KCF Technologies Blog

The Collision of Old Tech and New Tech in Vibration Monitoring

By Ben Lawrence
I was standing in the hallway when the door burst open and a guy in a blue maintenance suit stumbled out and nearly fell to his knees. He was covered in sweat, as if he’d just crossed the Sahara Desert.

“Are you OK?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” he replied.

Mr. Sweaty had just finished a job that’s both cutting edge and old school: route-based vibration monitoring. He’d taken what’s basically a fancy stethoscope and walked all around a high temperature manufacturing plant “listening” for unhealthy vibration readings on hundreds of machines.

The Three Blind Spots in your Factory -- Number 3: Unsafe Machines

By Jeremy Frank                                                                                       

This week we’re finishing up our conversation about the three blind spots in every factory and what vibration technicians can do to see them more clearly.

Last week, we discussed Hard-to-Reach Machines – machines that are difficult for workers to consistently monitor and are therefore overlooked or checked infrequently. The week prior, we discussed the Bad Actor – a poorly behaving, unpredictable machine that breaks on a moment’s notice.

Without better tools, it’s simply impossible to continuously monitor every Bad Actor or Hard-to-Reach Machine in your factory and prevent them from breaking down.

The third blind spot is Unsafe Machines.


Just because a machine is in a dangerous area doesn’t exclude it from requiring our attention. Let’s face it – whether a machine is in a perfectly safe area or in a hazardous one, whose tail is on the line if it goes down? You got it, Mr./Mrs. Maintenance Manager: YOURS.

However, venturing “behind the cage” to climb around dangerous machinery to take health readings – often while it’s running! – is not something that delights our EHS Department, and for good reason. One slip and your company’s safety record goes out the window.

Sometimes the safety threat isn’t so bad at first but can sneak up on you. For example, I once visited a chemical plant and came upon a guy who’d just finished his walk-around vibration readings in a high temperature room. He emerged from that room covered in sweat and on the verge of heat stroke. Not a good day.
                                                              
Bottom line: In today’s world it’s ridiculous to send yourself or your team on a wild goose chase to find “needle in a haystack” problems with rotating machinery. Not only is it a safety threat, but it’s less likely to catch failures than the 24/7 monitoring systems now available for a fraction of the cost.

What kinds of Unsafe Machines do you have in your factory? And what tools are you using to predict failures before they occur?


KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.

The Three Blind Spots in your Factory -- Number 2: Hard-to-Reach Machines

By Jeremy Frank

This week we’re continuing our conversation about the blind spots in every factory and what vibration technicians can do to see them more clearly.

Last week, we discussed the Bad Actor – a poorly behaving, unpredictable machine that breaks on a moment’s notice. Without better tools, it’s simply impossible to continuously monitor every Bad Actor in your factory and prevent them from breaking down.

The second of the three blind spots is Hard-to-Reach Machines. Think about the place where you work: what machines are difficult for a human to consistently monitor? For example, a machine behind a fenced-off area or one that’s atop a multi-story tower. These machines pose a huge risk for vibe techs because monitoring them is difficult and, as a result, are checked less frequently.


For example, in paper mills converting machines are placed behind gates and fences because they spin at a high speed and are dangerous to workers. That said, they still break down and therefore, monitoring their heath is still on a vibe tech’s to-do list.

Another example from the paper industry is pulp digester towers, which can reach over 100 feet in the air. Imagine climbing those stairs every month with a large vibration monitoring computer slung around one shoulder and your tool kit slung around the other. Now imagine clambering up those same stairs on a dark, windy, cold night when the machine has unexpectedly failed and you need to hurry up there to fix it. Are your palms sweaty just thinking about it? They should be! It’s those middle of the night, desperate “reactive” maintenance calls that are among the most dangerous situations we’ll ever face in the industrial world.
















The reality, folks, is that monitoring these dangerous machines or climbing those horrifying towers are NOT necessary, at least to the extent they were in years past. Wireless vibration monitoring minimizes your exposure to these hazardous conditions.

What kinds of Hard-To-Reach Machines do you have in your factory? And what tools are you using to predict failures before they occur?


KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.

The Three Blind Spots in your Factory -- Number 1: The Bad Actor


Vibration technicians have a difficult job. They’re asked to predict the future by catching problems in machinery before they break down. And the tools they use today can only do so much.

In fact, we identified three blind spots in every factory where vibe techs have the most trouble and until we give them better tools, machines will continue to break down when we’re not expecting them to.

The first of those blind spots, we call “The Bad Actor.” This is the machine that can break down at any time – sometimes it happens in less than a day’s notice. This is a huge problem for vibe techs because they can only check a machine so many times and the bad actor can fail in between those checks, causing you halt everything so you can fix the machine.

