TransAlta from Alberta, Canada won Uptime Magazine’s Best Vibration Analysis Program. Their Vibration Journey started when due to distance and the high costs of using a contractor, they moved away from outsourcing their vibration analysis services to a full time in-house vibration analyst.
During the implementation and mentoring period, and in spite of the business justification, they faced challenges like skepticism from the maintenance department and having to continually justify their existence. Buying and implementing new technology was easy but changing the culture was difficult. Some of it was overcome with their ability to be 100% correct on the calls they made for failures although at the beginning they did not catch all the failures. 10 years after their vibration program started, there are no more skeptics.
An important element of their success was the implementation of a training and certification program with a budget that allowed for 2 weeks of training per year per analyst. They also required that personnel take CMVA Level 1 (Canadian Machinery Vibration Association) or equivalent followed by Level 2 after 18 months and Level 3 within four years on the job.
Aside from bringing Vibration Analysis in-house, they also implemented other in-house programs such as Laser Alignment, Balancing, Ultrasound, Lubrication and Thermography.
What did they accomplish? Savings of US$ 4,000,000 per year for their company over 1,600 pieces of equipment at 3 separate plants.
When first asked about their program, Mark Kumar told Terry O’Hanlon, publisher of Uptime Magazine, that their Best Asset was their vibration database (history) which allowed them to diagnose failures but now in retrospect he stated that their Best Asset was the Backing of Company Management which supported their initiative for an in-house vibration program.
Congratulations to Harvey Henkel, Mark Kumar and their team for this award and a job well done.

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL

Every asset-intensive organization understands that the greater the uptime of machines, the more efficient and cost effective operations will be. Keeping your assets in optimal working order is easier and more cost efficient when advanced technology such as laser shaft alignment is used to increase machine reliability.
The Machine Maintenance Goal
One of the goals of every production oriented operation is to keep their machines operating at the lowest cost yet highest productivity levels. In order to do so, proper maintenance must be performed on machines. The level of maintenance care of machines can be broken down into four major categories:

  1. Purely reactive or run to failure
  2. Basic preventive maintenance and inspections
  3. Combination of predictive maintenance methodologies and preventive maintenance
  4. Organizations making use of preventive and predictive maintenance as well as advanced technologies such as laser shaft alignment, vibration analysis, infrared thermography etc.

At the heart of most good maintenance operations is a CMMS system that records and tracks all asset detail and maintenance work information. The premise of a CMMS is that the more asset and historical work information you have, the more efficient and effective your maintenance planning will be.
Why Shaft Alignment Technology is Necessary
A natural extension to using a CMMS is the use of advanced shaft alignment technology because it adds valuable information regarding the condition of the machines that might otherwise go undetected until machine failure occurs.
Typical signs of misalignment include:

  • Abnormally hot components, smell of burning insulation
  • Bearing issues or grinding noises
  • Higher energy usage
  • Load imbalances
  • Rotor bar problems
  • Excessive vibration

One proven method for machinery alignment is laser shaft alignment. With up to 50% of damage to rotating machinery directly related to misalignment, correcting this problem in machines is critical to production as well as operating budgets. But these are not the only reasons:
Top 7 Reasons to use Laser Shaft Alignment
Laser shaft alignment can lower your operating costs through:

  1. Early identification of problems enabling machine maintenance to be proactive.
  2. Reduced maintenance cost as a result of sharp reductions in bearing, seal, shaft and coupling failures.
  3. Reduced vibration lengthening the useful lifecycle of the machine as well as increasing quality of output.
  4. Less unplanned downtime so production can be optimized.
  5. Fewer emergency repairs lowering labor costs.
  6. Error-free and accurate measurements to 0.0001″.
  7. Reduced energy consumption. Poorly aligned machines require more energy to achieve the same results as a well aligned asset.

Who Can Benefit from Laser Shaft Alignment
Laser shaft alignment can be used in any industry ranging from manufacturing to the wind power industry that depends on machinery to function. Machinery alignment is a cost effective solution whenever critical functions are at risk. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Processing and centrifugal pumps used by the petrochemical industry
  • Boiler feed pumps found in every power plant and also in general industry
  • Vertical turbine pumps found at water treatment plants
  • Refrigeration compressors used for food processing and cold storage

Why laser shaft alignmentProtecting your machines through precision shaft alignment is not an option, it is a must in today’s competitive environment. Old dial indicator technology may have too low a resolution to measure accurately enough, and are subject to reading errors and hysteresis or sticking dial hands. On the other hand, laser shaft alignment is error free with reports generated directly from the instrument in conformity with ISO 9001 requirements.
“7 Reasons Why Machines Need Laser Shaft Alignment” was written for us by Stuart Smith, MBA, MS. He is an avid writer about CMMS and EAM software solutions for Mintek Mobile Data Solutions. Stuart has over 25 years experience running operations in multiple industries.

