Four strategies for implementing machine monitoring equipment
Setting objectives for machine monitoring, prioritizing machines, developing relevant performance metrics and continuously improving them.
Machine monitoring systems are currently gaining popularity in industries as they drift away from manual means of collecting information due to obvious reasons. Often the emphasis is placed on the application of monitoring technology and corresponding monetary savings, while ignoring the necessary pre-work that is required on the part of machine owners to implement such monitoring systems. As a result, the expected benefits from the monitoring system are not achieved. The purpose of this article is to outline strategies that may be adopted to overcome common problems with the implementation of machine monitoring systems
1. Setting objectives for machine monitoring
The confusion is that the information produced by machine monitoring systems is of little or no use. To avoid it, it is crucial to realize the objective of the machine monitoring system before proceeding to implement it. The best way to do this is to understand the context of the machine and its operating environment.
Two similar machines operating in two different operating environments may have different monitoring requirements. For example, to avoid the risk of ignition, it is crucial to monitor the surface temperature of the pump-motor transporting gasoline products in a flammable environment. Now, if the same pump is used to carry municipal water, investing in surface temperature monitoring will be a waste of time and resources as the flammable environment simply does not exist. Ideally, the objective of the machine monitoring system should closely align with or reinforce the actual objective expected of the machine on which it is installed.
2. Prioritizing machines for implementation
Even a moderately sized industry or manufacturing plant could contain several hundred to a thousand pieces of equipment of varying sizes and complexities. While every single piece of equipment is contributing to the overall efficacy of the operating plant, it is simply not financially viable to install monitoring sensors on every piece of equipment. If resources and time are scarce, equipment must be prioritized based on the severity of impact it has on overall plant operation. Likewise, the features or parameters that are to be recorded should also be prioritized based on the criticality of the machine.
Generally, the machines that are expensive and produce excessive downtime upon failures are monitored on a variety of parameters. For example, a large industrial boiler may require to be monitored with a range of parameters that fully encompasses the functional characteristics of the equipment, as well as the chemical properties of the liquid it is boiling. On the other hand, small capacity boilers operating at lesser temperatures and pressure may have less stringent requirements to determine their health and operating efficiencies – and thus fewer sensors on them.
3. Developing relevant performance metrics
One of the implementation problems is the lack of performance requirements expected from the machine monitoring system. The development of operational performance requirements will provide deeper insights into the level of monitoring that is required on the machine. The right approach is to design the level and nature of the monitoring system based on the reliability, availability, maintainability and safety targets expected from the machine. For example, it might be likely that a given piece of equipment is equipped with a sophisticated machine monitoring system and the associated tripping mechanisms that can cause unnecessary outages on the machine whenever the machine’s parameters go beyond a specific value.
While this type of monitoring will likely increase the reliability of the machine – due to the reduced probability of failure – the unnecessary alarms and subsequent worker’s attention will likely impact operational uptime and availability of the machine. In short, the relevant performance metrics and their realistic targets are the ones that represent a fine trade-off between machines’ reliability, availability and maintainability.
4. Continuously improving machine monitoring systems
The implementation of the machine monitoring system is not a one-time project that does its trick as soon as it is implemented. The operating requirements and machine health, including their failure rates, are dynamic phenomena that change from infant mortality to end of life. Also, the machine objective may change, which could render the machine operate in a different scenario.
The ideal implementation strategy should account for use of information collected to refine the ongoing requirements of the machine monitoring systems. For example, the underutilized data collected over years from the specific image sensor on a CNC machine may indicate to the CNC operator that the placement of such a sensor is unwarranted, and therefore may be excluded from the current and future CNC machine monitoring systems – thus saving time and cost on the owner’s part.
In short, the implementation of a machine monitoring system requires a deeper analysis of the machine on which the sensors will be installed, as well as the nature of the operation. Two similar machines operating in a different environment may be fitted with different monitoring systems relevant to their needs. One of the best approaches is to select the right machine monitoring systems for the right machines and link the eventual objective to the attainment of the overall plant’s reliability, maintainability and availability.