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Initial steps to begin remote machine condition monitoring


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Remote monitoring of machine performance in industrial facilities can mean the difference between profit or unplanned downtime. To monitor the health of machines, some industrial facilities rely on infrequent inspections (2-3 times per year) to gather data.

Remote monitoring allows industrial facilities to practice predictive maintenance and solve potential problems before they become critical. By integrating a remote-monitoring system with the right sensors and data-logging functionality, plants can prevent surprise equipment failure and extend machine life.

Industrial facilities need to have the capability to identify potential upcoming machine-performance issues and plan quickly, accurately and cost-efficiently for resolution before they occur. It’s also important to stay agile, proactive and productive when managing equipment and processes for optimal results.

Although implementing a remote machine-health monitoring system can be an extensive undertaking, here are three simple steps to make the process less challenging:

  1. Identify bad-actor machines. In most industrial facilities plant managers know there are machines that have chronic issues and consistently fail. Begin with a criticality analysis by looking back at records so you can understand the causes of unplanned downtime and how often it happened. It’s also important to look at maintenance and repair records. Once you have identified these bad-actor machines, you can quickly begin to implement remote monitoring technology.
  2. Implement a low-impact and cost-efficient remote-monitoring technology on the problematic machines. Monitoring can begin by the bad-actor machines by installing sensors that are easy to deploy and supply data immediately. While wireless sensors are very easy to install and do not require power or communication wires, wired systems offer more capabilities and are cheaper at this point. The sensor installation should have the flexibility to support threaded connection, epoxy or magnetic mounting for application to a variety of machines. Begin with a pilot project and expand to like machines. Then to other bad actors.
  3. Review the data collection to determine feasibility and need for further remote monitoring. Implementing such noninvasive technology is safe and puts actionable data in the hands of the everyday user, empowering them to monitor and maintain equipment. Sensors should ideally be industrial-rated for hazardous environments (when needed) to lessen the need for users to enter dangerous zones. The sensor systems provide continuous machine-health monitoring through early detection of machine failures based on vibration, temperature, ultrasounds, other sensors and run-time monitoring. Historical data through data logging provides important contextual trend information with the addition of advanced analysis tools during periods of concern. After implementation and collecting data, the system can quickly provide the user with information to diagnose the root cause of machine issues and recommended maintenance or repair actions.

As you continue down the path of remote monitoring there are many other flexible and cost-effective approaches. Recent enhancements in sensor and monitoring technology can provide greater levels of preventive diagnostics against mechanical and electrical failures across machines, helping to avoid costly downtime.

Data collection systems can even provide an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) asset intelligence platform that can utilize automated diagnostics to securely monitor and assess, locally or remotely, the health of machines. Vibration, temperature, ultrasounds, pressure and other data are analyzed to detect and resolve issues that otherwise might lead to equipment breakdowns. These sensors are compatible with the existing ecosystem products like PLC, ERP, CMMS for easy, secure integration with current processes and capabilities without any data lost.

Following these three simple steps is a flexible and cost-effective approach that will allow you to begin remotely monitoring machine performance in industrial facilities. However, this is only the beginning of building a broader monitoring system and really the first step in the journey.

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