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL

Have you ever been forced to check for soft foot when your brackets were less than 10 inches apart and the MTBM’s supports were several feet distant? If you answer yes to that question or if you have ever made foot corrections under similar circumstances, then resolution matters to you.
Resolution: The smallest detectable increment of measurement.
Synonyms: sensitivity, fineness
For laser shaft alignment systems mounted on a pair of shafts, resolution is the smallest movement between the two shafts that the electronics can detect. On all systems LUDECA sells, this value is 1 micron (.00004″) or better. Typically, for any measurement system to be accurate, it must have a resolution at least four times better than the minimum increment of value it is designed to display, and for a “precision” measurement instrument, this ratio should be ten times or better.
Linearity: The closeness of a calibration curve to a straight line. Having output directly proportional to input.
Synonyms: Straightness, direct proportion.
For a laser shaft alignment system, linearity is easy to evaluate. A graph of the known position versus the displayed value should be a straight line. If it is, we say the system is linear. Our products are linear to one percent.
Repeatability: The ability of an instrument to reproduce displayed values when the same input is applied to it consecutively under the same conditions. Repeatability is expressed as the difference between two or more sets of measured values when given identical input positions of the sensor(s).
Reproducibility: The ability of the experimenter (user) to reproduce or duplicate the conditions of an experiment or measurement.  Reproducibility and Repeatability are not the same, but Repeatability (of measurement results) depends on Reproducibility. For instance, if the anchor bolts are loose and the machine moves on you as you are turning the shafts to take alignment readings, your readings will not be repeatable, although they may be accurate for the conditions extant at each reading.
Accuracy: The ratio of the error in a measurement to the ideal, or expected, value. How close a result is to the true value of the parameter being measured.
Synonyms: deviation, error, how close a value is to being correct or true.
Accuracy is how close a measuring system comes to measuring the truth. For specific measurements or specifications, the term error is used and is expressed either as a percent of full scale or as an absolute value. Accuracy is adversely affected by non-linearity, non-repeatability, poor reproducibility and poor resolution.

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL

Problem: Our boiler feed water pump running on steam turbine kept failing numerous mechanical seals since 2006, and gave us very poor reliability. Due to the unreliable nature of the steam turbine, we had to keep running our electric boiler feed water pump as a primary pump. This cost us $$$ in terms of energy usage, as we were not able to use steam generated by our boiler to power the steam turbine pump.

Solutia Laser Shaft Alignment
Photo courtesy of Solutia.

Solution: In February 2010, we ordered a new rotating assembly for the steam turbine pump and installed it. We also purchased a new laser shaft alignment system “OPTALIGN SMART”. We had stopped laser aligning our equipment for the last couple of years due to the old laser alignment system not being calibrated and not being very user friendly. After seeing a hands-on demonstration of the OPTALIGN SMART, our skilled trade group was convinced that we needed this new user friendly system for laser shaft alignments.Upon laser aligning the steam turbine, we found that we were way off in both Horizontal and Vertical alignment. Using the OPTALIGN SMART, we were able to achieve a much better alignment than we ever did. We did not get the “smiley” faces on our alignment, but that was due to having tremendous amount of pipe strain, poor base condition and being bolt-bound. However, our steam turbine has been running smoothly without any issues since February 2010. According to some operators, the steam turbine has never run this quiet and long in the past.We have started using the OPTALIGN SMART laser shaft alignment tool on all our rotating equipment, and already seen some really good results and overall cost savings in maintenance labor and materials.
Nihal Raval
Maintenance/Reliability Engineer

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL

Several points should be checked prior to laser shaft alignment in order to avoid problems later and to achieve good results:

  • Foundation: A solid, rigid foundation is essential for a successful alignment.
  • Machine Mobility: It is advisable to set both machines with about 80 mils of shims underneath the feet in case one machine needs to be lowered. Also, jacking bolts provide a safer and more accurate way to make horizontal moves.
  • Rigid Couplings: Must be loosened to achieve accurate readings.
  • Coupling Play: This can be avoided by turning the shafts a few degrees before starting measurements and then taking readings in the same direction.
  • Bearing Play: Check for excessive bearing play.
  • Soft Foot: Check for and correct soft foot before performing final alignment.

Watch our Webinar: Laser Shaft Alignment: Repeatability and Accuracy issues. Troubleshooting your readings.
Soft foot can severely affect the operating condition of a machine, and will undoubtedly shorten its life expectancy. Here are a few simple tips to help avoid soft foot in your machines:

  • Eliminate rust, dirt and any other contamination from the contact surfaces of the machine feet, shims or foundation.
  • Avoid using more than four shims at a time under the machine foot. More than three shims can cause a spring effect.
  • Eliminate undue external forces on the machine frame such as those from connected piping, conduit, auxiliary supports, etc.
  • Use high quality, clean and uniform shims when shimming is necessary.

Watch  our Webinar: Soft Foot

by Ana Maria Delgado, CRL