Monitoring an aggressive environment: staying ahead of the curve

13 August 2018

Maintenance managers working within aggressive environments need to adopt a different approach to traditional condition monitoring methods according to David Manning-Ohren.

In order to be effective, condition monitoring needs to allow a window of opportunity in which corrective or preventative measures can be taken. Equipment that faces intense pressures, forces or temperatures has a sharper failure curve than equipment that doesn’t. Any issues, therefore, are likely to occur quickly and have more of an impact.

For this reason, traditional methods are unlikely to spot an issue until it’s too late, leading to the very downtime and costs that condition monitoring was supposed to prevent.

Technology exists to cope with the higher demands of an aggressive manufacturing environment. Tools that use live, real-time data acquisition to keep on top of even small machine changes as they occur, for example, are particularly effective in aggressive environments.

Data acquisition is more useful than periodic portable monitoring, because it identifies alterations, such as an increase in dust, fluid, or debris, before they become issues,” David says.

Maintenance managers in aggressive environments should do the following:
1. Define ‘aggressive’ – What’s aggressive in one context might not be in another. For example, flour on a bakery floor isn’t aggressive, but flour in a bearing is.

2. Keep it clean –
Keeping the factory floor as free of contaminants as possible will help to prolong the lifespan of equipment. Dampen down dust with sprays, or use extractor fans to remove it. Actions such as these make the aggressive environment smaller and more manageable.

3. Evaluate the location of equipment –
Just because an asset is part of the process creating the aggressive environment, doesn’t mean it physically needs to be there. There are few applications in which you can’t create enough distance between a motor and a gearbox, for example. In fact, driveshafts of up to 10m in length are entirely possible if engineered-in at the design stage.

4. Check your assets have the right IP rating –
Even the cleanest production lines spread contaminants, which ultimately leads to the expansion of the aggressive environment. Make sure, therefore, that any component working as part of the process has the correct IP rating, whether it’s based directly within the aggressive environment, or not. If it only has a standard IP rating, it won’t be long before its performance and reliability are affected.

5.Defend your assets –
A good defence should be the final step before implementing condition monitoring. Consider moulded-oil bearings and super seals to increase protection against contaminant ingress. Automatic lubricators are also effective, because they place positive pressure on the lubricant within the bearing.

David Manning-Ohren is condition monitoring manager at ERIKS UK & Ireland.

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