KCF Technologies Blog

Pointing the Way for Practical Vibration Monitoring at Paper Mills Today and Tomorrow

President of J.M. Robichaud Professional Services in New Brunswick, Canada, Mike Robichaud is a Strategic Adviser to Acuren, where he has been General Manager of Reliability Engineering since 2010.  Previously he was founder, president, and principal engineer of Bretech Engineering Ltd. for more than 21 years, certified as both a vibration analysis and as a maintenance and reliability professional.

It was during this long period of professional development that he wrote "Practical On-Line Vibration Monitoring for Papermachines"--a 12-page paper accompanied by an 82-slide PowerPoint presentation.  It was first presented at PaperCon 2009, organized by TAPPI, a non-profit, international organization of 14,000 member engineers, scientists, managers, academics, and others involved in pulp and paper, founded back in 1915 as the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry.

"Vibration analysis is one of the most powerful condition-based maintenance technologies," Robichaud begins, "the cornerstone of many predictive maintenance programs.  It is also widely utilized for troubleshooting and fault diagnosis for machinery and structures.  In recent years, much emphasis has been given to on-line or permanently installed vibration monitoring for machinery that is inaccessible, critical to process, and/or very expensive.  This article will provide a practical overview of system components, installation considerations, and benefits of on-line monitoring."

After briefly reviewing the increasing recent use of both hardwired monitors for condition-based maintenance in the pulp and paper industry, Robichaud opines on what lies ahead: "The next logical progression is a paradigm shift from focus on maintenance practices to focus on asset management....Clearly, augmenting the process information with relevant equipment condition data, in an easily understood format, can lead to substantial improvements in productivity and profitability."

He then turns to "several obvious system features, which determine the overall success of the system."  He gives examples of user interfaces in which "data...[are] presented in an easily understood format," using a simple "equipment schematic...with 'traffic light' alarm indicators."  These should be supplemented with displays of "discrete frequency alarm bands" and "trends of vibration amplitude" to give maintenance specialists "an indication of fault condition and progression."

A catastrophic paper machine failure.
Other "advanced diagnostic features" that are championed by Robichaud include Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) and time waveform plots, enabling informed, prognostic maintenance decisions in a timely manner.  The worst-case alternativeto informed decision-making can be the sort of "catastrophic failure" seen nearby, which took place in the gear drives of a dryer section at an old newsprint facility in central New Foundland that has since been shuttered--one of several pulp and paper facilities with machinery that was examined in depth in this report.

"The shift towards asset management strategies creates a requirement for a 'central repository'...of all relevant data," says Robichaud.  "Open systems are widely seen as the most significant challenge/opportunity facing industry--and are critical to the wide acceptance and success of on-line vibration monitoring systems."

The author then reviews the technical requirements of "highly configurable on-line vibration monitoring systems" which have "the best opportunity for plant-wide acceptance....Another important property is configurable data acquisition based on time, process condition, and alarm condition.  Signal processing, including band alarms and advanced diagnostics, may be programmed using configurable analysis 'blocks.'"

Robichaud sums up before proceeding to detailed examples of how vibration monitoring worked at two Canadian mills: "The success of any on-line vibration monitoring system depends entirely on the engineering.  Engineering includes all aspects of selection, installation, and configuration of hardware and software....As monitoring systems become more flexible, open, and configurable, the importance of engineering increases."

WWTP Return on Investment: 'Is What We Are Doing Giving the Best Return?'

A blower at a wastewater treatment plant.
For the past eight years, Saul Cisek has been Lead Maintenance Planner for Virginia's Upper Occoquan Service Authority (UOSA).  As wikipedia notes and presents in a table, "UOSA operates under the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) Permit...issued by the department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)," the limitations of which, "are among the most stringent in the State of Virginia and possibly the United States."

With successful adherence to these high standards as his professional bona fides, Cisek presented "Predictive Maintenance ROI for Waste Water Treatment Facilities" in July 2011 on ReliabilityWeb.com, an outstandingly useful, "specialty publishing company focused on information delivery of articles, videos, audio podcasts, case studies, iPresentation tutorials, web workshops, benchmark data, tips, and how-to information for maintenance and reliability professionals."

"Predictive Maintenance (PdM)," Cisek states, "adds great value and helps to navigate in an inconsistent, illogical, and disorganized world.  PdM after all is simply using scientific tools to help determine asset condition.  The top tool for most machines is vibration analysis, [but] adding other technologies (ultra-sound, oil analysis, thermal, and electrical analysis) can enhance the results."

Cisek notes that consistent record-keeping is crucial in enabling managers to accurately measure return on investment (ROI).  "having data for costs for acquisition, power consumption and upkeep will aid finance departments in valuation and improve making decisions of when to replace versus when to repair."

The key to maintaining infrastructure and successful PdM is not technology so much as the people using it.  "Develop stakeholders, not just technicians." Cisek advises.  "Train them and allow them to create their own work plans.  If they identify imminent equipment failure, plan, schedule, and execute the fix.  This will help them feel empowered and want to dig deeper for more savings."  And, their knowledge and experience make PdM such a powerful maintenance strategy.

