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Today’s Machinery Condition Monitoring: From Siloed and Optional to Integrated and Critical

13 min read
Munir Qureshi
Global Leader- Application & Solution Architect

There once was a time not too long ago where the idea of machinery condition monitoring (CM) was dismissed by a large portion of industrial machinery operators, citing arguments to its complexity as well as the long-standing reliance on calendar-based or cycle-based maintenance schedules. 

As recently as 2001, only around 20% of customers across all industry sectors requested CM solutions for analyzing the health and performance of their critical machinery. And 15 years later – well, that number has risen, but only to around 55%.

Source: Digitization of Condition Monitoring, Frost & Sullivan, 2018

So what do those numbers mean? It means that 1) there is some entrenched thinking in place that is still holding fast in some corners of industry, and 2) many are indeed beginning to see the benefits of a proactive condition-based approach to asset management and moving over.

So how does one go about effecting a change in thinking within their organization when it comes to adopting a newer, more effective approach to condition monitoring? We’ll answer that, but first, let’s see how we got to where we are today by looking back to where we started.

Condition Monitoring Past: The Way It Was

There are several reasons for the relatively slow adoption of proactive and predictive condition monitoring solutions. 

Back in the day, you had incumbent systems (and their proponents) already installed from an OEM, so the very nature of change being what it is - something we typically shy away from - put the discussion around a new way of machinery condition monitoring on the back foot. 

Preventative Maintenance: Machine Failure in the Making

Then too, consider the way things were done: You monitored your machinery by a set of OEM tables that said you needed to perform X maintenance in Y period of time, or Z number of cycles. And to be fair, when all things are running normally, and you are already in full compliance with an OEM’s maintenance program, and your machinery health “seems” pretty much perfect, preventative maintenance isn’t the worst asset protection protocol to adopt, which is one reason why it was adhered to for so long – well, till plant operators started to notice that what “seemed” to be perfect was actually a failure in the making, just not visible/detectable with the technology applied.

Lacking Expertise

Further still, beyond cost and complexity, was the less quantifiable but very real issue of expertise. It should come as no surprise to anyone that when a new technology is up for discussion, and you are not trained to fully leverage it, you’d be less than enthusiastic about promoting it within your organization. There is the fear that you could inadvertently, by promoting an entirely new ideology, put yourself in the uncomfortable situation of having to either undergo a new series of training or worse, look for new employment if technology adoption didn’t pan out. So you can see how in some organizations, especially the really siloed ones, there was some pushback on advancing condition monitoring methodology and technology adoption from a “comfort level” point of view. One thing heard from customers over the past two decades consistently that played a part in the stated transition from 20% to 55% adoption – “No one ever got fired for buying Bently.” Conclusively, ‘peace of mind’ is a valuable desired outcome from any investment in condition monitoring solutions.

And while we’re painting all of this as a past-tense way of thinking, there are still many organizations that have yet to pull the trigger on shifting their machinery protection and condition monitoring strategies from reactive and preventative to proactive and predictive , as evidenced by the nearly 45% of industry partners who did not request CM solutions in 2016 and hence likely are today operating without the best-in-class insight and foresight to their production asset health. The question then is – are you one of them?

So how does one make the jump? Well, you approach the argument much the same way as New Kids on the Block- "Step by Step.

Machine Condition Monitoring Today: Making the Jump from Reactive to Proactive

When considering a condition monitoring solution - regardless of industry or application - it helps to set some “ground rules” set by way of definitions. Essentially, you can map condition monitoring needs aligned to the level of intended maintenance strategy per asset, which are:

  • Reactive Maintenance (RM): This type of maintenance is performed after a failure or after an obvious, unforeseen threat of immediate failure.  In reactive maintenance, assets are operated in a run-to-failure (RTF) mode, and daily maintenance activities are driven by unforeseen problems from assets breaking down without detection of the impending failure. As risky as this may sound, it is still an appropriate strategy for assets that have very low to no consequence of failure.    
  • Preventive Maintenance (PM): Here maintenance tasks are conducted at regular, scheduled intervals based on average statistical/anticipated lifetime to avoid failure.  This strategy may be effective for assets where the most probable failure pattern is “wear out”. Typical tasks include inspection, service and/or replacement of components.  Scheduling intervals may be based on calendar periods or on actual operating time for the asset/component in question. 
  • Predictive Maintenance (PdM): This maintenance type is performed based on the actual asset condition with objective evidence of need obtained from in-situ, non-invasive tests and operating condition measurements. It is also called Condition Based Maintenance (CBM). Application of appropriate Condition Monitoring solutions play a key role with successful CBM/PdM. 
  • Proactive Centered Maintenance (PCM): This is a “program” of continuous maintenance optimization based on feedback from Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA), quantitative PM’s, results of PdM routines, CM systems, technician feedback and operations input across an asset class/type.
value of condition monitoring

Sources:  Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals Survey The Business Case for Reliability, Management Resources Group, Inc.

