The Latest Technology Trend in Condition Monitoring

The ability to monitor the condition of assets 24/7, from any location, is becoming the new trend in maintenance practices. Ultrasound, being a key technology in condition monitoring, will play a key role in this trend.

4Cast_Mounted

The 4Cast from UE Systems is the latest innovation in assets remote monitoring using ultrasound

Just as technology has been rapidly developing in fields like telecom, data analytics, smart devices and infrastructure, the same can be said of asset condition monitoring. Just how far has technology come in asset maintenance, and what does that mean going forward? What current technology is the equivalent of cutting-edge developments in those other fields – playing the role of RFID or Internet of Things? For asset maintenance, it is remote monitoring – the ability for technicians to utilize modern tools to collect and parse through continuous data sets from a given asset without the need for 24/7 in-person attention.

It is important to recognize that new technology often calls into question old methodologies or habits. Each time some development emerges, the industry involved must adapt to make best use from it. That can be particularly difficult in the industrial setting, often driven by the mantra, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

But plant maintenance technicians have increasingly recognized the benefits of predictive maintenance in terms of keeping equipment online, preventing unplanned shutdowns, increasing plant efficiency and saving money for the organization.

The paradigm shifts of asset condition monitoring

The book “Asset Condition Monitoring Management” by Jack Nicholas, Jr., outlines four ways asset condition monitoring has changed over the decades, including nowadays:

  1. In the 1980s, microprocessors made way for more portable data collection devices.
  2. In the 1990s, laptops emerged while software packages gave all computers better memory storage.
  3. In the 2000s, wireless data transfer arrived as the methods for reporting and analysing data grew more sophisticated.
  4. In this decade, the condition monitoring paradigm shifts include Internet of Things, cloud computing, big data, tablets, virtual and augmented reality, wearable devices and so on.

Though the technologies have changed, many of the challenges remain the same: will technicians and practitioners accept the change and alter their behaviour? Can IT departments keep newly online assets safe from cybercrime? Is the infrastructure available for massive amounts of data? Do we have the skilled workers necessary to champion these tools and then pass their knowledge along to others? And finally – what do we even do with all this data?

Finally, to add a bit of perspective, consider this: today’s college graduates were born after Amazon opened, eBay came online and Yahoo registered its domain name. They have largely grown up with technology – that’s a good thing. Those who go into engineering and maintenance will be comfortable using modern tools and techniques – and organizations must be prepared for a
generation of labourers who expect the most up-to-date tools to be available.

Click Image to Enlarge
time_series

Technological advancements make it now possible to check bearings’ sound recordings 24/7, from any location

Ultrasound remote monitoring

Ultrasound technology has emerged as an essential tool in its own right. It is no longer simply a leak detector – it is a valuable technology that allows maintenance teams to identify mechanical faults earlier in the P-F Curve and even develop a more effective lubrication practice.

Coupling remote monitoring with ultrasound could prove to be one of those paradigm-shifting developments. Ultrasound works best when you have as much sound information to work with as possible – that makes it easier to identify patterns, establish baselines and pinpoint inconsistencies. Moreover, as much as today’s maintenance technicians want to avoid reactive maintenance, there are certain assets that take priority over others. Anything that is closer to failure will earn more attention, meaning other assets could fly under the radar if they are assumed to be newer and in better shape. Remote monitoring can give technicians a way to keep an eye – or ear – on assets that aren’t being monitored. That is true for ultrasound monitoring on both mechanical and electrical assets.

There are few limitations on the application for ultrasound remote monitoring. Any instance where maintenance professionals are collecting manual data through handheld devices might be an opportunity to monitor remotely. In other cases, equipment that is difficult to access – dangerous, remote, isolated, or submerged – can receive the type of regular monitoring that extends useful life. Additionally, slow speed assets are great candidates for remote monitoring because it would otherwise require the maintenance technician to take a longer time to gather enough information manually.

Beyond the advantages of larger data sets and remote collection, remote monitoring comes with an easy installation and the potential for a wireless setup. Compared to other systems, ultrasound remote monitoring is a cost-effective choice.

