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Asset Condition Monitoring: Technician Certification

Asset Condition Monitoring: Technician Certification

Asset Condition Monitoring: Technician Certification

by Jack R. Nicholas, Jr.

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from the 94-page Asset Condition Monitoring Project Manager’s Guide published in January 2017. The guide is coauthored by Terrence O’Hanlon and Dave Reiber of Reliabilityweb.com and Jack Nicholas, an independent sole proprietor.1 The guide is sponsored by Des-Case (Precision Lubrication), Pruftechnik (Alignment), SDT (Ultrasound) and SKF (Motor Condition Monitoring), whose representatives appended insightful statements on the impact of their technologies on asset condition monitoring. The guide supplements comprehensive material in Jack Nicholas’ new book, Asset Condition Monitoring Management, published by Reliabilityweb.com in December 2016.2

Most commercial and industrial organizations do not have sufficient in-house resources to train and examine candidates for various levels of certification in asset condition monitoring (ACM) technologies. They depend on ACM training and certification organizations (ACMTCOs) to provide these services and document successful completion of requirements. As of mid-2017, there are no known requirements for formal certification established by North American regulatory agencies for predictive condition monitoring technologies, such as vibration and passive ultrasound analysis, infrared thermography, motor testing, lubricant and wear particle analysis, visual testing/inspection, or any other asset condition monitoring (ACM) technology. Because there are no known regulatory requirements for formal certification, many large companies, like General Motors, have established standards for certification and levels of acceptance from vendors. They have created standards for training personnel and the amount of time needed at each level before individuals can qualify to move on to the next. Also, when accepting rebuilt equipment, like motors and pumps, they require the vendor to reach a high-level of alignment and low vibration signatures before returning the equipment to them. There are some regulations for nondestructive testing training and certification for skills in radiography, magnetic particle testing, active ultrasonic examination, leak testing and some other technologies, especially in the nuclear industries and for inspectors of assets, such as pressure vessels, boilers and pipelines.

As of mid-2017, there are no known requirements for formal certification established by North American regulatory agencies for predictive condition monitoring technologies.

The amount of training and established levels of certification for ACM technicians are more a function of perceived need for various purposes by an organization’s management. For example, training and certification are supported as incentives for technicians to add to their skills, serve the organization more effectively and, where offered, be better compensated. By establishing personal goals for successful ACM training and certification achievements, organizations can provide a career path and a “what’s in it for me” element for their technicians that helps to retain them for as long as possible in those positions.

Training and certification are supported as incentives for technicians to add to their skills, serve the organization more effectively and, where offered, be better compensated.

In general, the time required for an ACM technician to achieve full competency depends on the timing of the training, the number of assets monitored, opportunities to practice the use of the technology and many other factors. It is not uncommon for ACM team members to become certified, or at least competent, in two or three technologies, in addition to being certified in visual testing/inspection. An ACM program where technicians cross-train in two or more predictive sciences usually offers more complete problem-solving skills. The times needed to become competent and/or certified in multiple technologies typically overlap. After achieving Level I and starting Level II, candidates may also start to achieve competency in a second technology. The length of time for ACM technicians to achieve real proficiency or competency depends on the scientific complexity of the principles of the technology, frequency of monitoring, when and where in the process the training takes place, availability of on-the-job mentors, such as ACM contractors already monitoring on-site assets, and prior education and aptitude of the technician for mastering related bodies of knowledge as demonstrated by passing practical and written examinations.

As a practical matter, the level to which ACM technicians should be certified depends on what is offered in the marketplace and the needs of the organization where they are employed. Examples of ACM certification goals for the most commonly applied technologies are shown in Table 1. Based on experience with many ACM initiatives and an informal survey of ACM hardware and software vendors and some ACM technicians at the 2016 Society for Maintenance & Reliability conference, the months required to achieve competency in a given ACM technology at Levels I and II are provided in the second column of Table 1.

Table 1 – Example of Certification Goals for ACM Team Technicians
Technology Certification Level & Months to Full Competency Requirements of ACM Training and Certification Organizations (ACMTCOs) Comments
Vibration
Analysis

Level I

9 to 12 months

Attend ACMTCO vibration analysis Level I training courses and pass written, oral and/or practical exams based on content. Document required hours of field experience before or after each course before mastering a relevant certification exam. Some ACMTCOs require completion of a 20+ item checklist of vibration analysis related learning task items prior to admission to the basic Level I training course. SNT-TC-1A specifies training and field experience hours needed for Levels I and II.
Vibration
Analysis

Level II

additional
9 months to 1 year

Attend ACMTCO vibration analysis Level II training course. Document required hours of field experience and pass written, oral and/or practical exams based on content.

ASNT Standard Topical Outlines for Qualification of Nondestructive Testing Personnel (ANSI/ASNT CP-105-2016) outlines course requirements for Levels I and II.