For example, paper mills are full of potential bad actors. The pumps in the mills are tasked with pushing vast amounts of pulp around and often clog – at which point the whole factory is shut down while a worker unclogs it. With constant monitoring, workers can keep the pump working but constant monitoring is nearly impossible. There are only so many hours in a day that a vibe tech can monitor one pump.


To remedy this, KCF recently worked with one mill to install wireless sensors that monitored vibration and temperature every 10 minutes. All the vibe tech had to do was check his computer to ensure everything was running smooth. And when a clog did begin to form, it was easy to catch because the sensors showed a dramatic increase in vibration. When that happened, the vibe tech informed factory management and the mass was cleared 36 hours before it had a chance to shut down the factory – ultimately saving more than $30,000 per hour in lost productivity.

What kinds of bad actors do you have in your factory? And what tools are you using to predict failures before they occur?


KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.

What is the Internet of Things and how is it being used in manufacturing?

By Jeremy Frank

The Internet of things (IoT) is the idea that one day everything we use on a daily basis will be connected with the internet. Examples we already see include running shoes that post your performance to a webiste and refrigerators that tell you when you need to buy more milk.

In the industrial world, IoT is giving your machines a voice by equipping them with sensors that beam real-time information to the internet – and your cell phone – with information on the machine’s health and performance. Imagine the benefits to uptime, safety and efficiency when your company is able to eliminate nearly all of the unplanned machine failures that erode profits and ruin your weekend!

The real challenge, though, is adjusting the human element of how we interact with these IoT-equipped talking machines.

Many companies find their maintenance and operations staff are quickly overwhelmed with loads of sensor data. Think back to the mid 1990’s when email just came out. How many emails a day were you receiving then vs. how many you receive now? In the same way, “alerts” and “alarms” from all this IoT equipment can grow to an avalanche of overwhelming details.

Yes, data is important, but only to the point that we humans can digest, understand and take appropriate action. To the rescue come the Big Data integration companies, right? IBM, GE, Emerson, SAP… All great companies but engaging them for data integration projects can cost you more than a fleet of German sports cars!

Many of our clients are forgoing the Big Data integration projects for now and instead carefully selecting just two or three IoT technologies for their most critical pieces of equipment. The result? A gentle introduction to IoT that doesn’t break the budget, doesn’t bombard you with tons of senseless data and actually helps you catch a few machine failures that would have otherwise ruined your weekend.

How is your company testing the IoT waters? What advice do you have for others on how to get started with this new wave of IoT innovation?

KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.


How to prepare your factory for the next wave of government regulations


Last week we wrote about the U.S. Department of Energy’s interest in improving the industrial world’s energy efficiency.

One of the regulations is likely to have a huge impact on your bottom line – requiring all pumps to operate at 75 percent efficiency when the average today is just 40 percent.

Seems unfair, doesn’t it? Well, not if you take a broad look at energy and where the majority of it is consumed.  Regardless of how one feels about climate change or government regulations, it’s hard to argue with the idea that using less energy to achieve the same results is a step in the right direction.

Fact:  Industry consumes about 2/3 of all energy. 
Fact: Pumps consume 25% of that pie.

I recently attended an energy conference and the keynote speaker, an executive from Siemens, put it best:  “Imagine if you were constantly driving your car with pedal to the metal, and the only way you could slow the car down was by simultaneously slamming on the brakes.  In the industrial world, that’s how a huge percentage of our pumps and motors still operate.  They’re constantly at full throttle [bad for energy efficiency], and it’s only by consuming additional energy that we can adjust the speed of the system.”

Yes, Variable Speed and Asset Management systems are making a difference but no factory has the budget or time to swap out EVERY old pump or motor with a newer, smarter one. 
So besides going completely off the grid what steps can you take today to prepare your factory for new efficiency regulations?

Get involved with the Hydraulic Institute – the best resource you’ve never heard of.  The Hydraulic Institute is the go-to authority on pumps. It develops comprehensive guidebooks and has taken a leading role in protecting the pump industry against unfair or inappropriate regulations.

Schedule a Pump System Audit with a living legend in the field. For more than 30 years WilliamLivoti has designed, tested and repaired seals, compressors and pumps. He is co-author of two books which are both worth picking up – “Pumps System Optimization Guide Lines” and “Power Plant Pump Application Guide Lines.” A visit from William will open your eyes to ways of getting your factory on the right track toward compliance.

What are other ways you are preparing your factory for ISO 50001? Share your thoughts with the community!

KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.

Is your factory prepared for the next wave of government regulations?



There’s one energy-efficiency issue that if solved would revolutionize the industry, or at least help close that hole in the ozone – inefficient pump systems. And guess what? The government is about to force you to get serious about it.

Pump systems are horribly inefficient. The pump itself may be 95 percent efficient and purr like a new Mercedes but the moment you connect it to a series of poorly designed pipes and valves, your efficiency gains go out the window. The average pump system efficiency is only 40 percent!

