The roles and responsibilities of today’s equipment-health-focused professionals go beyond collecting and analyzing data.
MT asked a condition-monitoring expert to tell us what the job descriptions don’t.

Many colleges and universities require their students to take a basic psychology course. Most students wonder why. But according to Trent Phillips of LUDECA,  Inc.,  a condition-monitoring (CM) analyst would be very likely to know why.

As the study of mental processes and behavior, psychology teaches the use of behavior and scientific methods to investigate questions and arrive at appropriate conclusions. Such tactics, says Phillips, are critical to anyone who aspires to be a successful analyst—including those in the field of equipment condition monitoring.

Read the entire article/interview “Are You A Psychologist, A Condition-Monitoring Analyst, Or Both?”

by Trent Phillips

Tips for visually identifying loose components on a machine:

  • Make sure that the machine has reached normal operating temperature,  because loose components may not appear until this temperature has been reached.
  • Squirt water or soapy water on components. This may create small bubbles and allow identification of the loose component.
  • Use a strobe light
  • Utilize technologies such as vibration analysis and phase analysis.

by Trent Phillips

Education and responsibility go hand in hand. Leaders of reliability programs should expect their employees to return from a training course with a better idea of how Condition Monitoring can effectively increase equipment reliability and be willing to provide the support to take full advantage of the education gained.
Indeed,  there is a narrow window of opportunity to maximize this enthusiasm. Even the most passionate reliability professional eventually will fall captive to the stagnant grind of doing the same tasks over and over, especially when he or she has realized that the status quo is not changing.

Leaders must continuously provide their team with the necessary tools and support to improve their program, while those who are performing the tasks must use what they have learned to effectively increase equipment reliability.

Is the window of enthusiasm closing on your Condition Monitoring program? Have you maximized your staff’s education and opportunities? Reliability Excellence can be achieved when your team collectively contributes and applies the knowledge that has been obtained.

Learn about The Reliability Leader Certification

by Pete Oviedo Jr

A US manufacturer of chemical products and food supplements has recently experienced an increase in demand for the products they manufacture. To maintain and supply that increased demand,  they have increased their reliability efforts. They have done so by re-evaluating their current vibration analysis program and the negative impact recently experienced with unplanned downtime.

After careful analysis of the risk factors preventing their overall business goals from being achieved, the company reached out to LUDECA for a viable solution to their current problems. We installed a VIBCONNECT® RF wireless condition monitoring solution. The installation was quite challenging because the units to be monitored were located three stories high and the control center is about 600 feet in length with hurricane-proof walls. The VIBCONNECT wireless system not only monitored overall data, spectral and waveform data continuously every 30 minutes, but also enabled the facility to identify two bearing failures on an important motor-blower set.
Vibconnect RF install
Is your company faced with the same challenges?  Is your vibration program catching the failures on all your equipment?  Are processes being stopped and demand not being met?  A proper condition monitoring and reliability-centered effort will always provide a positive return on investment.

by Alex Nino CRL

Planning to succeed

Most facilities have a planning and scheduling process for maintenance work activities. The goal of the planning process should be to determine and prepare the parts,  tools, permits, steps, etc. that are required to perform the maintenance activities at the scheduled times. The planning process could fail if the total number of equipment issues overwhelms the planning system. The planning process should include proactive activities to identify failure conditions on equipment. Tasks such as Condition Monitoring activities should be one of the driving influences for planning and scheduling activities. A substantial focus should be given to activities that prevent or identify equipment defects.

by Trent Phillips

Here are some more reasons to consider an online vibration monitoring system.