An alternative is to follow the Vibration Institute’s Categories 1 through 4 requirements which are based on ISO18436 Part 2 Vibration condition monitoring and diagnostics.

Infrared
Thermography

Level I

6 to 9 months

Attend ACMTCO Level I infrared thermography course and pass written, oral and/or practical exams based on content. Document required hours of field experience after course completion.1

SNT-TC-1A specifies training and field experience hours needed for Levels I and II certification.

ISO18436 Part 7 (ISO18436-7) provides qualification and assessment requirements for thermography.

Infrared
Thermography

Level II

additional
9 months to 1 year

Attend ACMTCO Level II infrared thermography course and pass written, oral and/or practical exams based on content. ASNT Standard Topical Outlines for Qualification of Nondestructive Testing Personnel (ANSI/ASNT CP-105-2016) outlines course requirements for Levels I and II.
Ultrasonic
Analysis

Level I

4 to 6 months

Attend ACMTCO Level I training course and pass written or oral and practical exams.

Document required hours of field experience after course completion.

Vendors of hardware and software suites and ACMTCOs offer courses, recommendations for field experience and hands-on practical exams and/or mentoring.
Ultrasonic
Analysis

Level II

additional
4 to 6 months

Attend ACMTCO Level II training course and pass written exam. Training courses based on ISO18436-8 (Ultrasound) meet the ISO Technical Committee 108 (ISO/TC 108) Subcommittee 5 consensus.
Motor Circuit Off-Line Testing

Level I

4 to 6 months

Attend ACMTCO de-energized motor circuit testing course and pass written exams on theory and equipment, and one-on-one practical exam on equipment. There are no recommended equivalent training and field experience requirements from professional organizations/societies. Vendors of hardware and software suites offer courses, recommendations for field experience and hands-on practical exams.
Motor Circuit On-Line Testing

Level I

4 to 6 months

Attend ACMTCO energized motor circuit testing course and pass written exams on theory and equipment, and one-on-one practical exam on equipment. There are no recommended equivalent training and field experience requirements from professional organizations/societies. Vendors of hardware and software suites and ACMTCOs offer courses, recommendations for field experience and hands-on practical exams.
Visual Testing/ Inspection Level I Complete ACMTCO visual inspection Level I training course and written and practical examinations. SNT-TC-1A specifies training and field experience hours needed for Levels I and II.
Visual Testing/ Inspection

Level II

additional
2 to 3 months

Complete Level II training course and written and practical examinations. ASNT Standard Topical Outlines for Qualification of Nondestructive Testing Personnel (ANSI/ASNT CP-105-2016) outlines course requirements for Levels I and II. Courses are typically taken back-to-back and competency achieved at Level II thereafter on the job.
Machinery Lubrication Technician and/or Analyst

Level I

9 to 12 months

Complete ACMTCO Level I machinery lubrication technician or machinery lubrication analyst training course and exam(s) of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication. Requires two years of education (post-secondary) or on-the-job training in one or more of the fields of machine lubrication, engineering, mechanical maintenance and/or maintenance trades.
Machinery Lubrication Technician and/or Analyst

Level II

additional
6 to 9 months

Complete ACMTCO Level II machinery lubrication technician or machinery lubrication analyst training course and exam(s) of the International Council for Machinery Lubrication. Requires three years of education (post-secondary) or on-the-job training in one or more of the fields of machine lubrication, engineering, mechanical maintenance and/or maintenance trades, which are based on Parts 4 and 5 of ISO18436.
1 Documentation of field experience requires a handwritten or digital log of dates, hours, plant and number of finds.
This also applies to on-the-job experience documentation for other technologies.

There are at least 20 more condition monitoring technologies that could be included in Table 1, but most of them have not had certification requirements addressed formally by standards organizations or commercial ACMTCOs.

With regard to the visual testing/inspection certification in Table 1, this certification should be pursued by practitioners of all other ACM technologies because of its universal application. At present, this is not common for most organizations. Those that have required this certification have found that the skills are also applicable to many other operations and maintenance personnel and returns the investment many times over its cost.

References

  1. The information on the General Motors approach to certification was provided by coauthor Dave Reiber, who retired from that organization in 2016. The coauthors are grateful for the insight provided by Ken Culverson, principal consultant at NK Precision LLC, on qualification and assessment criteria included in ISO18436 - Condition monitoring and diagnostics of machines -- Requirements for qualification and assessment of personnel.
  2. The Asset Condition Monitoring Project Manager’s Guide is available for free download at: https://reliabilityweb.com/acm-project-managers-guide. The book, Asset Condition Monitoring Management, is available for purchase from the MRO-Zone bookstore via: https://www.amazon.com/Asset-Condition-Monitoring-Management-Nicholas/dp/1941872522 or http://reliabilityweb.com/bookstore/book/asset-condition-monitoring-management.