While predictive maintenance practitioners may tout continuous improvement within the plant, it’s important to turn that philosophy back on the predictive process itself. What can maintenance professionals do to enhance their own PdM methods? New maintenance tools emerge on a regular basis – many are simply updates of older models, like the latest in ultrasound detection or grease analysis. However, one technology has the potential to change the way maintenance technicians go about their daily routine: remote monitoring.
What is remote monitoring?
As the name suggests, remote monitoring is a method by which plant technicians can continuously gather data on assets that run 24/7, even during shifts for which there is no maintenance team present. Rather than rely only on information assembled during set maintenance routes, remote monitoring offers the opportunity to analyze a far greater data set. That, in turn, means more chances to identify failure modes or irregular behavior and act accordingly.
Remote monitoring in practice
So, does that mean PdM technicians should feel comfortable to allow remote monitoring systems take full reign over their maintenance routes? Not so fast. Just as no reliability centered maintenance plan is complete without a variety of tools – ultrasound, infrared analysis, vibration analysis, time based lubrication, and so on – no single system can replace a good maintenance engineer’s expertise and human evaluation.
Instead, remote monitoring is best used as another tool in the utility belt – a way to make better, more informed decisions, and to execute plant maintenance strategies more efficiently. Think of it this way:
- Remote monitoring can’t replace root cause analysis or more thorough investigations of inconsistent asset behavior;
- Remote monitoring may be able to replace some of the routine measurements and cursory checks maintenance technicians cover on a regular basis.
Additionally, remote monitoring has the potential to have a significant impact on downtime. By dramatically increasing the amount of information available for a given asset, technicians will have a better grasp on the early warning signs for failure, the types of assets that may be more susceptible to premature breakdown and techniques that work the best to stave off those conditions.
The best tech for the job
The last item remaining here is: What systems are available for remote asset monitoring? One recent tool from UE Systems does more than simply record equipment behavior – it provides actionable insight on asset health.
The new system, 4Cast from UE Systems, does record bearing sound information on a continuous basis, but it also has the capability to send information to a designated data management software if the recording surpasses a specific threshold. This ability – to issue an alarm when bearings exhibit signs of early failure – means maintenance technicians won’t overlook early warning signs, nor discover faulty bearings once it’s too late.
With a designated tool to listen in on bearing activity at all times, plant maintenance teams gain more control over bearing health and plant uptime. Any plant in any industry should look into remote monitoring in general, and UE 4Cast for bearings is a great place to start.