Condition monitoring is a maintenance approach that tracks the overall health of your equipment by measuring key parameters like vibration, temperature, power, and more. Condition-based maintenance uses condition monitoring sensors and data analytics to identify even tiny changes that might point to a defect in an asset or its components. Done right, condition monitoring can alert you to problems with your equipment months before the problems become serious. This allows your maintenance team to nip problems in the bud, saving both time and money.

Why is Condition Monitoring Important?

The goal of condition monitoring is to identify early indicators of wear and tear, defects, and other abnormalities in your assets. That’s why condition monitoring is a key part of any predictive maintenance program. Condition monitoring improves the safety of your equipment, your buildings, and your employees. It enables better decision-making and drives intelligent choices in your asset maintenance program.

How Does Condition Monitoring Work?

Today, most condition monitoring relies on IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices. Your technicians can place condition monitoring sensors in, on, and around the equipment you want to monitor. The sensors monitor your assets for changes in vibration patterns, temperature, power usage, and more.

In many cases, sensors will monitor the equipment on a continuous basis. They send that information to your analytics platform that aggregates and analyzes the data, extracting actionable insights for your maintenance team in near real-time. A powerful condition monitoring system will alert your team when there are signs of equipment degradation so that you can plan ahead for maintenance and avoid costly unplanned downtime.

Examples of Condition Monitoring Sensors

There are many different types of condition monitoring tools on the market. Some of the most effective tools look at vibration, power, temperature, and oil qualities. Here’s how each of these tools works.

Vibration Sensors

Every rotating asset has its own vibration “signature.” Rotating shafts, gears, and rolling bearings all emit vibrations while in operation. Changes in their vibration patterns often indicate that either the asset or a component is starting to degrade. For example, vibration changes can indicate shaft misalignment, early bearing wear, and mechanical looseness.

Effective vibration monitoring can pick up on the mechanical degradation of components well before the problem becomes serious enough to force an unexpected shut-down. Vibration sensors measure vibration acceleration, velocity, and frequency. Technicians can install sensors on almost any internal or external surface of your equipment.

Wireless vibration sensors are cost-effective and easy to install. They usually come with advanced data-processing and diagnostic capabilities, so your team will be alerted to potential problems quickly. Data from these condition monitoring sensors can be accessed remotely from any internet-connected device.

See our guide to vibration sensors for more information.

Power Monitoring Sensors

Power monitors can give your maintenance teams early warnings when there is a problem with any of your electrical devices. Power monitors measure fluctuations in current, voltage, frequency, and energy consumption, all of which can point to premature wear and tear on your equipment.

Wireless sensors can be installed on devices or on batteries. Your teams can access the data remotely, increasing safety in case of a power issue. You can also program your power monitors to alert you and your team when there is a change in power consumption or load.

Oil Particle Counters

Clean oil keeps your equipment running smoothly. In contrast, excess particles in the oil can damage components and slow your productivity. Furthermore, excess particles in your oil can also point to problems with your filter or source of ingression. They can also signal that your assets are undergoing undue wear and tear. Oil particle counters measure the purity of your oil on a continuous basis. They alert your maintenance teams to the first signs of defects in your gearboxes and bearings, so that you can fix those problems in plenty of time.

Temperature Sensors

High temperatures can point to any number of problems with your assets. For example, excess friction produces heat. Leaks in boilers or in HVAC systems and faulty electrical connections can also produce high temperatures.

Temperature sensors continuously monitor your equipment for changes in temperature and alert your maintenance team immediately when a change in temperature requires attention. Keep in mind that some vibration sensors also come with built-in temperature sensors, so a separate device may not be needed to monitor both of these conditions in real-time.

Conclusion

There was a time when condition monitoring sensors were only used on large-scale machinery. Today, advances in technology have made the devices smaller and far more affordable, so that operations of all sizes and budgets can reap the benefits of reduced downtime and lower maintenance costs.

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