This graph describes several relationships between Production, Maintenance Costs, and several types of maintenance and reliability strategies.  Many companies are faced with economic pressures that demand reductions in cost in order to remain competitive.  Unfortunately, a frequent course of action is to cut maintenance cost expenditures without any change in strategy.  The challenge is to cut costs smartly with an approach that incorporates higher level maintenance and reliability strategies.  As shown in the curve defined by points A, B, C, and D, predictive and proactive maintenance strategies can help improve equipment reliability, availability, and plant production, while simultaneously reducing maintenance cost expenditures measured across turnaround cycles.  Case histories have shown that cost reductions up to 40% are typical, and sometimes even greater returns have been realized.  

So, with those definitions out of the way, why don’t we look at some of the classic objections to the adoption of condition monitoring solutions that align to a proactive maintenance strategy.

First off, let’s recognize the fact that no one argues the value behind a sound, digitized condition monitoring approach today. The evidence is overwhelming and anyone who would argue against it would be ignoring over a decade of solid, empirical evidence to the contrary – check out a summary set of findings below from a recent Frost & Sullivan study. Of course, just because something is right doesn’t guarantee widespread adoption. You can look to any number of examples of this in virtually every industry and see where, despite there being a better way to build respective mousetraps, companies choose a different path. So there’s one bite already down: everyone agrees that proactive, data-informed condition monitoring is the best strategy for optimal machinery health management. 


What A Proactive Condition Monitoring & Maintenance Strategy Enables:
Proactive CM Strategy ROI
Source: Digitization of Condition Monitoring, Frost & Sullivan, 2018



But the costs of overhauling an entire enterprise’s long-standing schedule-based program and converting to a condition-based strategy are astronomical, right?

Wrong. If you’re simply looking at the cost of a piece of paper from your OEM that advises when things should, in theory, break down, then sure, even a single sensor addition will tip the financial scales away from adoption. But then "Are you looking at the Big Picture?" when you argue it that way. 

Every organization has their own unique financial constraints, their own unique production dynamics, seasonal considerations - the list goes on and on. But one thing that no organization can ignore is the very real savings that a sound condition monitoring strategy brings to their collection of machinery assets. You can review the stats above and apply those percentages to your own organization and see the real savings associated with a proactive condition monitoring and maintenance strategy.

When you factor in the above economies at your enterprise scale, plus the greater chance of occurrence of a catastrophic failure that comes with reactive or preventative strategies, you see those fears connected to implementation costs are far outweighed by the peace of mind, security, and very real value that comes with increased machinery uptime, production, longevity, and ultimate improvement in return on investment (ROI).

What condition monitoring solutions you choose in order to maximize plant and equipment uptime will come down to several factors such as: each assets criticality and associated maintenance strategy, cost, return on investment targets, risk prevention (i.e. safety, regulatory compliance, quality, timeliness, and cost), and desired outcome.

A key in planning out condition monitoring solution strategy is to fully evaluate equipment criticality and set up the appropriate combination as necessary to meet the assigned maintenance strategy to each asset. Each methodology, as well as the solutions, will vary based upon the level of the equipment criticality and where in the process said equipment contributes to the overall system output.

Additionally, nowhere is it written that you must purchase and install a proactive condition monitoring solution all at once across your asset fleet. There are numerous piecemeal solutions that can act as steppingstones towards larger initiatives that will allow you to 1) conduct some a/b testing, 2) improve your overall condition monitoring intel, and 3) spread the cost of adoption over a longer timeline with a condition monitoring solutions partner like Bently Nevada.

