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This Is the Best in Class

A newly formed reliability team was created at a facility with the expressed intent to create, implement and oversee a centralized and standardized asset management strategy companywide. This new centralized team is comprised of reliability engineers, predictive maintenance (PdM) technicians and reliability team leads, and is headed by the facility’s engineering manager and supported by top management. One of the team’s directed initiatives is to look at the critical assets throughout the organization for the uniform application of condition-based technologies, starting with on-line vibration analysis.

The organization is comprised of different, heavily siloed, yet conjoined, operations. Each area has its own operators, technicians, engineers and managers. As a starting point, the reliability team performed an extensive walk-through of the individual areas, focusing on the critical assets and working with area technicians to develop a plan for applying an on-line vibration monitoring system. The plan considered elements such as cost, installation requirements, hardware selection, data flow, data custody, integration with existing control and IT structure, and a project justification that was applicable to the entire facility. The plan’s hardware selection included wireless sensors that allowed the centralized PdM technicians to remotely monitor critical assets within their existing vibration software. They would have full analysis capability (i.e., spectrum and waveform data, temperature readings, ultrasonic recordings, alarm and vibration band customizations for the particular asset, and on-demand readings), while also being able to send an overall vibration amplitude to the existing control network’s human-machine interface (HMI) and data historian for operator observation and alarm notifications.

With the plan constructed, a kickoff meeting was held with the various stakeholders from each of the areas with the intent to get buy-in, particularly from the individual area managers. The managers unanimously agreed with the premise of the plan, but referred to their area engineers for the particulars. While working with the managers was relatively easy, the individual area engineers were a different story. Two different area engineers weren’t interested in implementing the plan as they didn’t agree with the sensors being used. Both of these area engineers disliked everything wireless, with one stating that any wireless sensor would provide “inferior data” and there was nothing you could do to convince them otherwise. One of them developed and then proceeded to implement his own alternative vibration monitoring without notifying the reliability team, convincing the area manager that the sensor he had selected was the “best in class.” However, the only information these sensors provided was an overall vibration amplitude reading on the HMI. Because there was no interaction with the PdM technicians, there was no context of what the reading meant (e.g., when was the amplitude a problem?). Plus, these sensors used a different averaging window than what the PdM technicians used (Hanning vs. Flattop), so the readings from the PdM technicians’ data and what was being read off these sensors did not match.

The reliability team appealed to management about the deviation from the agreed upon plan and was told to proceed in those areas where agreement was reached, while also supporting those that didn’t agree. Some time passed and the centralized plan was implemented and determined to be a success. The PdM technicians now had live, on-demand vibration monitoring of critical assets sent straight to them and began validating the project’s justification in short order.

Meanwhile, the area that chose to install its own sensors experienced a critical gearbox failure, impacting the overall production of the entire facility. Top management demanded to know why this failure hadn’t been detected by the PdM technicians. They were informed that the area engineer’s vibration monitoring system could not provide this meaningful data to the PdM technicians and reminded management that this deviation was allowed. Based on this event, the reliability team’s plan is moving forward to all areas of the facility regardless of the area engineer’s preferences.

Brendon Russ

As the Lead in the Americas for Reliability and Asset Management, Brendon’s responsibilities include oversight of Reliability Engineers and work with leadership to demonstrate the value of Reliability and Asset Management. Over nearly 20 years, Brendon has developed and overseen programs such as preventive maintenance, root cause analysis, condition-based maintenance, reliability focus design, capital projects, CMMS implementations, SAMP development, cross industry baseline/gap assessments, and OT/IT convergence projects. Brendon has received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, a Master of Business Administration, a CRL-BB, and various certifications in various condition-based maintenance and non-destructive technologies.

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