Shaft Alignment / Temperature Monitoring / Ultrasound / Vibration Analysis / Infrared Thermography

The characteristics of a successful condition monitoring analyst

The keys to success for a CM analyst are many and vary somewhat from individual to individual.

By Trent Phillips, Technical Contributor for LUDECA, Inc.

Being a successful condition monitoring (CM) analyst requires qualities such as intelligence, dedication, a thick skin, willingness to help others, ability to focus, and more. Success in this profession is not easy. In fact, it can be argued that success is a constant struggle. The most successful CM analysts will have certain traits that are keys to their success; however, possibly the most important is the drive to “know” – to know what is causing that anomaly, defect, or early failure.

Gathering the right data

Most CM Analysts understand the term “the data does not lie”. The data will provide an accurate representation of the equipment health if acquired properly and in a timely manner. Once the right data is acquired, the challenge is the correct interpretation of the data and convincing others that the results are accurate.

Reports based upon alarm condition and statistical changes are very important to the identification of unsatisfactory health conditions in equipment. Alarm conditions, if implemented and maintained correctly, can provide the first indication of equipment issues. This can help the CM Analyst process large amounts of data quickly and with greater accuracy, and avoid missing important changes in equipment condition. Statistical analysis and evaluation is another critical analytical tool that can be utilized to help account for the unique situation of specific groups of equipment and even specific machines. Statistical and alarm condition analysis are based upon the actual data acquired from the equipment and are difficult to refute if analyzed and presented correctly.

It is important to know what components (bearings, gears, etc.) are contained within the monitored equipment. This information allows the analyst to determine “fault frequencies” for these components. This information can be overlaid on data to increase analysis accuracy and help communicate the findings in a more meaningful way to others. Information on bearings, gears, electrical composition, etc. can be difficult to obtain. However, utilizing this information will greatly enhance condition monitoring efforts and increase analytical confidence.

Most analysts spend a good amount of time in the facility collecting the necessary condition monitoring data. This creates the perfect opportunity to perform visual inspections on the equipment being monitored. Visual inspections provide a value added opportunity that should never be ignored by the successful CM Analyst or their managers. Visual inspections are a basic condition monitoring technique and will often provide identification and confirmation of unwanted equipment conditions.

This information can be easily conveyed to the individuals that are responsible for taking corrective action and is difficult for them to reject. Furthermore, many safety and process related issues can be resolved by the observant analyst. Reporting such findings (defects identified during visual inspections performed during routine route data collection) should never be neglected: it is an integral part of the value of a CM technician. Trained eyes, ears, noses, and hands can provide early warning of developing issues and save millions of dollars.

Assessment and documentation

Analytical confirmation is an important tool that is never disregarded. Condition Monitoring technologies are very complimentary to each other, and many are capable of identifying the same unwanted equipment condition or defect. For example, process data (temperatures, pressures, etc.) is a type of condition monitoring which often correlates to changes observed with more sophisticated condition monitoring equipment. The successful CM Analyst will use all of this information as a means to increase analytical accuracy, avoid misdiagnosis of equipment conditions or defects, and to convince those responsible that appropriate action is required. It is difficult for individuals to ignore the findings presented by the analyst when two or more CM technologies and/or process data has confirmed the equipment condition.

It is vital to document certain information. For example, some indicators that a successful CM Analyst will track are:

  • Equipment criticality (this will help ensure that focus is applied to the appropriate equipment).
  • Data integrity (don’t fall prey to “garbage in equals garbage out”).
  • Analytical setup (are the correct parameters being measured)?
  • Route compliance (is the data being acquired routinely and at the correct intervals for defect identification)?
  • How much work has resulted from CM efforts?
  • Have the equipment conditions identified by CM efforts been corrected?
  • How long does it take to implement the work generated by CM efforts?
  • Tracking “bad actors” (machines that routinely fail or routinely exhibit poor performance).
  • Track failures by component type (bearing, coupling, alignment, etc.) and equipment type.
  • Mean time between failures of types and populations of equipment. This will help track the effectiveness of the combination of CM and repair efforts.

Equipment assessments are another method that many successful analysts utilize. This process involves routinely reviewing the “bad actors” to determine what steps can be taken to improve equipment reliability and performance. Reports are created and presented that outline actions to improve the overall performance and reliability of these machines. Equipment assessments can often be completed on one type of machine and the findings applied to all similar machines in the facility. This maximizes the effectiveness of both the CM efforts and reliability improvements that result.

Reporting and communication

Awareness and trust are critical to the success of any condition monitoring program. Technology education and clear documentation of the direct results of their efforts are two very effective methods many successful CM Analysts employ to build trust, change perception, and even change the behavior of individuals within their facility. Pictures speak louder than words, and this means displaying to management and coworkers the failed components (bearing, gear, coupling, etc.) and condition monitoring data used to identify the fault condition and documenting them in reports. This visual approach will help individuals come to trust in the technology and understand that the analytical and technological process does work. Additionally, this type of practice can be used to help determine the root cause of specific failures, a level of understanding that will help the facility eliminate the causes of equipment failures and avoid repeating the same failures and repairs.

Many CM Analysts utilize “Level of Awareness” training. This involves conducting short presentations for employees about the capabilities, limitations and examples of success within the facility. The key is to find ways of engaging as many people as possible to increase the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of the value that CM efforts provide.

The lasting value of CM

Becoming a successful CM Analyst requires more than a “data collector”. Condition monitoring should be centered on the overall reliability efforts and financial objectives of the facility and corporation. The successful analyst will work to ensure that their CM technologies offer the data collection, analytical, and reporting capabilities that can contribute to these reliability efforts. This will include the ability to collect detailed and advanced data, create measurement and analysis standards, create custom reports, and interface to other plant systems (CMMS, control data, etc.).

Therefore it is important that all CM Analysts have a good understanding of the associated costs to operate, maintain and repair the equipment which they are responsible for providing equipment health information for. This understanding will allow the analyst to focus their efforts in ways that will provide the greatest return and convey their findings in a more meaningful way.

Finally, continual training is critical to the success of a CM analyst. This requires periodic attendance at seminars, training courses, and reading books. Unfortunately, management often does not see the value in providing learning experiences for their CM analysts, often believing that once the technology is purchased nothing more is required. This is far from the reality! Purchasing the condition monitoring technologies is the start of the journey. Success requires competent and confident analysts, and competence and confidence require ongoing education and adjustments based upon what has been learned. Otherwise, condition monitoring efforts become stagnant and little value is gained.

The keys to success for a CM analyst are many and vary somewhat from individual to individual. This article describes just a few of the traits required to make someone successful in this profession. The most important thing to understand is that competent condition monitoring will improve equipment reliability and provide a real return for stake holders. However, it is more than simply purchasing technologies. Condition monitoring requires selection of the right technologies and having the right person assigned to utilize them in your facility. Encourage and reinforce the positive traits when you see them in use. The CM analyst is simply trying to be successful on your behalf.