Predictive maintenance is a strategy which focuses on identifying the optimal time to perform maintenance: after a condition has begun to decline and performance to decrease, but before failure occurs. It seeks to establish a happy medium between preventative maintenance, which uses strict time-based scheduling and may occur too frequently, and reactive or run-to-failure maintenance, which does not repair components until after they have already failed.
The predictive approach to maintenance utilizes condition monitoring, a real-time strategy which performs a variety of periodic or continuous tests aimed at identifying potential failures. When the condition has degraded to a certain point or certain warning signs are identified, maintenance is then performed. Condition monitoring and predictive maintenance, especially when software-assisted, create a database of performance information about the equipment which can be useful for years.
ProAxion® has emerged as a leader in condition-monitoring technologies which are cost-efficient, easy to install, and do not require extensive training to use and understand. ProAxion® can help you create a thorough predictive maintenance program using the most up-to-date methods to detect oncoming failures well in advance of their occurrence.
Predictive Maintenance Technologies
A variety of condition monitoring tests can be used as part of a predictive maintenance approach. Each has specific situations in which it is most applicable and is best suited for locating and identifying particular types of failure. Some of the most popular condition monitoring techniques are described briefly below, but they along with others are explained in greater detail here.
Vibration monitoring measures the vibrations which occur while a piece of equipment is in motion. It checks for and notes any unusual sounds (acoustic) or physical vibrations which can serve as an early indicator of misalignment or motion that is too fast or too slow. Vibration monitoring can also be used to detect extremely high-frequency noises, such as “whines,” which are out of the range of normal human hearing. Such noises are another common sign that the condition of the equipment is deteriorating. Until recently, vibration monitoring was one of the most expensive condition monitoring techniques and was therefore primarily used only to monitor critical equipment which contains high-speed rotating parts such as fans. However, ProAxion®’s revolutionary Tactix™ technology is far more cost-efficient, easier to use and more widely applicable than any competing technologies. ProAxion® has helped bring vibration monitoring to the forefront among condition monitoring processes, and has made it accessible and useful for any number of industrial systems.
Infrared monitoring is perhaps the most widely used and generally applicable form of condition monitoring due to its cost-effectiveness and its ability to remotely detect potential failures both mechanical and electrical in nature. Infrared technology is utilized to detect areas of the machine in which unusually high or unusually low temperatures occur. As a change in temperature is one of the most common signs of equipment failure, infrared monitoring is highly useful and effective.
Acoustic monitoring utilizes sonic or ultrasonic techniques to “hear” irregularities within the equipment. While it is somewhat more expensive than infrared technology, it is effective because it can quickly detect flaws or potential failures deep beneath the surface of the machine. Sonic acoustic monitoring is primarily used on medical equipment, while ultrasonic acoustic monitoring has a wide range of applications similar to infrared.
Oil analysis collects and examines samples of lubricating oils used within a piece of equipment. Once samples have been collected, two sets of tests are performed. One analyzes the quality of the lubrication oil itself, and is used to identify possible contamination, watering down or drying up. The other searches the oil for “wear particles,” particles of solid matter which can indicate that parts of the machine are degrading or interacting with one another incorrectly or that the amount of lubrication is insufficient. Oil analysis requires the most amount of time to set up, as it can sometimes take up to a year to gather enough samples to identify trends and predict future performance. However, once the system is functional, oil analysis is one of the most effective ways at predicting even the tiniest failures well in advance of their occurrence.
These tests are often used in conjunction with a software, such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) which store the data, predict future performance trends and can aid in the selection of ideal times to perform maintenance.
These are only a few of the many, many condition monitoring techniques which can be applied as part of an overall predictive maintenance strategy. If you or your company is new to predictive maintenance, it is recommended to consult an expert such as a predictive maintenance contractor to identify the most ideal tests for your specific equipment. Here at ProAxion, we have skilled experts available for consultation specific to your manufacturing methods.
Advantages of Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance, along with preventive, is a form of proactive maintenance which allows manufacturers and industry leaders to “stay ahead of the curve” by identifying and handling failures before they occur. However, unlike preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance is based on the idea that maintenance should not occur until the condition of the equipment indicates that it is needed.
What does this mean for the owners of the equipment? First, it saves the time, money and resources which would otherwise be put in to expensive and often too-frequent preventive inspections. Second, it decreases safety risks for workers, as any problems with the equipment are identified as soon as they occur. Third, as the condition monitoring tests can be carried out while the equipment is still operating, it eliminates the downtime (planned or unplanned) and loss of production which comes with equipment shutdown.
In addition, predictive maintenance, unlike preventive, focuses on a root cause analysis of failure in order to predict future performance trends. Preventive maintenance assumes simply that equipment’s performance will decrease and it will fail more often as it ages, and performs inspection and upkeep to prevent those failures without focusing on where they come from. Predictive maintenance, on the other hand, examines every part of the machine and identifies crucial points where failure is likely to occur. It asks not only what might fail, but how and why that failure might occur. This allows for highly accurate predictions regarding the equipment’s future performance and a precise determination of the exact ideal time to perform maintenance.
Disadvantages of Predictive Maintenance
While predictive maintenance was once known to possess a number of disadvantages, ProAxion® spearheaded a technological revolution which decreased or eliminated every single one. Until recently, condition monitoring required a large amount of resources –hardware to test the equipment, people to gather the data and software to store the data and generate the order of maintenance tasks. Some of that equipment was also extremely expensive, and featured the highest up-front cost of any maintenance strategy.
However, ProAxion® has changed all of that. It developed the Tactix™ vibration and temperature monitoring system, which includes both monitoring hardware and a gateway device to generate an up-to-date, accurate software database. It is easy to install, easy to use and the most cost-effective option for real-time monitoring.
In the past, a high skill level was needed to be able to correctly interpret the data provided by condition monitoring and put it to use. Employees required lengthy, time- and resource- extensive training just to be able to understand the data which was being produced. With ProAxion’s vibration and temperature monitoring technology, training is not necessary. Tactix™ is plug-and-play, and the data is generated and delivered to desktop and mobile devices in a dashboard which is simple to understand and interpret.
Lastly, some predictive maintenance setups could require a large amount of time (up to a year) until they were functioning properly and at their highest efficiency. In these situations, additional maintenance strategies had to be applied in conjunction until the testing system began working as it should, consuming even more time, money and resources. While some testing strategies, such as oil analysis, do still feature that high up-front time investment, ProAxion’s plug-and-play Tactix™ technology has completely eliminated this disadvantage for vibration and temperature monitoring. Installation is quick, and the setup is immediately ready to go to work.
When to Use Predictive Maintenance
Predictive maintenance should ideally be used on equipment which performs a critical function, is expensive to allow to run to failure, and can be effectively monitored using one of the existing condition monitoring techniques. It is not a good technique for equipment which experiences frequent random, unpredictable failures, as that decreases the effectiveness of the data predictions generated via testing.
This maintenance strategy is ideally used as part of an overall reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) approach. RCM identifies failure modes and consequences in order to apply the ideal type of maintenance to each piece of equipment. RCM ensures that predictive maintenance will only be used in situations where it is cost-, time- and labor-effective to do so.
Contact ProAxion® today to learn more about the various condition monitoring techniques as well as predictive maintenance and its role in the RCM approach.