  1. High Accuracy: Primarily in machining processes,  or for highly precise machinery that has no tolerance for deviation,  online systems can provide advance early warning of developing problems and other critical information as to operating conditions, correlate conditions that can lead to problems in production quality and provide the clues required to avoid recurrence of future problems.
  2. Quality Control: Cost has historically been a limiting factor in this area. Most QC relies on a trained eye, or post production inspection and measurement. An online system may provide real-time QC information as product is being made, as problems are being caught, or before a batch or a production run has to scrapped, re-worked or treated as “seconds”.
  3. Repeatability: With data collected from an online system, one always gets consistent data from the same sensor mounted at the same angle, with the same pressure, time after time. The only real change from one reading to the other, once adjusted for changes in operating parameters, is the condition of the machinery itself. An online system will capture very small deviations long before  they turn into problems. This is especially valuable on very sensitive equipment.
  4. Always on: An online condition monitoring system delivers data with never a break and is always available. A complete set of data is obtained instead of mere chunks of data sporadically collected by hand.
  5. Protection: Online systems can be configured to enable an output relay upon alert and/or absolute fault. This is something that is best done after some time has been spent looking at the historical data and trends. Establishing “alert” and “alarm” levels can protect the equipment being monitored. You can also use an output relay to a flashing light or audible alarm.
  6. Intermittent Duty: Much time is wasted waiting for a machine to reach a steady state or run at a certain speed or run at all when collecting route-based vibration data. An online system will run the route unattended, and can be set to collect data only when certain parameters are met such as a certain speed or temperature, or at particular times.
  7. Remote Diagnostics: Online systems permit remote or off-site analysis of data, reducing dependence on local expertise. It is therefore easier to trend, correlate and diagnose.
  8. True Machinery Condition: Vibration is conditional and subject to many variables such as speed, load, temperature, pressure, power supply, valve condition etc. An online system can record and store these additional inputs and can trend and cross reference this data.

Thanks to Jay Gensheimer with Solute LLC for this valuable post.

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL

There are many reasons to consider an online vibration monitoring system.

  1. Criticality: This is the most common reason why online monitoring systems are installed. Air compressors,  main mill drives,  chillers, or any potential production bottlenecks are the primary candidates.
  2. Safety: Rotating equipment can be dangerous to be around. Excessive noise, heat, or moving product can be a treacherous environment in which to work. Often guards, interlocks, safety devices, and other safety-related obstructions prevent us from getting good data. This is especially true in containment areas, hazardous locations, and in confined spaces.
  3. Accessibility: Just because the machine is visible does not mean that it is accessible. The area may be restricted, moving equipment may block access to it, or the critical asset itself may move (such as a locomotive or mining equipment that is not readily accessible). Complicating considerations are commonly related to cost, logistics or manpower.
  4. Remote Locations: Distant pumping stations, offshore platforms, or shipboard machinery at sea may make onsite data collection and analysis very difficult and expensive to justify. An online monitoring system can be the ideal solution for these situations.
  5. Time & Cost: Often an asset runs intermittently or is only used in certain cycles. Sometimes the cost of assigning a person to collect the data and the time it takes to travel to and from an asset is greater than the value of the data it offsets. If this cost and time, including waiting time for the machine to run a cycle, exceeds the perceived value of the manually collected data, an online system might be considered.
  6. New Equipment: An online system may be useful for new rotating assets, especially if they embody a new design for which little or no historical data exists, involve high criticality, or just need to be monitored to ensure they function correctly through the new equipment break-in period or warranty period.
  7. Older Equipment: If an asset needs to be nursed through late life cycle stages and monitored for continued proper operation even though it is entering the wear-out zone of its components, an online system will give the information needed to make those judgment calls or to buy enough time to get through a production run.
  8. Unique Machinery: For machines that are one-of-a-kind, unusual, or might contain a great deal of foreign content whose replacement parts have a longer delivery lead time, an online system will give the advance warning one needs to avoid service disruptions.

Thanks to Jay Gensheimer with Solute LLC for this valuable post.

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL

You’ve got it,  so why not use it? What am I talking about? Besides your VibXpert® vibration analyzer, you probably have other tools that can be utilized to deliver additional reliability information to your management and facility.

1. Visual inspections can be logged into your vibration routes to help your facility keep on top of a number of things,  like:
a. Transformer cleanliness
You can log the transformer as:

  • Clean
  • Slightly Contaminated
  • Dirty–Needs Attention
  • Very contaminated – (reduced cooling capacity!)

b. Motor cooling fin cleanliness (same as [a])

c. Plant area cleanliness

  • Clean
  • Slightly Contaminated
  • Dirty–needs attention
  • Very contaminated – possible safety hazard

d. Plant area fire equipment condition

  • Fire Equipment Ready!
  • Hose missing!
    1. Valve wrench missing!
    2. Nozzle missing!
  • Extinguisher missing!

e. Record pressure, amperage, megawatts, etc. from gauges.
The list of uses for visual inspections goes on and on. Each inspection can be trended and reported. Many facilities struggle to keep up with some very important equipment or conditions around the plant, because it may not be easily worked into daily routines. If you are already in a routine of collecting vibration data, then you should take advantage of visual inspections. Add all the value you can to your tours through the plant! Find out what the Maintenance Manager or Production Manager might be very interested in knowing on a regular basis and add it to an existing route!

