Established in 1999, Holcim Azerbaijan Cement is the only cement and clinker manufacturing company in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. The company delivers high-quality products to satisfy customers both domestically and abroad. The cement facility in Baku leverages a condition monitoring system to prevent unexpected equipment failures, which has helped the company reduce its maintenance costs by 96%.

In particular, the facility uses a Prüftechnik online condition monitoring system to track the health of production-critical machinery — machines that are directly involved in the cement production process and must operate without interruption. Many of these assets require specialized components that are too expensive to keep in inventory but require considerable advanced notice to order replacement parts.

Data-collection devices play an essential role in continuously assessing the health of these machines. The online monitoring system measures defined parameters that reflect the real-time operating condition of the devices. These parameters can include vibration, temperature, and rotational speed. As components in a machine start to wear, the corresponding measurement values also begin to change, well in advance of the actual failure. The best condition monitoring software has alert systems built-in to notify maintenance teams of changes as they happen.

A Comprehensive Condition Monitoring System

The condition monitoring system at Holcim Azerbaijan Cement takes measurements at regular time intervals. It saves them within the Prüftechnik OmniTrend software platform, where data is graphically trended and analyzed according to the machine’s baseline metrics and failure modes.

Should the trends fall outside of what’s considered acceptable, system alarms notify the operator of a problem with the machine. Once the engineers are notified of an anomaly, they can apply additional measurements to determine the problem’s root cause. Early detection of condition changes allows a scheduled intervention before failure occurs. This significantly reduces downtime costs — as there are no surprises.

The VibroNet Signalmaster remote condition monitoring system installed at Holcim Azerbaijan Cement uses special Current Line Drive (CLD) sensors designed in Germany. These sensors transmit measurement signals via current, allowing for long cabling across distributed areas. Current signals will not be mitigated over longer distances.

One of the most important advantages of an online condition monitoring system is that it continuously collects data. The system records all changes in measurement trends. Even small variations are quickly detected. If the change exceeds the limits for normal operation, the system will send alarms to the PLC or SCADA to which it is connected.

Essential machinery with fast-evolving failure trends requires condition monitoring systems capable of taking frequent measurements 24/7. This enables constant follow-up of the machine condition and increases the overall reliability and availability of plant machinery.

Online condition monitoring further enables telemonitoring and telediagnosis by remote specialists, which offers many advantages. Measurement trends can be accessed from anywhere in the world—creating a simple network that can be accessed by other members of the company or external vibration specialists.

Incorporate Condition Monitoring Systems with New Installations

Sometimes, issues arise in the early months of a machine’s installation, so installing new equipment is an ideal way to incorporate new sensors and begin to monitor failure mode indicators. Monitoring can catch issues before significant damage occurs, and once operations normalize, those measurements become the baseline to compare against later.

Holcim Azerbaijan Cement decided to use the online condition monitoring system to increase machine reliability, secure production availability, and reduce monitoring machines’ maintenance costs.

In this case, five months of manual maintenance costs totaled 51,803€. The objective was to reduce these costs to 14,500€. In practice, online monitoring reduced maintenance costs down to 2,134€. In other words, installing the online condition monitoring system reduced maintenance costs to only 4% of the original amount. That means a whopping 96% decrease in expenses.

Efficient planning and a solid condition monitoring program have been the keys to reliable machine availability at Holcim Azerbaijan Cement. Other contributing factors include the quality of repairs, appropriate training of the plant’s maintenance team, transparent reporting, and thorough follow-ups. 

The plant has also reduced costs associated with unplanned downtime. Monitored machines experienced fewer unplanned downtime incidents, and those that did occur were resolved more quickly than they would have otherwise without a condition monitoring system in place.

Condition Monitoring ROI

In the case of critical machines, the return on investment for a condition monitoring system can often be achieved by detecting a single problem. Unnoticed, that problem would cause considerable costs and unexpected production downtime, including unnecessary machinery failures and repair times. Apply this concept across a variety of assets and their respective issues and you are well on your way to improving maintenance and reliability via condition monitoring.

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