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.


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