Portable Vibration Analyzers and Data Collectors  | Bently Nevada

You should think about portable solutions such as theSCOUT family of data collectors and analyzers, which can be employed to augment a more traditional “walk-around” approach to condition monitoring. That said, we should always caution the use of portables as an all-in-all for condition monitoring of any asset that is deemed critical to production and safety.  The use of portables is typically applied to a broad population of low and medium criticality rotating machinery and when needed, for added data collection on-demand for critical machinery.

wireless condition monitoring, Ranger Pro, vibration sensor, condition monitoring sensor, vibration detector, remote vibration sensor

Also consider less invasive vibration and condition monitoring sensors like the Wireless Ranger Pro, which employs wireless connectivity, long-life battery, and a small enough form factor to mount virtually anywhere to provide frequent insight where neither a portable nor online continuous monitoring and protection solution is suitable.. Typical collection rates are about every hour (compared to portable data collection which typically is once per month or quarter).  

With these fractional steps towards a proactive condition monitoring approach, you can still enjoy marginal gains without having to undergo an enterprise-wide overhaul of your existing condition monitoring program.   

For your most critical assets, there is likely no right solution other than a continuous online machinery protection and monitoring system.

Consider also, if you’d rather not invest in all of the needed infrastructures, our hosted solutionBently HOST, where the software and necessary IT hardware infrastructure reside with us and are maintained and operated by our dedicated team of industry-leading condition monitoring experts. With Bently HOST your entire machinery fleet will be securely and remotely monitored 24/7.

If you’d like to talk more about how you can take advantage of proactive condition monitoring on a get-started or enterprise-scale, let’s connect and see how Bently Nevada can help you.

What about the collected data, to say nothing of the needed expertise to sift and sort all that rich dataset?

Sure, maybe 15 to 20 years ago you’d have to deal with some raw data presented in an antiquated, less-than-user-friendly format that required a data scientist’s mindset with the skills of a software programmer. But those days are long gone.

S1 Logo

With advanced software, such as our own System 1, your organization can enjoy real-time processing of all your condition monitoring data while delivering forensic-grade machine insights with clarity and context over an intuitive and easy to use interface. Reports are fully customizable, easy to generate, easy to interpret, and above all,deliver actionable insights into your machinery health so you can make decisions that determine whether you can allow your asset to run until the next scheduled maintenance window, or the threat is more serious and requires immediate action - thus avoiding a catastrophic failure, associated safety risk and unplanned downtime.

The Way It Can Be

With advances in computational power, network bandwidth, connectivity infrastructure and data storage, the next generation of condition monitoring systems will leverage IoT and the cloud in some form or the other, while also focusing on cybersecurity-in-design and the ability to monitor an entire enterprise worth of machinery assets from one location fully integrated to any and all systems that can improve asset health insight and action timeline – a Machinery APM if you will.

With the introduction of the Orbit 60 Machinery Protection and Monitoring System, Bently Nevada has ushered in a new standard in condition monitoring – one that is future ready, truly embracing the fourth level of condition monitoring: Proactive.

When deployed in conjunction with System 1, and our family of sensors, your condition monitoring strategy will not only be the best on the planet, it’ll be future-proof for decades to come.  Some features of the Orbit 60 are:

  • Plant-wide: The Orbit 60 Series Protection and Condition Monitoring System provides one continuous, online monitoring system for both critical and plant-wide applications.
  • Cyber Secure: Orbit 60 Series is the first intrinsically cyber-secure machinery monitoring system. With built-in data and network isolation between the condition monitoring and protection circuitry, the Orbit 60 device can connect seamlessly and securely in parallel to serve both your condition monitoring needs and protection management across different layers of plant and business networks. 
  • Distributed Architecture: With Orbit 60 Series’ distributed architecture, the connection of multiple chassis through Bridge modules decreases overall electrical installation costs and reduces analog ground loops and noise issues. 
  • Industry-Leading Capabilities: With over twice the current industry standard, one System Interface Module(SIM) defines a system of up to 80 dynamic channels.
  • High Speed Process Data Integration: Next-generation architecture facilitates full bidirectional communications with plant control systems over a suite of standard protocols. This capability allows full clarity across the machine train uniting machinery, process, and control system data in one platform.
So Now What?

It comes down to what you want to accomplish, and how you plan to go about obtaining desired results. 

At Bently Nevada, we view ourselves as a partner with all of our customers, from the initial point of contact to relationships sixty years in the making, we pride ourselves on helping our customers find solutions to their machinery protection and condition monitoring needs and earning our place as the industrial world’s leading Domain Expert and solutions provider in this space.

To that end, we invite you to contact us to see how we can help take your condition monitoring strategy to ProactiveWe’re confident that the right combination of our products and services - backed by our industry leading Domain Expertise - can improve your asset management strategy progressively towards a top quartile performer.