2. Do you have a strobe light? You can use it along with the “Visual Inspection” process spoken of above, and do visual inspections on critical machine couplings even while the machine is in operation. Take great care to remain safe, while getting valuable visual inspection data.

3. Do you have an infrared thermometer gun? If so, you can connect it to your VibXpert to record critical temperatures during a route and trend them. These are just a few suggestions of additional value you may be able to add to your maintenance and reliability efforts from other tools already in your kit and through visual inspections and data-logging activities.

by Mike Fitch CRL

Maintenance departments are often expected to collect data on critical equipment in a consistent manner in order to monitor the efficiency and maximize the life of such equipment. Doing this manually can pose safety or health hazards to those responsible for collecting the data. The solution is to install permanently mounted sensors with wiring directed to a termination/switch box.

There are several ways to permanently mount the sensor to the machinery,  but the most common are:

  • Adhesive: This consists of using a strong epoxy-like adhesive that will allow for a sturdy mounting. It is very critical that the two surfaces be thoroughly cleaned with a steel wire brush to remove any paint and/or corrosion that can compromise the integrity of the bond between the sensor and the machine.
  • Drilling and tapping: This consists of drilling a hole into the casing of the machine and then tapping the hole to the thread of the stud included with the sensor. This last method is the preferred method as it will guarantee a completely solid bond between the sensor and the machine

Switch Box Vibration Data Collection
For whichever of the above methods is chosen, cabling will have to be routed. It is important to route the cable through the conduit so that it is protected from harsh temperatures or exposure that can potentially cause damage. When possible, utilizing a cable trough will help keep the cabling organized and away from any of the rotating components of the machine. Labeling the cables will guarantee that the final wiring in the termination/switch box becomes a smooth process. Once the routing of the cable is completed, thanks to the labeling of the cables, the wiring to the termination/switch box becomes very simple.  Once the permanently mounted sensors are installed, the analyst in charge of the Condition Monitoring program can safely collect data with the help of a capable data collector such as the VibXpert® II. This will help the plant maintain a world-class reliability and maintenance program while ensuring the safety of its employees.

by Mario Rostran CRL

It is surprising that most users of Condition Monitoring (CM) technologies do not keep their software and/or device firmware updated. Many reasons such as having to pay for updates and support may explain why this happens.

Some of the disadvantages of not keeping your software and firmware updated are:

  1. You will not receive critical bug fixes. This means living with an annoying problem that may be resolved by simply updating.
  2. You will not receive feature enhancements. Maybe some of the new features you have requested or new functionality that will allow improvements in job performance is easily available by updating.
  3. Most vendors do not keep older versions of their software and firmware operational for support. This makes customer support much more difficult for all involved.

Some companies,  like LUDECA, do not charge for support or update agreements on the products they provide.

Therefore, it makes even more sense to keep your CM hardware and software updated. Make sure that you keep your contact information updated with your vendor as well. They will wish to notify you when updates are available and can’t if no primary contact information or outdated information is provided.

Latest firmware and software for your LUDECA products.

by Trent Phillips

Some of the best engineers start out as technicians,  operators, and mechanics. The reasons should be obvious but are not always understood.  These individuals know how to install, operate and maintain equipment. A good manager, engineer, or Condition Monitoring (CM) Analyst should always seek the advice of equipment operators and maintenance employees. The value obtained from a simple conversation can be enormous. They can help with critical things that may otherwise have gone overlooked. This can help improve the design, installation, operation, or maintenance of equipment.  The information they are capable of providing but isn’t being exploited may explain why routine reliability problems continue to occur. Never overlook the wealth of information that may be sitting next to you at lunch or working next to you each day!

Watch our Reliability Matters videos

by Trent Phillips

  1. It is impossible to implement good planning and scheduling methods
  2. Equipment failure is usually random and the root causes are very difficult to determine
  3. Higher level of equipment damage is experienced
  4. Higher equipment repair cost is experienced
  5. Higher spare parts inventory is required
  6. Greater maintenance staffing is required
  7. Higher overtime labor cost is experienced
  8. Higher machine downtime is experienced
  9. Higher risk to product quality
  10. Higher risk to human safety
  11. Higher environmental risk
  12. Lower production availability is experienced resulting in reduced capacity
  13. Lower profit is experienced
  14. Competitive advantages are lost

by Trent Phillips

UPTIME • December 2013/January 2014

AES Southland provides power to Southern California from a multitude of power resources. In 1998,  AES Southland acquired the Alamitos natural gas power plant from Southern California Edison. Since that time,  AES has undertaken a number of programs to modernize the generating station and improve the reliability of the Alamitos facility.

