are not operating in peak condition. Increased vibration can shorten the life of equipment and components. Replacing a bearing is treating a symptom, not getting to the root cause. Asking what happened in a specific instance helps teams not just solve that problem, but also refine their outlook and better understand what could happen in the future.

By collecting vibration data over time, M&R teams can compare and learn from patterns. When teams can identify abnormalities and diagnose faults in advance, they can plan and prioritize their actions, improving availability and reliability.

Use either wired or wireless sensors to properly monitor asset vibration and improve overall uptime. Photo: Fluke Corp.

Remote monitoring and reliability

Route-based maintenance is time consuming—even risky in some settings and situations. Reducing dependence on physical routes also helps teams align their work with organizational needs. M&R teams can use PCs or mobile devices to remotely view vibration data. Having access to asset-health data in real time, from anywhere, enhances data-driven decision making and helps teams collaborate across sites or confer with off-site specialists.

Remote monitoring bolsters a reliability strategy by providing:

• alarm notifications that make it possible to respond quickly to potential failures

• real-time knowledge of asset health

• trending asset-health data to find patterns and insights

• integrated data to perform in-depth analysis or generate reports.

Technological advances have made it easier than ever for sensors to make and communicate accurate measurements. Advanced technology also makes it easier for teams to analyze asset data, share it, and act on it.

Condition-monitoring sensors available today are accurate and reliable, as well as easy to install and set up. Whether they are wired or wireless makes little difference. Rather, the variety of sensors available on the market simply reflects the wide range of possible applications. Different areas within a plant, machine types, and varying levels of criticality can all be factors that determine the appropriate type of sensor.

Driving reliability forward

In ways large and small, an effective reliability strategy helps organizations achieve efficiency, realize the optimum asset ROI, and maximize asset availability and longevity. The improved efficiencies come from minimizing unplanned down time and making the
most of resources.

For example, assets near the end of their lifecycles may not need the intensive time and attention that other assets require. Machines that are operating in peak condition don’t consume as much energy as inefficient assets.

In today’s ever-changing manufacturing environment, asset availability for production is more important than ever. Hitting production targets requires maximizing asset availability. M&R teams can’t achieve that if they’re constantly responding and reacting to breakdowns.

Ensuring that assets are operating at their designed level of capacity requires a clear strategy, a prioritized workflow, and actionable data. Having real-time data on asset health and knowing how to put that data to use helps organizations learn from every response and move toward continuous improvement. Reliability is a journey, not a destination. Fuel it by measuring, learning, and doing. EP

Frederic Baudart is Lead SME Manager for Fluke Corp., Everett, WA, focusing on the company’s reliability and condition-monitoring product lines within the Fluke Reliability Solutions business. He has more than 20 years of experience in field-service engineering work and preventive/predictive maintenance industries.

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