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Condition monitoring as a service

12 March 2018

Collection and analysis of vibration data and thermographic information forms part of a maintenance service solution that helps keep crisp production on track. 

By analysing the vibration data from a range of plant and equipment it is possible to detect damage to components such as rolling bearings and gears early, which helps to reduce costly, unplanned downtime and prolonging the life of the equipment. 

uch route-based monitoring services are being provided to a UK-based producer of crisps by Schaeffler UK. In addition, Schaeffler is also undertaking regular thermographic surveys of electrical panels at the plant, in order to detect faulty electrical components early. 

Crisp production at the plant is a round-the-clock process, with incoming raw potatoes washed, peeled, sliced and fried. Flavour is added and the crisps are then bagged and packaged ready for delivery to customers. 

As part of its service contract, the company provides regular on-site vibration monitoring, analysis and thermographic surveys to the customer. A field service engineer visits the plant on a periodic basis to collect vibration data, which is then analysed and a report compiled.

Identifying deterioration
During each visit vibration measurements are taken to identify any deterioration of rolling bearings and other mechanical components on a variety of plant and equipment at the site. This equipment includes small motors, gearboxes, pumps and fans which drives a variety of plant such as conveyors, peeling machines, cold and hot washers, fryers, slicers, bucket elevators, heat exchangers, extruders and centrifuges.

Vibration measurements are made and stored using a FAG Detector III handheld vibration monitoring device. Used in combination with the data viewer, the bearing database can be used to assess the condition of a machine. For example, up to four different characteristic values can be stored and displayed against one measurement point (several defect bearing frequencies can be checked efficiently using a single measurement point).

The monitoring device is used to measure and record vibration data at each selected measurement position on the monitoring route. The three basic measuring parameters include:

• Velocity – which gives a measure of overall machine vibration that responds to mechanical issues such as imbalance, misalignment and looseness.
• Acceleration – which is typically used to monitor gear defects and progressing bearing defects.
• Enveloped acceleration – which offers a measure of high frequency, impact-type events, typified by early bearing or gear faults.

The measurement data is then analysed and a report compiled. The report typically includes acceleration and/or velocity trend plots that show alarm limits (red and yellow lines) and how the vibration data has varied over time.

For each piece of equipment included in the agreed patrol monitoring route, velocity measurements are normally taken in the horizontal, vertical and axial planes at the drive end and non-drive end of each item. Additionally, acceleration measurements may be taken in the horizontal planes of gearboxes and motors. Furthermore, enveloped acceleration measurements can be taken in the horizontal plane on each item of a piece of equipment. The exact set-up for each piece of equipment will vary, depending on its size, accessibility and previous history of issues.

For one customer the report included a list of recommended actions on items of equipment that had exceeded pre-defined alarm limits. For example, the customer was advised to check the grease levels on certain pieces of equipment. Other, more general, mechanical issues were also highlighted such as imbalance of fans and rotor blades, and misalignment of belt and pulley drives.

At the crisp production plant, a field service engineer normally also conducts a site survey of electrical panels and control cabinets using a handheld thermography camera, which incorporates a built-in digital camera and customised reporting software. Equipment checked includes fuses, switchgear, wiring and cabling. Hotspots on the camera are often a result of loose wiring or cabling, a defective fuse or the fault could be due to some faulty equipment further down the line. Reporting such faults allows the food processor to undertake a more in depth check and correct any control panel issues before they result in unscheduled line stoppages.

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