KCF Technologies Blog

Value Innovation Series: Walk-around PdM vs Low-Cost Wireless Continuous Condition Monitoring

Route-based vibration monitoring is used in plants to track the health of motors, pumps, fans and other equipment in the balance of plant.  A handheld system is used to acquired data, and the vibration technician walks to each monitoring point to take the data.  This is typically done on monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the characteristics of the machine.  Vibration routes are common because they can be inexpensive in capital cost since one acquisition system is used to gather data on hundreds of machines.  However, routes have three major shortcomings when looking to improve uptime and safety in plant operations:
  1. Dangerous: Routes require the analyst to gather data in and around operating equipment, creating dangerous situations
  2. Incomplete Information: No data is acquired in the time between visits
  3. Time Waste: Routes are labor intensive, and most of the labor is wasted visiting healthy machines.


Continuous wireless condition monitoring is an emerging technology that cuts through each of these three shortcomings.  It doesn’t eliminate the route, or the detailed analysis of a bad actor.  Rather, it makes the monitoring and analysis much more efficient and much safer.  

  1.  Safety Improvement: Wireless sensors are permanently (or, for some bad actors, semi-permanently) mounted on the machines when they are NOT running.  Our sensors are mounted inside enclosures for AHUs (Air Handling Units), on rooftops, and on high-speed rolling equipment, just to name a few, where it’s much safer to install sensors during a shutdown.

  2. More Information: Wireless condition monitoring is set up on a schedule, and our systems typically are set up to take data once per hour (for a low-risk machine) or as often as once per minute (high-risk).  This means that the wireless system takes between 2,000 and 100,000 more measurements compared to a quarterly walkaround!!!  Why does this matter?  Because machines don’t always behave badly when you want them to, or fail when you expect them to.  High vibration can be intermittent, and load dependent.  Continuous monitoring enables trending of the information over time, helping to identify load conditions or operating conditions that lead to high vibration.  Continuous monitoring also makes it possible to generate alarms in situations when the machine develops a process-related failure between monthly or quarterly check-ups.

  3. Efficiency: With a route, if only 10% of a set of machines are in need of maintenance, that means that route—based measurements are wasting 90% of the time of your (well-paid) vibration analysts!!!  They are walking to visit machines that are perfectly healthy.  With wireless condition monitoring, the healthy machines are clearly identified remotely, in software, enabling the PdM, reliability, and maintenance experts to focus their attention efficiently on the 10% of machines that actually need attention, and schedule the appropriate detailed investigation.

Of course, none of this was possible even five years ago.  With SmartDiagnostics®, KCF has built a system that is capable of continuous monitoring and trending of full-spectrum data, and delivering it with install times under 15 minutes and at a lower cost than route-based techniques.  Check us out to find out what a difference this can make to keep your operations and people safe and efficient!

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