For facilities just getting started with a condition monitoring program, pumps are an excellent candidate. Continuous condition monitoring on pumps can track changes in conditions like vibration and temperature. This makes it possible to detect potential faults early, so that maintenance can be scheduled before failures or unplanned downtime occur.
Condition monitoring for pumps and other industrial equipment can bring significant cost savings. For example, condition monitoring keeps pumps running longer, reduces emergency repairs, avoids unexpected lost production time, and improves safety. Plus, facilities can often eliminate unnecessary planned maintenance and instead focus their time and budget where they are truly needed.
Pumps are a great candidate for condition monitoring programs because they typically run under the same conditions for long periods of time and have fewer variables compared to other industrial machinery, making pumps fairly predictable. With condition monitoring, faults on your pumps can be detected months in advance. Implementing condition monitoring on pumps is a straightforward starting point for many pilot projects, and it enables you to easily demonstrate the potential impact of scaling your condition monitoring program.
Consider Starting You Condition Monitoring Pilot with Pumps
Vibration monitoring, one of the most common forms of condition monitoring, is a well-established practice used to predict and prevent machine failure. This technology measures a machine’s vibrations against an established baseline. Vibrations that fall outside of normal operating thresholds are often the first sign of a problem. By monitoring machines for these changes in vibration, maintenance teams can detect issues before they escalate, and take action to prevent downtime.
For pumps, monitoring the equipment’s vibration patterns can help you find known faults and set up algorithms and templates that follow and track these faults. The vibration patterns are well-known and established and they track easily, so it is simple to identify a fault and its severity—and know what to do about it and how soon the problem needs to be addressed.
Launch a Right-Sized Condition Monitoring Pilot Program
Often, maintenance teams will kick off their condition monitoring program by monitoring the most complex, production-critical machines first. This might seem logical – your most critical machines are key to maintaining uptime and saving the biggest costs.
However, starting with these machines can be a challenge, and choosing overly complex equipment for your pilot can actually derail your entire program. In fact, to fully realize the benefits of condition monitoring, it is better to start with simpler, more predictable machines – like pumps – before moving on to the more complicated machines that have more variables.
Wireless Vibration Sensors for Pumps
There are several factors to consider when selecting vibration monitoring tools. First, you’ll need to consider the accessibility of the machine – is it easy to reach with handheld tools, or is it in a difficult- or hazardous-to-reach location? Another aspect to consider is your available resources – what staff and budget do you have available to you for your condition monitoring program?
For easy-to-reach areas and well-staffed maintenance teams, portable tools can be effectively used across hundreds of machines. However, using handheld condition monitoring tools can be incredibly time-consuming, requiring many hours of manual labor to check all of your equipment. Furthermore, some machines may be very difficult to reach safely, or staff may not have easy access to the machine’s bearings. Furthermore, manual data collection is often prone to error – and it can’t continuously monitor machine conditions in real-time. If something goes wrong between checks, it may go unnoticed and lead to failure before the next inspection.
Another option is wireless vibration sensors. These are affixed directly to the machine components that require monitoring and will continuously capture vibration data from that machine. This does come at a higher upfront cost compared to portable vibration tools. Depending on the number of machines, a facility may need dozens to hundreds of these sensors.
However, there are many cost-saving advantages to using wireless vibration sensors. For example, once the sensors are installed, there is no need to regularly spend significant labor hours collecting machine vibration data, and data can be collected from any location, no matter how difficult to access. Furthermore, with around-the-clock asset condition data, maintenance teams will know right away when a machine requires attention.
In most cases, this isn’t an either-or decision: a combination of both portable and wireless vibration monitoring will give you the most comprehensive coverage while optimizing costs. In general, it is recommended to begin a pilot program by choosing a few machines that are easy to access with a portable tool and then choosing a few harder-to-access machines for the installation of wireless sensors.
Vibration monitoring is a valuable tool for predicting and preventing pump failure. By detecting problems early and optimizing machine performance, maintenance teams can extend the life of machines, reduce downtime, and minimize the need for costly repairs. Starting with the right pilot program — and leveraging the right technologies — vibration monitoring can unlock many powerful, cost-saving advantages for your operations.