Condition monitoring is by no means a new concept in industry. In fact, it is so widely regarded as a best practice, that it becomes commonplace in more industries each year. With this increase in awareness, we have seen an influx of options over the years. Simple overall meters, portable analyzers, wired continuous systems, and wireless sensors are some of the options available to the maintenance and reliability personnel that keep our world afloat.
The Benefits of Wireless Vibration Sensors
In particular, wireless sensors have become a popular option as that technology continues to develop and flourish. There are sensors for every application and they come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities – from process monitoring to AI analyzed data and everything in between.
Wireless vibration monitoring is useful for a litany of reasons. Wireless sensors are typically easy to deploy with low installation effort and cost. There’s no need for running sensor cables, or providing power and networking all over the place. Lower costs and installation efforts allow for a lot of machinery coverage. It also allows plant personnel to invest the time they would normally spend walking around collecting data with a handheld tool into something more actionable. Wireless sensors also allow for closer watch on machines than with a walk-around program. Instead of data once a month or quarter, you’re able to collect and store multiple times a day and even be alerted to changes in alarm status.
However, it is not enough to have an army of wireless sensors deployed on every machine and declare that your plant does condition monitoring. As with all things in the world of condition monitoring, there’s a lot of nuance to it.
Evaluating Plant Processes and Machines
While condition monitoring is regarded as a best practice, it is also understood that not all equipment is treated equally. Some equipment will require more time and attention while other equipment is so inexpensive and quick to replace that run-to-failure is the best practice. Because of this, we must also consider what’s the best approach to monitoring each machine that qualifies for it. At any given plant, a variety of tools should be used to ensure the appropriate level of monitoring is administered. In order to determine this, a few things need to be considered.
First, we need to understand the plant’s processes and their machines.
- Start by assessing the criticality of each machine.
- Determine the normal machine operating cycle time.
- Is it constant speed or variable? If variable, how variable?
- How complex is the machine train?
- Do I have redundancy?
- Do I have physical access to the machine?
- Does this equipment pose a safety or environmental risk?
- What are my costs to repair, replace, and maintain spares, and have associated downtime?
Then we need to consider the plant itself.
- How much experience does my team have in analyzing data?
- How much time do they have to dedicate to either collecting data or analyzing it?
- What will it take to coordinate the right people to handle this task?
These are just a few of the questions we should be asking to help shape the way we deploy condition monitoring in plants. In reality, a plant’s makeup has enough of a difference amongst machinery to warrant different approaches simultaneously like a portable device, wireless sensors, and continuous systems. The plant equipment, personnel, and philosophy will ultimately determine how each of these technologies gets deployed.