In 2010, AES Alamitos’ Units 3 & 4 boiler circulating pumps and Units 5 & 6 exciters were identified as having reliability issues. These machines were never equipped with vibration probes and only the metal temperatures of the exciter pedestal bearing and common lube oil drains were monitored by the control room recorders. Due to the low cost of implementation and OMNITREND® software compatibility, it was decided to purchase and install a VIBNODE® monitoring system to improve the reliability of the AES Alamitos Units 3 & 4 boiler circulating pumps and the Units 5 & 6 exciters.

Download the entire article RETROFIT MONITORING WITH BIG PAYOFF RESULTS by Jim Cerda and Greg Lee.

by Greg Lee

Do you know when your machinery will fail? The answer may surprise you:

  • 6% of machines fail during the infant mortality period (startup)
  • 11% of machine failures are due to age
  • 89% of machinery failures are random

[Source: United Airlines Study]

This means that your equipment is as likely to fail after a few months of operation as it is after long periods of operation (many months,  years, etc.).

Machines usually give some type of indication before failing.  Condition Monitoring techniques like vibration analysis can help you become aware of the changes in machinery conditions that lead to failure.  This knowledge will lead to benefits such as:

  • Reduction in machinery failures
  • Fewer catastrophic failures
  • Increased production
  • Better maintenance planning
  • Better maintenance scheduling
  • Greater control over spare parts
  • Reduced costs
  • Increased uptime
  • Increased equipment reliability
  • Increased equipment life
  • Improved profit
  • Reduced risk
  • Many more…

After this reading post, you now do not have to 89% of the time wonder what is going to happen next with the equipment in your facility.

by Trent Phillips

What are some of the common “Root Causes” of bearing failures?

  1. Imbalance and misalignment account for a large percentage of premature bearing failures
  2. Improper lubrication
  3. Improper mounting methods (using a hammer,  etc.)
  4. Improper application for the installed bearing
  5. Manufacturing defects
  6. Excessive vibration after installation
  7. Excessive vibration before installation (during storage, transportation, etc.)
  8. Exceeding normal bearing life expectancy

Download Bearing Storage Best Practices

by Trent Phillips

7 Abilities of Reliability

Good equipment reliability requires that several abilities be taken into consideration for success:

1. Design-Ability: Most equipment is designed with the focus of being “on time” and “on budget”,  but not to be reliable.  It is very difficult for your Maintenance Department to overcome poor equipment design.  Poor equipment design will create recurring issues that will require repeated maintenance over the life span of the equipment.

2. Install-Ability: Equipment that is not properly installed will continually require maintenance resources to keep it operational upon demand.  Additionally, large amounts of equipment defects are introduced during the installation process.

3. MaintainAbility: Maintainability is a characteristic of design and installation.  The machine should be designed and installed so that maintenance activities can be easily completed in a timely manner restoring the equipment to its normal operating state, safely and with a reliability focus.

4. MeasurAbility: Equipment design, installation, operation, and maintenance must be measured.  All of the “abilities” should be designed and implemented in a way that allows performance and adherence to be measured.  Otherwise, continuous improvement will be very difficult.

5. UsAbility: The equipment should be designed with its intended users (operations and maintenance) in mind.  The equipment must be efficient to use, and easy to learn to operate and maintain.

6. AccountAbility: Create reasonable expectations that challenge people, provide them the required means (tools, etc.) to do their job, offer support and hold them accountable for their efforts.  Do not be oppressive!  Be rewarding instead!  A management style that is oppressive and punishes people for mistakes will create a workforce that hides things.  A management style that rewards people for their successes will produce an environment of employees that want to make continual improvements.

7. SustainAbility: Consideration and planning should be given to the long-term implementation and sustainability of any reliability program.  This includes ensuring that funding, management support, training, resources, etc. are provided continually and not just for a few months, or the first year, etc.  A large percentage of reliability programs fail because they are not implemented in such a way as to make them sustainable over the longer term.

