Remote Monitoring / Vibration Analysis / Shaft Alignment / Infrared Thermography / Machinery Lubrication / Temperature Monitoring / Ultrasound

Remote condition monitoring technologies enable effective, efficient predictive maintenance

Sheila Kennedy examines maintenance from a distance.

By Sheila Kennedy

The most efficient and cost-effective predictive maintenance (PdM) programs are able to remotely access asset condition data and draw it into the cloud for analysis. These capabilities are increasingly being leveraged in both internal, outsourced, and OEM-based PdM programs to enhance their success.

Analysis enablers

Implementing predictive maintenance can be cost prohibitive for small and mid-sized businesses. With the Machine Health Reporting Program (MHRP) from SKF, the equipment and training investments are avoided. Instead, vibration data collected during normal maintenance is sent to a cloud server and remotely analyzed by SKF reliability engineers.

“MHRP creates a partnership between SKF and the client to determine the root causes of machinery problems while helping them improve their maintenance maturity level,” says Eric Lautzenheiser, MHRP business development manager at SKF USA. “It incorporates the positive aspects of both an in-house program and a service provider into a cost-effective program oriented toward clients who previously couldn't justify a traditional vibration analysis program.”

Fluke’s new Fluke Connect system allows maintenance technicians to create and securely share cloud-based histories of measurement data from more than 20 Fluke test tools. The solution reduces the errors associated with manual data entry, reduces the time to collect, and improves data consistency, availability, and usefulness.

“In the newest system from Fluke, wireless test tools send measurement data directly to the Fluke Connect app on a smart phone or tablet, where the user can tag and save the data to a cloud database structured to match existing maintenance systems,” says John Neeley, Fluke Connect architect. “In cases where longer-term monitoring is merited, the test tools can be left behind to log for multiple months and checked at appropriate intervals, again via the cell phone app.”

Azima DLI similarly encourages remote and cloud-based equipment health monitoring. Watchman Remote is Azima DLI’s subscription-based online condition monitoring service for machines that are process-critical, hard to reach, remote, unmanned, or pose a risk to safety. When machine faults are detected, the system generates automated alerts to the machine’s owner and Azima DLI analysts. Reports containing machine health data and actionable recommendations from the analysts are delivered securely through the Watchman Reliability Portal.

The OEM’s role

Machine data provides value not only to asset owners, but to the OEMs as well. Equipment Insight from GE Intelligent Platforms is a remote monitoring and diagnostics solution tailored to OEMs, which allows them to observe installed assets and push needed information to the customer regardless of their location or device. In addition to early problem detection and prevention, the utilization data allows OEMs to refine their own machine designs.

“End users are pushing maintenance requirements back onto their OEMs while at the same time demanding generous performance guarantees on the machines they buy,” says Melanie Brittingham, OEM segment leader at GE’s Intelligent Platforms. “The best way for OEMs to deliver on those demands and grow profits is to harness the power of the Industrial Internet to create new revenue-generating service models.”  

Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics.Sheila Kennedy is a professional freelance writer specializing in industrial and technical topics. She established Additive Communications in 2003 to serve software, technology, and service providers in industries such as manufacturing and utilities, and became a contributing editor and Technology Toolbox columnist for Plant Services in 2004. Prior to Additive Communications, she had 11 years of experience implementing industrial information systems. Kennedy earned her B.S. at Purdue University and her MBA at the University of Phoenix. She can be reached at


Atlas Copco’s SmartLink is a 24/7 compressor data monitoring program that connects the company and its customers through a web-based monitoring dashboard. “SmartLink provides professionals with the information they need, from compressor running hours and maintenance alerts to a detailed analysis of the compressed air system’s energy performance, in order to proactively maintain maximum uptime, increase efficiency and, therefore, increase energy savings,” says Brian Blum, CTS optimization marketing at Atlas Copco Compressors.

“Energy consumption typically represents 70 percent of the overall cost of a compressed air installation, making it imperative that plants invest in smart technologies that help reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency,” adds Blum.

Likewise, Kaeser Compressors’ Sigma Air Manager (SAM) system controller includes a web server that allows users to remotely monitor system activity and adjust system settings. SAM can optionally be connected to a Kaeser authorized service center to further enhance system reliability and reduce maintenance costs.

“Monitoring performance and energy consumption is important, but you need to be prepared to do something with the data,” says Neil Mehltretter, system design manager at Kaeser Compressors. “If you only glance at the numbers, charts and graphs, it’s not going to make a difference on your energy bill. Don’t be afraid to partner with someone who can help you interpret the data and make concrete recommendations to fix any problems.”

Read Sheila Kennedy's monthly column, Technology Toolbox.