Yes, some pumps are getting more efficient but more than likely you have many old ones in your factory that would be too costly to swap out for new ones. The only way you’re going to make a real dent in your energy efficiency is by addressing your pump system as a whole.

Soon, government and industry regulations will have all of us interested in solving the problem. Of course this is a good thing for your factory in the long run. Improved energy performance can provide rapid benefits.

Still, the biggest concern for you and your facility may be that the U.S. Department of Energy is currently developing minimum efficiency standards for pumping systems, which it could set as high as 75 percent. 

Yikes!  You mean my facility is going to have to nearly DOUBLE its average pump system efficiency?  That’s a serious undertaking.

If Uncle Sam came knocking tomorrow with a mandate for your company to double your pump system efficiencies, how would you do it? We’ll share some ideas next week but we’d love to hear yours!

KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability

How to go from reacting to failures to predicting failures in your factory


Most factories in the U.S. are still way behind where they could be with predictive maintenance, and understandably so!

Predictive Maintenance technologies such as ultrasound, alignment tools and vibration monitoring have traditionally been expensive and complicated to learn. As a result, many factory workers are stuck with maintenance schedules similar to those used a generation ago. However, some factories have found ways to minimize up-front predictive maintenance investments and leapfrog a century of old habits.
How are these industry leaders, often on a tight budget, catapulting their factory into the 21st Century? Here are some of their best practices:

Think beyond hard hats, exit door locations, and cautioning people to not trip over the projector cables. To what extent do your safety meetings cover predictive maintenance? Show your colleagues some of the graphs from last week’s post. Remind them how dangerous it is to “respond” to emergencies. Celebrate the fires that never started as much as you celebrate the fires that your maintenance team had to rush out and extinguish.

Educate your boss on the difference between preventive and predictive maintenance. Preventive and predictive maintenance are terms that are often used interchangeably, yet they represent two very different approaches.

Preventive maintenance is work you do based on factors like the age of the machine and how long it’s been in use. It’s comparable to changing the oil in your truck every 5,000 miles. You do it because the manufacturer recommends it. However, replacing parts when there is no need can result in unnecessary maintenance and costs.

Here’s something that made us think twice about the value of preventive maintenance: A United Airlines study found that 89 percent of all failures are random. Meaning, you can have the best preventive maintenance practices in the world but that will only protect 11 percent of machine failures.


Predictive maintenance is determined by the condition of equipment rather than the time it’s been used. Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) is the heart of predictive maintenance. Imagine the fatal blows you’ll deliver to safety hazards, downtime and missed deliveries when your team can identify an issue, schedule the repair and complete the work weeks or months in advance of when an imminent failure occurs.

Shift 15 percent of your maintenance budget from reactive (such as stockpiling spare parts or paying loads of overtime for the Saturday repair at 3 a.m.) to predictive technologies. By doing so, you can reduce reactive maintenance by more than 50 percent. For example, leading oil & gas companies with whom our company works are routinely saving more than $30 each month for every $1 they invest in predictive maintenance.  You don’t have to make drastic shifts in your maintenance budget to see drastic improvements in safety and bottom line profits.

What are some tips you have for inspiring senior management to support the shift from reactive to predictive maintenance?

KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.

Why the way you’re running your factory is dangerous to your workers


By Jeremy Frank

American factories are in desperate need of correcting maintenance standards. The problem is we’re doing too much reactive work and not enough predictive work.

In the overwhelming majority of companies, more than 60 percent of injuries occur while doing reactive maintenance. Exxon-Mobil reported accidents are five times more likely when doing breakdown work than when doing planned and scheduled work. Additionally, DuPont reported the most likely person to be injured on the job is a maintenance technician, with less than two years of experience, doing reactive work.

So why do we still see men and women exposing themselves to dangerous situations and getting hurt on the job? We believe it’s a matter of shifting our focus from the past to the future, of learning to respond to failures before they happen. We’re reacting when we should be predicting.

Reactive work is dangerous for workers and directly related to the number of injuries in a factory. (via)

 Figure 3
Look at how injuries decrease when we shift to predictive maintenance. (via)

Figure 2

Not only will focusing on predictive maintenance prevent injuries and improve a factory’s safety level, it will save the factory money.  (via)
Figure 5

In short, the more forward-looking maintenance workers there are, the fewer injuries there will be. And the best way to rescue your workers from the stress, danger, and expense of “putting out fires” is to focus on predictive maintenance.

Next week we’ll talk about tips for changing this.

To what extend does reactive maintenance expose you to safety hazards? How might your job improve if your factory offered you more predictive maintenance tools?


KCF Technologies is an engineering company founded in 2000 and based in Central Pennsylvania. Its latest breakthrough is a wireless sensor system that notifies you when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. It’s called SmartDiagnostics. Organizations taking advantage of this new technology are seeing significant improvements in safety, uptime and profitability.

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