December 18, 2018, 12:03 am

Asset Health and Condition Monitoring: How to Establish a Successful Program - Part 3

In the second article of this three-part series, we talked about the first two steps to take on the journey to establishing a successful Asset Health Condition monitoring programme.

In this article, the third and final instalment of this series, we will review the final three steps in the five step process.

Five steps to establish a successful Asset Health Condition Monitoring program.

If you recall from the previous article, the five steps involved in implementing an Asset Health Condition Monitoring Program are as follows:

  1. Identify the Assets and their Models
  2. Define and understand the Variables
  3. Select Monitoring Equipment and establish a Data Collection and Storage System
  4. Define and follow a consistent Condition Assessment and Health Ranking System
  5. Integrate the Condition Monitoring System into your existing Maintenance Strategy

3. Select Monitoring Equipment and establish a Data Collection and Storage System

If you have followed through the previous two steps, by now you should have:

  • A list of assets to be monitored,
  • The models that describes the condition of those assets and,
  • A set of variables that need to be fed to the models to produce an assessment.

With this information in hand you're now ready to go shopping. The variety of vendors and functionality of the devices they sell can be overwhelming. Also, you should keep in mind that not everything would or should be monitored by a remote device, in some instances it might be justifiable, and even advisable, that the some of the monitoring functions are performed by people rather than machines. Having said this, we must acknowledge that the economic and safety benefits and thus the trend towards automation are evident.

Although it would be naïve for me to try review each possibility in this article, we can certainly review a number of pointers to keep in mind when sourcing the monitoring equipment:

  • Functionality. If you have followed the steps so far you are in a great position to objectively review and compare monitoring equipment options. You know what variables you'd like to extract from the equipment and you know exactly what functions the monitoring equipment should have to fulfil your needs. This would prevent you from "over-specifying" this equipment as well as to not get distracted by the myriad of options that you will be offered by the equipment vendors.
  • Obsolescence. In the context of monitoring equipment, obsolescence plays an important role in as much that the monitoring equipment has to be available for the life of the asset that is being monitored. In terms of obsolescence you should ask questions like: what technology is this monitoring equipment based on?, does the equipment manufacturer have any plans to release a new line of equipment within the life of the asset, and if so, is this equipment going to be "backwards" compatible?. The situation that you are trying to avoid in the future is for you to have to either pay dearly for spare parts that are considered obsolete or even worse, have to replace your monitoring system with a new one, having to incur in retrofitting costs with the added headaches of adapting the new signals or communications standards to your existing Distributed Control System (DCS). Ideally, once you make a choice of monitoring equipment, it should stay functional for the life of the asset that it's monitoring.
  • Training. Another factor to consider, although it might not be a deal-breaker, is to whether the vendor offers adequate training on the operation and maintenance of the equipment. Realising the value that you are supposed to get out of this equipment depends in some measure on the capacity of your personnel to properly operate it and maintain it.
  • Portability. Last but not least, there is the question of whether the equipment you choose is permanently fitted to the asset or there are portable versions that you can carry around to measure the variables you require from the asset to determine its condition. In terms of portability you would need to strike a balance between the cost of the monitoring equipment itself, the need for "real time" monitoring or just spot measurements and the cost of having personnel go around the plant taking measurements. In some instances, such as partial discharge (PD) measurement on large electric motors, it might pay to use a hybrid system, where probes are permanently fitted to the motor but the PD reading instrument is connected to the probes at regular intervals determined by Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) principles.

All in all, you should try to find a balance between the functional requirements you have for this equipment, the cost of implementing such as system and the reliability and safety benefits gained by its implementation.

4. Define and follow a consistent Condition Assessment and Health Ranking System

All the effort you have done so far would not amount to much if all the collected data is not transformed into actionable asset management tasks.

This is where you will put all that technical expertise within or outside your organisation to good use. It is at this point of the process that a solid and repeatable system to determine the condition of the asset has to be defined and decided.

You will find that different people, including external experts, will have their own catchy commercial name for this part of the system, but at the end it all means the same: transforming data into knowledge. What is really useful for this whole system to work as intended is not the temperature of the bearing, but the best possible estimation of the current condition or time-to-failure of that bearing. The temperature of the bearing is data, the condition or time-to-failure is knowledge.

Furthermore, it is not only important that you have a consistent knowledge generation structure but that it is also sustainable in the long-run, well beyond your retirement date, the ranking system has to keep operating as intended.

Independently of which particular algorithm you select to process the incoming data to transform it into knowledge, it is essential that your decisions and the inner workings of the ranking algorithms are well documented and integrated to your overall document control system. It should allow anyone that is part of the team making this system work, to understand how all that data that is being collected is being turned into actionable asset health and condition knowledge.

Ultimately, this will also allow your organisation to best digest and integrate new asset health ranking algorithms as they become available.

5. Integrate the Condition Monitoring System in your existing Maintenance Strategy

How many times have you heard the Condition Monitoring team say "we find the issues, but then Maintenance doesn't do anything with them and machines end up failing anyway". This thought is disheartening to everyone in your team as it conveys a sense of wasting efforts in something that doesn't produce tangible benefits to the organisation. In more common terms, people will feel that they're "spinning their wheels".

It wouldn't be worth having gone all this far to waste the potential benefits of the system you have implemented.

Each step that we've talked about has a role to play and value in its own right, but if I had to choose a step that was the most important one, it would be this one, where everything is put into practice.

The overall success of the system hinges around the capacity of your organisation to opportunely acquire asset information turn it into knowledge and act in consequence, preventing early failures and eventually extending the life of the asset. The outcomes of the condition monitoring system have to be an integral part of your maintenance planning and execution activities.

In Summary

It is my hope that the brief recommendations that I've shared in this article series have provided you with a better perspective on how to put together and execute a plan to implement an effective, efficient and sustainable Asset Health and Condition monitoring structure.

By no means was this series was intended to be an in-depth or academic analysis of an asset condition monitoring system but rather I tried to share some practical advice and a logical sequence of the steps that you might follow to implement such as system and hints on common pitfalls to avoid.

The observing readers amongst you might have noticed that the system described in these articles would fit nicely on the "Asset Knowledge Enablers" block of the overall PAS-55 (soon to be ISO-55000) framework, allowing all functions of the business to have a confident idea of the condition of the business' assets and their capacity to reliably perform their function.

An adequately designed and implemented Asset Condition Monitoring programme will enable your organisation to more accurately and opportunely allocate capital based on sound and reliable asset knowledge, delivering a much needed edge in the competitive world we live in.

Carlos Gamez

Formerly Assetivity, Principal Consultant

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