Condition monitoring

TLT Sounding Board March 2021


Executive Summary
Interest in condition monitoring continues to grow as many companies adopt predictive maintenance programs instead of scheduled or preventive maintenance programs. TLT readers unanimously agreed that a predictive maintenance program saves money, prevents unscheduled downtime and has many other advantages over a “use-to-last” program. However, the implementation of condition monitoring varies widely, with several readers responding that the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges. Some readers reported the use of technologies such as ultrasound, collaborative robots (cobots) and remote monitoring to aid in condition monitoring. While readers experienced mixed results in meeting their target for ROI in predictive maintenance programs, many reported that customers overwhelmingly appreciate the benefits.
Q.1 Please describe the most significant change in condition monitoring and predictive maintenance that you have seen in the past year.

The use of onsite or point-of-care analysis by companies.

Education of our people still remains the best advantage to monitor and predict failures.

That it is considered big data.

I have seen improvements in in-service fluid analysis, especially related to turbine oil testing for varnish (varnish potential) and oxidation ratings. Essentially the lab has improved turnaround times for comprehensive sample testing and is constantly modifying ratings of sample test results using many data samples. I do not have any other oil lab for comparison, but I do believe this lab is one of the best based on inquiries I’ve made and answers I’ve received. I also use other technologies (vibration analysis, infrared, airborne ultrasound and optical gas scanning) and the infrared has gotten cheaper, more accurate and generally easier to use. With the exception of a few, most companies are still reluctant to use all of the tools in the “reliability” toolbox and take the easy way out, and only use the predictive maintenance tools for some degree of cost savings and machine troubleshooting. My training/certification as a Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional has given me insight into the whole picture of reliability, and I still see reluctance and lack of understanding for companies to use all of the tools and methods to improve quality and further reduce maintenance costs. PdM is not simply a technology but a part of reliability-based maintenance.

The main change was the way to control these activities. Now all are by virtual form.

Two things actually: (1.) Shift from relying on base number as an indicator of remaining oil life to relying on oxidation and nitration increase as that indicator. (2.) Greater concern over cold pumpability (ASTM D4684) characteristic at end of oil drain interval so that cold start vulnerability is controlled.

Using cobot during inspections.

Remote monitoring.

Although not new technology, I see customers transitioning more toward real-time condition monitoring/telematics on mobile equipment.

Being able to monitor remotely.

Condition monitoring being used to extend the life of lubricants.

More people seem to be getting interested in condition monitoring.

Not much has changed as far as condition monitoring and predictive maintenance that I’m aware of, and my guess is that progress in these areas has been slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More customers move to do used oil analysis/vibration monitoring than do only preventive maintenance.

The most significant change is the emergence of online real-time monitoring as it relates to lubricant conditions.

Did your company meet its ROI target of the predictive maintenance system as planned?
Yes 52%
No 48%
Based on responses sent to 15,000 TLT readers.

Can’t afford the escalating costs of reactive maintenance and throw away mentality. Using more expensive but better oils plus regular oil analysis, which respects the value of millions of dollars worth of equipment and the increasing hourly cost of unscheduled downtime.

Deterioration of the program due to COVID-19 placing restrictions on number of workers.

Many maintenance people didn’t know what to do during the pandemic. Several of them lost the program.

It has become much more sophisticated.

Condition monitoring moved away from being done in-house and moved to an external total fluid management supplier.

Inclusion of new test methods and techniques for condition monitoring, not in the past year due to the COVID-19 situation but in the previous two to three years.

The use of a load cell to quantify the force required for press fit apparatus to predict failure.

The number of modular, remotely connected condition monitoring sensors and devices being marketed seems to be increasing rapidly.

Use of ultrasound sensors during lubricating action with net connections between a manager and operators.

Q.2 What is your feeling about your company’s predictive maintenance, if there is one?

Proactive is better than predictive.

We have a brand-new facility; we need to build our knowledge. So far, it has been a success (no downtime due to unforeseen failure).

It is worth the time and expense. It could always be better. It is always backward looking, addressing what did happen.

Little traction for what else might happen in the future.

My current assignment only uses the PdM technologies when they choose to and not as part of a comprehensive reliability-based maintenance program.

My company strongly supports predictive maintenance, but it still tends to be neglected until reinforced by real incidents, then you have true “believers.”

It is in the beginning level.

Management is not really behind the program.

I feel they have a world-class maintenance and reliability program that has proven to increase production while operating very efficiently.

Not one in place but establishing for new plant in 2021.

Do you agree that predictive maintenance programs save money in general?
Yes 100%
No 0%
Based on responses sent to 15,000 TLT readers.

It was successfully integrated in combination with a two-year training and education program at different levels.

We provide oil analysis support to companies looking at condition monitoring.

Our main focus is on predictive maintenance, and I feel that we would score an overall 8/10.

My company is a distributing company, but we encourage predictive maintenance to customers to reduce costs.

Status quo isn’t good enough anymore.

There was a big push from the top level, but top management changed, and now the wind of change that swept us has gone. There’s a tendency to fall back on old habits.

It is the key to preserve machinery and maintain low costs.

It is a useful tool to help our customers.

With the move to an external supplier, it has gone backward as they get to grips with things. However, it generally works okay.

It needs further improvement.

It is the preferred way.

We are trying to make the shift from reactive to proactive (and predictive in key areas). We know that there will be gains from this. However, it’s difficult in the busyness of reactive maintenance to make time and space to work on the program and achieve these.

It is in the beginning level.

Q.3 Please tell us the impact of your company’s predictive maintenance program on operation and maintenance.

Looking ahead has saved millions.

Accurate planning leads to customer satisfaction.

My knowledge is third party. I do consider it valid.

It definitely reduces unscheduled downtime.

In fact, we can’t visit operations. I think this is the main impact.

My company is working with customers to collect real-world data from applications and using that to fine tune recommendations to those customers, as well as generic guidance to the larger customer base.

Slight decrease of lubricant consumption.

We prevented some failures.

It has proven that using synthetic lubricants along with a robust and very modern maintenance program will result in lower cost of operations, reduced environmental impact and improved safety.

Will have an ROI of 300%.

Reducing maintenance costs such as replacement of pumps and servo valves.

Do you think that a predictive maintenance program is better than “use-to-last” practice in your company?
Yes 100%
No 0%
Based on responses sent to 15,000 TLT readers.

Simple one was extending drains on our mobile equipment from 250-hour drains to 450-hour drains.

Can save cost of spare part.

Our recommendations have presented quantifiable savings to customers.

Can be slow to understand at all levels of management, but documenting the cost savings is very helpful, especially for non-maintenance people.

We always have managed predictive maintenance, so we suppose that it has been the cause of our high reliability.

It has helped sales and marketing of our products.

Significant for customers and internally at manufacturing plants.

Tests keep running, no prolonged downtime.

We don’t have a sufficiently developed program to realize any benefits.

Allowed a small decrease of noise from bearings.
Editor’s Note: Sounding Board is based on an informal poll of 15,000 TLT readers. Views expressed are those of the respondents and do not reflect the opinions of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers. STLE does not vouch for the technical accuracy of opinions expressed in Sounding Board, nor does inclusion of a comment represent an endorsement of the technology by STLE.