The world of Condition Monitoring (CM) has undergone a remarkable transformation since the early 2000s. This blog post chronicles the experience of a mechanical engineer who entered the industrial reliability field fresh out of university, a time when CM wasn’t even part of the curriculum. It felt like graduating doctors weren’t trained on medical devices back then!

Thankfully, companies and independent academies stepped up, offering education such as Level 1-4 Vibration/Infrared/Oil Analysis and more training, to bridge the knowledge gap for newcomers.


What is Condition Monitoring?

CM utilizes various technologies, sensors, and signal analysis to diagnose the health of rotating machinery and other equipment. It’s a proactive approach that prevents unexpected equipment failures, ensuring smooth operations. Accelerometers are the most common data signal-capturing sensor, while leak detection using Acoustic Infrared Cameras has become an industry standard, minimizing gas and air loss within industrial facilities. Additionally, Infrared Thermography is a widely employed tool for routine monitoring of potential overheating issues in electrical cabinets.

All of these techniques fall under the comprehensive umbrella of Condition Monitoring (CM). While state-of-the-art corrective measures are important, preventing vibration is equally crucial. Techniques like balancing unbalanced parts (fans, impellers) and laser shaft alignment ensure perfect alignment between components, minimizing friction and extending equipment lifespan.


The Early Days: Standard Data Collection and Limited Connectivity

In the early 2000s, CM relied heavily on vibration analyzers for data collection, with a few players dominating the market and CM space. Route-based data collection yielded good results, however, data capture times were long and signal qualities were limited due to hardware and storage limitations. Then there was data analysis, performed using desktop software installed on a single computer, which limited accessibility.


The Dawn of Online Condition Monitoring Systems

Still, in the early 2000s, online monitoring systems brought a revolution. These systems were connected to the client’s local area network (LAN), which allowed data retrieval from a single computer. Server technology was basic, but rudimentary interfaces offered remote access through assigned IP addresses in the network. This early-stage access to configuration options laid the groundwork for more advanced features in the future.


Standardization, Mobility, and the Power of the Internet

Today, the seamless integration of various CM technologies has been achieved through standard protocols like Modbus, OPC, and MQTT. Browser-based dashboards, accessible from anywhere via the internet, empower plant managers to optimize facility operations for superior efficiency and reliability.


A Remote Monitoring Story

To illustrate, imagine a young CM engineer in 2010, tasked with installing online monitoring systems for two hydro turbines in a remote area. Wiring the power supply and sensors was straightforward, and the on-site IT team ensured LAN connectivity to the systems. Wi-Fi was readily available on-site and with an iPhone in hand, the engineer could verify sensor signals remotely while moving between two turbine houses as the turbines were running and vibration signals started to float in.

This is all thanks to HTML interface websites, which were stored on the firmware of the Online Monitoring System, accessible through the iPhone’s Safari browser via Wi-Fi. The mobility made the job smooth and easy to ensure valid data integrity while checking the hardware, load conditions, and operating states.

This was a glimpse into the future of CM and how asset monitoring could become simpler. Signals were visible on the screen, with warnings and alarms displayed on the cryptic interface designed for commissioning purposes, not for the client. This setup allowed for on-site verification without needing a bulky laptop or being confined to a stationary computer in a control room.


Modern Wireless Monitoring

Since those early stages, wireless monitoring has advanced tremendously. Today, we can manage and oversee the asset’s machine conditions with beautifully designed interfaces accessible via any browser on all mobile or stationary devices such as tablets, phones, laptops, and computers. This shift from clunky interfaces to user-friendly mobile access reflects the remarkable strides CM and Asset Management have made in recent years.

The need for cumbersome wiring is a thing of the past. Modern accelerometers communicate wirelessly, eliminating the physical connection between the sensor and the data-capturing and processing unit. This allows for seamless transmission of signals to a gateway, where the data is then integrated into a network database or the cloud.


The Future is Now: Acoem NEST Vision and Beyond

Fast forward to 2024, with platforms like Acoem NEST Vision representing the cutting edge of Asset Management. Now imagine the joy of our engineer, who no longer needs to navigate cryptic HTML interfaces! The results from wireless sensors, portable data collectors, online monitoring systems, thermal cameras, oil analysis, and more can all be integrated into a single visually user-friendly platform. This data harvesting capability has revolutionized asset management, making it easier, more reliable, and more efficient to combine multiple resources, getting a holistic picture of a machine’s health.

By embracing these advancements in CM technologies, industries can gain a significant competitive edge through increased production efficiency and reduced downtime. The journey has been remarkable, and the future of CM looks even brighter!

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