As the resurgence of manufacturing and processing in America continues, the requirements on all of us to do more with less will only grow more important in order to reach the needed profitability goals. Combine this downward pressure with the diversity of today’s plants and their mechanical components, and the overwhelming gap of skilled workers entering our industries is a recipe for disaster. Until we can better communicate the importance of these jobs to our youth the demand will be placed on making our machines and maintenance teams more efficient and cost effective than ever before.

To achieve this, we will need to become better at predictive maintenance or condition monitoring and work less in the space of reactive maintenance. Lets quickly go over the pros and cons of both philosophies:

Reactive Maintenance:

  • Advantages
    • Low apparent cost
    • Low training cost
  • Disadvantages
    • Increased cost due to unplanned downtime of equipment
    • Increased labor cost, especially if overtime is needed
    • Possible secondary equipment or process damage from equipment failure
    • Inefficient use of staff resources

Predictive Maintenance/ Condition Monitoring:

  • Advantages
    • Machine condition determines when maintenance is done – not too early or too late
    • Plant management in control of maintenance programs
    • Plant has better control of schedule
    • Saves plant money overall
    • Your maintenance team isn’t overworked and can plan their schedules
  • Disadvantages
    • Upfront cost can be expensive until you start to realize the ROI
    • Will need to train at least one team member how to properly use the condition monitoring equipment

Carl Nelson describes Condition Monitoring (predictive maintenance) in his book, Millwrights and Mechanics Guide, as “any device that allows a mechanic to compare the trend of measured physical parameters against known engineering limits for the purpose of detecting, analyzing, and correcting problems before failure occurs.” He goes on to describe the 10 steps to properly installing a condition monitoring program:

  1. Create a map of the plant and list all the equipment and each piece’s location.
  2. Then you will want to name each piece of equipment, so you can create a route that you can easily follow each time you perform your maintenance. For help creating routes click here to watch our short video.
  3. At this point you will want to visit each piece of equipment to take down all pertinent information. i.e. vendor, model number, serial number, etc. If you aren’t using our Falcon or Smart Machine Checker, which come with a camera already installed, then you will want to bring a digital camera with you to help create your routes and remember all of the key information.
  4. Next you will want to locate all the maintenance manuals to ensure we are replacing parts with the correct specifications. If you can’t find your manuals then call the vendor sales office- they should be able to provide you with one.
  5. Once you’ve collected all this information you will want to create individual files for each piece of equipment on your computer. This will allow you quick access to any of the information you may need in the future.
  6. At this point you will want to conduct a meeting with all key team members that are involved in machine maintenance and repairs. You’ll want to review the manufacturer’s information and condition monitoring suggestions. Construct a plan that makes the most sense to everyone involved.
  7. Now you are ready to set up your condition monitoring program and assign tasks to each member. It might make sense at this point to test the route and program on one small piece of the plant to ensure nothing was missed when setting it up.
  8. Once you’ve tested everything move on to the entire plant.
  9. Be sure to develop a feedback loop to adjust tasks, routes, frequency and duration of activities.
  10. Continue to audit your process.

If you are looking for reliable predictive maintenance products, click here to browse VibrAlign’s new online store where we have added hundreds of new products for all your maintenance precision needs.


Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Garrett Mizunaka

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