"The PdM technician/engineer is essentially an asset actuary.  For them failure modes are second nature.  They know the common failure modes of their equipment....They know the crash points.  They understand when to launch corrective actions."

Using a blower failure as a practical example , Cisek reviews procedures for assessing gains and losses, noting, "The math for this process is basic, but the substantial knowledge of the enterprise is complex."

He concludes, "The foregoing principles are largely self-evident.  The goal of this piece is to put them into a memorable form for action."  And, he reminds maintenance managers that not everything has a value measured in dollars: "The quest of ROI is not simply saving money.  Additional benefits include improved safety and reliability."

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

What is Your Facility's "IAQ"?

Inside an AHU.
Laura Rygielski Preston is vice president of the Global Healthcare Practice for Ingersoll Rand, including Trane, now celebrating its first century of helping improve lives around the world through innovative heating and air conditioning systems, services, and solutions.

In the May 2006 issue of Health and Facilities Management, she authored, "Clean Air Acts," her take on, "Designing, installing, and maintaining HVAC systems with air quality in mind."  As Preston notes, "a hospital's indoor air quality (IAQ) is a significant consideration when trying to ensure a healthy, safe, and comfortable environment.  Good IAQ is particularly important in sensitive areas of hospitals, such as intensive care units and surgical suits, because of the growing challenge of protecting patients against hospital-acquired infections."

Humidity and temperature are key concerns when assessing IAQ.  Meticulous planning and communication, "must occur during the design and installation stages of hospital HVAC systems as well as in the preparation of a maintenance regimen that will be used after the HVAC installation is finally completed."

After rigorous design and construction practices create a health care facility--or any other large public buildings, such as offices, schools, or libraries--"a predictive maintenance program can help facilities managers mitigate moisture problems, enhance IAQ, and avoid facility disruptions....Proper maintenance can also reduce operating costs by incorporating energy-efficient technologies.  In fact, the Department of Energy's Building Technologies Program suggests that a maintenance program can reduce energy costs by five to 20 percent in existing health care facilities without significant capital investment."

"With predictive maintenance programs, facilities managers and maintenance personnel can optimize HVAC system performance and maximize the facility life cycle."Crucial to making this work for all parties, as Preston enumerates, are design, budgeting, education, communication, and smart staffing.

For best success, architects, engineers, contractors, HVAC solutions providers, facility administrators, and infection control or risk management professionals must commit to not only the equipment and design that create a healthy hospital, but also to the maintenance regimen that will assure its continuation.  "When such collaboration is successfully employed," Preston concludes, "the end result will be an integrated, reliable and efficient HVAC solution that provides optimized facility investments, increased comfort levels for staff and patients, and improved patient outcomes.

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

Predictive Maintenance Tip: For Predictive Maintenance to Succeed Practitioners Must Know what Fails

Alan Friedman is Senior Technical Advisor for Azima DLI, a worldwide company self-described as "the leader and premier provider of predictive maintenance analytical services and products that align with customers' high standards for reliability, availability, and uptime."  Friedman recently began what he envisions as a series of articles presented by reliabilityweb.com on the subject "Why do Predictive Maintenance Programs Fail?"

"In the coming months," Friedman begins, "I will be writing a number of articles addressing the subject of why PdM programs succeed or fail from managerial, technical, and financial perspectives.  The purpose of the series is to identify failed strategies and show how they can be avoided."

Acknowledging the constraints we all face in a tough US economy, the author challenges us "to think about how we conduct maintenance and determine how to do it more efficiently and intelligently in the future...."  It's well worthwhile to read Friedman's essay in full, but an overview of his answers offer some insights as well.  Reasons for failure are many, and include:

Lack of Vision: In Friedman's view, PdM "should change the culture, philosophy, and work flow of the maintenance department.  It is not just the addition of a new technology or tool, but a different approach of strategy towards maintaining one's assets...."  Using new tools without buying into the underlying strategy and remembering to "benchmark the gains"--a key task in PdM--all too often leads to failure.

Using a Tool Without Understanding Why: Understanding how to use technology, such as a vibration data collector, without recognizing its predictive power and purpose is a serious impediment to developing PdM as a practical maintenance strategy.  As the author puts it, "the use of the technology as an end in itself without an overall vision of why the technology is being employed" does little or nothing to unlock the potential of PdM.

Failure to Justify the Program: could also be called "failure to do the paperwork."  Even if maintenance successfully adopts the PdM culture and workflow, regularly documenting its success (in savings, uptime, and longer minimum time between failures) is absolutely crucial to obtaining ongoing support from management.  "In other cases," Friedman recalls, "the person managing the PdM program left and no one picked up the ball."

Lack of Consistency: "There are many causes for this,ranging from a failure to commit adequate personnel, lack of proper training, loss of skilled personnel, change in program direction/technology, failure to adequately define the program at the start, and, finally, the lack of a consistent model to monitor the efficacy of the program over time."  What they all have in common is that they undermine sustained commitment to the PdM idea, making success of this highly rewarding maintenance strategy unlikely.