Condition Monitoring can help with these aspects of reliability.  Condition Monitoring can help identify design-related issues, installation-related issues, maintenance tasks that should be completed, identify where processes tend to fail (accountability), etc.

Watch our ReliAbilities video tutorial

by Trent Phillips

Often,  “plant floor” realities can create a problem when planning shutdowns because sometimes power transmission components like sprockets, idler rolls, sheaves, timing belt wheels, couplings, etc. can’t be inspected properly without shutting down an entire process. In such cases, there are times when a simple “visual” inspection would be enough to reveal the need to order a new part and have it ready. If this might be the case for you, take along a good strobe light, and if you can get close enough safely, “freeze” the coupling, sheave, sprocket, or whatever the component, while in motion to get a good look at it. By carefully varying the strobe timing, you can cause a component that is spinning at 3600 RPM to rotate at any speed you like (say a half RPM) and inspect all of it—every tooth of the gear, every part of the belt or sheave. If flaws are obvious, you may have just saved your company some downtime, not to mention a potential catastrophic failure!

CAUTION! Remember that with strobe lights the eye is deceived into believing that something is not moving, or moving very slowly, when in fact it is moving very fast. Do not ever forget this and NEVER reach out to touch the part you are inspecting!

by Mike Fitch CRL


Management’s decisions are major factors in the success of most efforts around a facility, including ensuring equipment health and uptime. The wrong ones can erect obstacles. How does your management team stack up?

Management is responsible for ensuring that a facility performs in line with certain safety,  operational, maintenance, environmental, competitive, and financial goals. Even on a good day, this can be a daunting task.

Every cost-effective resource available should be leveraged to achieve those goals. Condition monitoring (CM) is one such resource.   Management teams have, unfortunately, been known to make some mistakes when attempting to implement successful condition-monitoring programs. Understanding those mistakes is key to a site capturing the returns that it seeks from its CM efforts. Thus, it’s important to beware of the following situations:

Mistake #1: Failure to plan and execute correctly
Mistake #2: Failure to support adequate training
Mistake #3: Failure to use technology appropriately
Mistake #4: Failure to commit to full-time CM personnel
Mistake #5: Failure to create widespread awareness
Mistake #6: Failure to effectively integrate data
Mistake #7: Failure to create standards
Mistake #8: Failure to create sufficient collection schedules
Mistake #9: Failure to be proactive
Mistake #10: Failure to properly apply CM technologies

Read my entire article Condition-Monitoring: 10 Common Management Mistakes

by Trent Phillips

Vibration data collection on plant equipment can be very problematic due to safety concerns,  time constraints, access difficulties, and other reasons.

Solution: The use of a termination switch box and vibration sensors can allow an analyst to safely collect vibration data away from conditions that could complicate or even prevent manual readings from being taken due to safety concerns or other reasons. In addition, this can speed the data collection process and increase time efficiency within the Condition Monitoring (CM) program. A capable data collector such as the VibXpert® II  allows a CM program to collect data remotely using methods like the one described above. This capability can greatly enhance safety and efficiency within your CM program.

by Mario Rostran CRL

When you are planning on attending a training course there are a few things you as a student should do. These could include some simple things such as:

1. When making hotel arrangements,  consult with the person/company providing the training and ask for a list of recommended hotels. They may negotiate special rates with certain hotels or they may know the hotels that are the most convenient to the location.

2. Always ask for and review the training agenda/syllabus.

3. Allow extra space in your luggage to carry back the training materials you will be given during class.

4. Ask questions during the course (there are no “dumb” questions). If you don’t understand something ask —there is always a first time to learn anything. Not understanding something and not asking hurts only you.

5. If possible use the software and/or instrument prior to the class as this can help you formulate productive questions and you will gain much more from the course.

6. Remember that if you’re not rested you will not get the full benefit of the course —do not let your nighttime enjoyment compromise your ability to focus on the training material each day.

7. If you’re unhappy with something in the class tell the instructor either during class or on a break. The instructor wants you to have a productive training experience.  The instructor cannot help you if you do not make your questions or concerns known.  Remember,  courses should be targeted to the average experience in the class and not for the most advanced participant or for the novice either.

Check to see if your equipment needs any calibration or repairs prior to attending the class.  Make arrangements to have these repairs or calibration completed while you are attending the training course.  This is the perfect time to have these types of things completed.

by Gary James CRL

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