Ultrasound use cases

Let’s break down a few of the most common ways plant technicians utilize ultrasound maintenance to improve reliability:

  • Leak detection: Huge energy-saving (and therefore, money-saving) potential in compressed air and gas leaks, steam trap testing and valve testing. This is the most common application and it gives back the quickest return on investment. Some ultrasound tools can even be coupled with a free leak-reporting app in iTunes and Google Play, like UE Systems’ Leak Survey app.
  • Electrical inspection: For corona, tracking and arcing, ultrasound usage is driven by safety, insurance agreements, standards and improved technology and software. Keep in mind here, that it is a good idea to use more than one technology to avoid missing potential problems, especially corona.
  • Condition monitoring: Bearings, rotating equipment, and condition-based lubrication are all good candidates for regular remote ultrasound inspection. The best practice here is to establish a route, find baseline readings, determine trends and identify alarm levels. Ultrasound is particularly helpful with slow speed bearings.

The 4Cast and Remote Access Sensors

UE Systems’ remote monitoring tool, 4Cast, interfaces with a bearing asset to continuously collect data and send an alert to the technician’s route-planning software if any alarm levels are surpassed. It works together with ultrasonic Remote Access Sensors (which can be very useful by themselves to inspect enclosed or hard-to-reach bearings) – the sensors, which are permanently mounted on the bearings, pick up the ultrasound emissions and send them to the 4Cast, which then sends that information to data management software in the form of decibel readings. The tool collects these readings from the sensors on a regular basis, but allows the user to specify how often to send information to the software. It will also send a sound file to the Spectralyzer (software for deep sound analysis) when necessary.

Hi-RAS_on_Motor

Ultrasonic Remote Access Sensors are permanently installed to continuously capture ultrasonic emissions from bearings

With an available Ethernet connection, the 4Cast sends all its readings and recordings using the plant’s network, which brings obvious advantages: maintenance personnel will be able to access these readings and sound files even outside of the plant’s network – thus allowing for true 24/7 remote monitoring. 

Today’s facilities should capitalize on the latest trend in reliable maintenance to ensure they get the most out of their assets. As technologies like remote monitoring emerge, they have a positive net effect on industry. Remote monitoring is the latest important plant maintenance technology, enhancing an already valuable tool and allowing plants to build a predictive maintenance culture.  

Messer_Adrian_UE_Systems-bw

Adrian Messer, CMRP

adrianm(at)uesystems.com

www.uesystems.com

Applications | 5.12.2017

Latest articles

Sweden and France propose ban on over a thousand allergenic substances in textiles and leather

Sweden and France are proposing an EU ban on more than a thousand allergenic substances used in items such as clothing and shoes. According to the proposal, textile and leather items sold to consumers should not contain these substances at levels above certain content thresholds.

HSE | 26.4.2019

Maintenance Performance and its Measurements

Maintenance performance can be difficult to measure.  But, measurements drive behavior and it is therefore important to think through what to measure.  The measurement should be designed in order to achieve the following:

Asset Management | 25.4.2019

Highly Fire Retardant Coating from Biomaterials Developed by Finland's VTT

A spray- or brush-applied fire retardant coating made from nanocellulose is well suited for improving the fire properties of wood-based materials. It reduces the access of oxygen to the surface, thus significantly inhibiting combustion. Finland's VTT has found an effective production method for the coating through piloting and is currently seeking a partner to commercialise the technology.

R&D | 24.4.2019

Implementing RCM? 5 Mistakes You Need to Avoid

If you are considering to employ  RCM analysis  at your facility, it means you have recognized the need for a change in your maintenance strategies. Reliability-centered maintenance is an excellent way to keep your plant or machinery up and running by helping you choose the optimal maintenance strategy for all of your important assets. 

Cmms | 19.3.2019

Wärtsilä successfully tests remote guidance service capabilities

Technology group Wärtsilä has successfully tested its remote guidance service, thereby creating an entirely new dimension in vessel repair and maintenance operations.

Applications | 15.3.2019

Save Energy in Steam and Condensate Systems

The oldest paper mill still operating in Germany detects defective steam traps with digital ultrasonic testing technology

Partner Articles | 15.3.2019

Time to Invest in Europe’s Water Infrastructure

THE WATER AND SANITATION sector is an important part of the European economy. It represents more than 500,000 people directly employed in water and sewerage companies, operating thousands of facilities and several million kilometres of networks.

Editorial | 14.3.2019

Maintenance: A Necessary and Important Function in the Future

Euromaintenance 2016 will take place in Athens at the end of May. It is the ideal moment to reflect on maintenance in a European context. Euromaintenance is known as the summit for all involved in maintenance across Europe, it’s the place to be. The conference, with the support of the EFNMS, is the only commercially independent conference covering the topics we deal with in the maintenance world.

EFNMS | 20.5.2016