Any machine breakdown causes a major headache for the maintenance staff tasked with keeping production running at an optimal level.
And many maintenance managers will also tell you this: Sod’s Law dictates that most breakdowns happen when you’re least prepared to deal with them. Production might be at maximum capacity; it is a weekend or evening; there are no spares on the shelves; or not enough staff available to deal with the problem. Occasionally they even combine to create a ‘perfect storm’ scenario, which many industries are currently facing.
Those with a strong proactive approach to maintenance are increasingly turning to digital technology to mitigate the risk of potentially catastrophic stoppages, whilst also improving asset reliability, maximising output and strengthening their bottom line. They employ predictive technology such as vibration analysis, thermal imaging, oil sampling or ultrasound to identify existing failure modes and act on them before they provide the catalyst for failure.
The deep insight this offers into the condition of equipment at any given time enables reliability managers to identify problems when they are on the horizon rather than at the door. Advance notice of a developing failure relating, for example, to bearings, lubrication, balancing, looseness, alignment or cavitation, can be identified and analysed. Where repair or replacement is necessary, action can be taken to prolong the life of the asset until a planned production stop, and the work factored in without panic or disruption to production, long before it could become the catalyst for failure.
Even those companies reluctant to embrace technological change have long ago accepted that predictive technologies could mitigate the risk of equipment failure and unscheduled downtime, and as such most have a condition monitoring (CM) programme in place for assets which are considered critical to ongoing production – accounting for, on average, around 10% of a plant.
However, is it time to accept that in order to avoid that ‘perfect storm’ scenario your CM programme, whether clipboard or computer based, is also business critical, and should never be considered a non-essential aspect of operations that can be side-lined or stopped altogether.
Critical assets are aptly named. They can be crucial to your company, not only in terms of operational efficiency, but also in ensuring the health and safety of staff and in helping to achieve environmental sustainability goals. Looking beyond the factory floor, another important factor of a CM programme is its potential impact on company insurance. It is widely accepted that an effective CM programme has the potential to help avoid equipment failure and costly unscheduled downtime. Evidencing this can reduce insurance premiums significantly.
Additional considerations are broader supply chain issues. What would happen if there was a break in the supply of replacement parts, or a regular service could not be carried out?
These should all be factors to take into account when deciding whether an asset is designated ‘business critical’. And once it has been designated critical, it should be subject to thorough and ongoing CM activity to maintain its function at the highest level and ensure it achieves its L10 lifespan. Digital technology is without doubt the surest way to ensure this.
The savings that can be achieved through a proactive CM programme are significant, making the CM critical in its own right.
For example, since January this year alone, the UK and Ireland service support teams of AVT Reliability®, supported by the Machine Sentry® advanced web based condition monitoring system, have helped companies across the industrial spectrum avoid more than 3,000 potentially catastrophic failures, with a total cost avoidance of more than £54 million.
Machine Sentry stores a wide range of data on one platform, securely in the cloud. An Automated Diagnostic Assistant (ADA™), powered by thousands of hours of vibration data and years of extensive in-the-field experience of vibration specialists, can predict stage 2, 3 and 4 bearing failure and detect a wide range of other common fault conditions commonly known to reduce equipment reliability or lead to failures. Any authorised personnel can access the real-time condition and functionality of individual assets, or the plant as a whole, from any location, where they can assess suggested remedial actions and make informed decisions.
With savings almost assured – and the price of digital technology becoming increasingly competitive even as it becomes more sophisticated, the time really is right to re-evaluate your critical assets and ensure they are adequately maintained.
If you can’t afford for an asset to break down, you really can’t afford to let your CM become a secondary consideration.
 AVT Reliability Machine Sentry Knowledge Centre TM data, based on the most recent 10,000 failure modes.