Failures in Training and Partnering: Indifferent training--not Friedman's comitted "combination of complimentary technology and managerial expertise," but merely the usual rote tool-and-manual employee hand-outs--also can fail to instill the strategic focus and entrepreneurial attitude without which PdM cannot succeed.  Even the finest technical instruction is not adequate: "It is important to take these courses, pass the exams, and become certified, but this training alone will not necessarily translate to running a successful PdM program."  Knowing how to gather, sort, and assess the data is all for naught unless trained maintenance professionals also know what to do with it.

Lack of Procedures & Methodology: "...A successful monitoring program...depends on consistency and repeatable performance."  As Friedman observes, "...one needs to test the assets in a repeatable fashion, month after month and year after year for many years.  When this is understood, one will see that a successful program depends much more on consistency and program management...then it does on technical prowess."

Lack of Experience & Commitment: When one doesn't have experience, it's hard to have commitment, and both of these can be hard to come by in a world where everybody has heard of PdM, but few have extensively used it.  "Even if one has the best intentions and the highest level of commitment," cautions Friedman, "it may take a long time to train an employee or group of employees to the point where they can implement a good maintenance program....Like many things in today's world, PdM is becoming a highly specialized area of expertise where...it takes a great deal of dedication and time, which unfortunately, may not be compatible with the other 100 duties you are expected to care of as part of your other work."

Make now mistake; there are authentic hurdles to overcome if predictive maintenance is to succeed.  However, as Friedman himself concludes, "...understanding why things fail is the key to understanding how to get them to work!"

Photo illustration by Pablo X [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, and Christopher Shannon/KCF Technologies.

SmartDiagnostics® Feature Highlight: Setting a Baseline

Page 34 of the Smart Diagnostics® Vibration Monitoring system User's Guide includes a brief tip about setting a baseline (5.3.1: Setting Baseline Vibration Spectrum for a Monitoring Point).  This quick click of the button saves a waveform as a baseline, enabling a plant manager to compare data taken from when a machine was known to be "working perfectly" to data showing how it is currently working.  This makes for a quick and easy comparison and will help both with spot checks to confirm consistent operation and with early diagnosis of any potential issues that may develop.

When a sensor node is placed on a properly working machine, it is necessary to take a baseline value.  This baseline will give you a starting point and will help you identify any mechanical issues in the future.
  • After successfully installing a sensor node at a monitoring location, allow data collection to begin.
  • Select an observation that you believe is representative of stable operation.
  • Click the "Save as Baseline" button on the right side of the Vibration Data Chart.
  • Click "Yes" in the confirmation pop-up dialogue box to save the baseline.
 The baseline is now set and is shown by the light grey line in the Vibration Data Chart.  You can prevent the displaying of the baseline spectrum data by clicking the "Hide Baseline" buttom on the right side of the Vibration Data Chart.

Vibration Monitoring is a Key Tool in Condition-Based Maintenance for Hydroelectric Generators

Generators at a hydroelectric plant.
Published in December 2011 by the Hydro-Power Advancement Project (HAP), Best Practice Catalog - Machine Condition Monitoring is an 18-page study prepared by the Chattanooga-based engineering and consulting company Mesa Associates, Inc., and Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, representing the U.S. Department of Energy.

The work opens with a brief synopsis of the needs of U.S. hydroelectric installations and potential advantages of vibration monitoring for predictive maintenance:
"Condition monitoring of hydroelectric power generating units is essential to protect against sudden failure.  Fault development can occur very quickly.  Many hydro units are located in remote areas making regular inspection difficult.  It is required to have a monitoring system that continuously checks machine condition, remotely indicates the onset of a fault, and provides the possibility of preventive automatic shutdown."
"Hydroelectric turbine-generators are subject to forces and operating conditions unique to their operation and configuration.  They typically operate at low rotational speeds.  Their physical mass and slow rotational speeds give rise to large vibration amplitudes and low vibration frequencies.  This requires a monitoring system with special low frequency response capabilities."
In the study it was noted that "Vibration analysis was typically performed by a mechanic or the operator by observing a dial indicator.  This is still the only method in older facilities.  Recent developments in vibration sensor, data acquisition, and analysis technologies, however, are making vibration analysis cheaper, easier, and more widely available."

One special innovation of interest is the use of "Models [to] create virtual sensors where physical sensors are not able to be installed.  An example is where real data from physical sensors mounted on the bearings at the shaft ends, is used to create a virtual sensor for mid-span vibration."

Monitor placement, measurement, and output are discussed for hydro turbines and generators, and the importance of integrating their output with the rest of the facility's instruments and controls for ease of reference and integrated use.

The study concludes, "The best way to gain the benefits of a monitoring system is to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by various modernization, refurbishment, and new projects to introduce the system and to adapt maintenance practices accordingly.  The monitoring system is a major input to a condition-based maintenance program and is a key contributor to capitalizing on high market prices."

"The cost of the monitoring system is low compared with the cost of a new power plant.  A new plant should automatically be equipped with a monitoring system to minimize maintenance outage periods and to help the unit owner stay well-informed of the condition of the equipment."

Photo by Wikisanchez (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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