KCF Technologies Blog

How to Easily Save Trillions of Dollars

SmartDiagnostics® vibration sensor on a cooling tower fan.
Can it really be easy to save money with continuous condition monitoring systems?  What's the secret?

Here's a more direct question:
"What would I do if I had access to continuous vibration data on all of my rotating equipment?"  If you are a normal person like my mother, my wife, and most of my friends, that's probably a question that you never have asked yourself, and never will.  (Note: My dad was doing vibration monitoring projects on Sikorsky helicopters back in the early 1970s, but that is a special case.)

Fortunately for KCF Technologies, the question of how to make use of loads of vibration data is one that is often asked by our customers and industrial partners.  Why?  Because there is great promise in installing small, low-cost, wireless sensors to monitor equipment and save lots of money in industrial processes.The promise for savings is huge, estimated by the Department of Energy (DoE) at $2.5 Trillion per year in U.S. industry (which incidentally would solve most of the country's financial problems and guarantee American competitive advantage).

So what's the problem?  The problem most commonly described is that it's hard to make useful, actionable information out of reams of vibration data.  That has been the case until recently, because vibration monitoring has required sensors, sophisticated acquisition systems, and a well-trained vibration technician or engineer.  Each pump, compressor, turbine, air handling unit, chiller, fan, etc. has its own mechanical behavior and vibration characteristics and requires detailed expertise to fully understand the complexities that would impact up-time and reliability.  This has generally relegated vibration monitoring to only the critical assets of a plant where the expertise and monitoring equipment can be justified.  However, many pieces of important equipment (most, actually, in the balance of plant) are skipped.

So what's the secret to make sense of the data on all the other rotating equipment?

The secret is to start simple, break down the problem with some assumptions, and incorporate a wealth of readily available knowledge into easy-to-use, or automatic, software.  This is the core assumption used in SmartDiagnostics®:
  • Rotating equipment vibrates at an overall level, and at certain frequencies, and the vibration increases before it fails or needs to be shut down for maintenance/repair.
From that, the problem can easily be solved:
  1. The frequencies can be easily calculated for some of the most basic types of equipment and failure modes, and built into downloadable templates.
  2. The vibration levels can be set based on standard ISO Vibration Severity recommendations
  3. Both the frequency bands and vibration levels can be adjusted to a specific machine based on a baseline (if the software is easy to use).
Starting in 2004 with a DoE project to tackle low-cost, ubiquitous, wireless sensors, KCF has been working to to solve this problem, and we've got at least a big part of it solved.  It's inexpensive and easy enough to achieve a positive return on investment in under a year.  Check back for examples and case studies of how our customers are doing this today.

For more information on how our customers are doing this, check out the templates for monitoring templates on KCF's SmartDiagnostics® costumer resource page.

Post by Dr. Jeremy Frank, President of KCF Technologies, Inc.

Photo by Christopher Shannon/KCF Technologies.  All rights reserved. 

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