Blog: 5 takeaways from IMVAC 2016

If there was one message that emerged from the 2016 International Machine Vibration Analysis Conference, or IMVAC, it was captured by presenter and electrical engineer Sergio Rossi: "Data collection, analysis, and reporting with no resulting action is a waste."

The November gathering in Orlando, FL, was a welcome addition to the condition monitoring event calendar, and offered dozens of speakers encouraging industry to engage more fully with predictive and condition monitoring technologies, pursue stronger communication with the executive suite on the progress of your reliability initiatives, and in general to celebrate and savor every victory (however big or small) while learning from failures.

The following are just some of the highlights from this year's program:

1. Dean Whittle, from his session "Fault Detection, Root Cause Analysis, and Documenting Your Vibration Analysis Program" – "We're not just vibration analysts. We're here to improve condition, which then leads to reliability."

Whittle's presentation focused on the importance of tracking all elements of your program, which helps programs and teams "prove their worth" to other plant stakeholder teams, including finance and the executive suite. He also warned that, although vibration analysis is a useful technique, "applying it to everything is the worst mistake you can make", instead recommending that teams consider the most complementary appropriate condition monitoring method for each asset, supplemented perhaps by a secondary method.

During Whittle's session, longtime vibration analysis expert John Mitchell commented that teams should "get business and finance involved in the process," as these teams are usually enthusiastic about it, and any connection you can make for them from their "world of beans" to activity on the plant floor is welcome. "Those discussions are very, very constructive," he added, and "you create new friends in the organization that you never thought you had."

2. Tom Clawser, Delta Reliability, from his session "Selling Reliability to the C-Suite: Know how to Justify and Finance Your Initiative" – "Executives are human (it's true), and want what's best for the company."

Clawser outlined four key tactics for improving communication with plant executives, starting with the first above, and followed by:

  • Recognize and calculate the opportunity, especially understanding the value of the loss
  • In God We Trust, all others bring data – without data, your ideas are DOA
  • Sell opportunities, not solutions –  solutions take money, opportunities make money

Clawser expounded on this last point at length, explaining that executives get bored quickly with problem-solution-cost approaches. In fact, he argued, for many executives, "solutions" are what the MRO engineer is hired for, and is the minimum requirement for doing (and keeping) your job.

The real attention-getters are what Clawser characterized as "opportunities," which drive new revenue (i.e., more widgets, increased throughput, more cash, increased market share, new customers, etc.) and are the mark of strategic, forward-thinking approaches. Clawser concluded by mentioning that most facilities he's observed are not at full capacity, so there is usually flexibility for MRO teams to develop new opportunities.

3. Jerald "Danny" Newton, Savannah River Remediation, from his session "Testing and Acceptance of Million Dollar Vertical Mixer Pumps for Savannah River Site" – "Everything was a muddy mess."

Newton walked attendees through a case study on reliability testing of several million-dollar submersible vertical mixer pumps using vibration analysis at a facility in Aiken, SC. The challenge at this site was to effectively monitor the pumps, which had VSDs associated with them that would complicate the monitoring effort.

As someone who has been practicing PdM for 22 years, Newton was in a strong position to advocate for testing of the vendor's pump design, an approximately $200,000 expense which was not completely welcomed by all project stakeholders, including the pump manufacturer. Ultimately, after a testing arrangement was agreed upon, the existing pump design failed after 36 hours, leading to design improvements that avoided at least $10 million for pump repair and replacement had the opportunities for improvement not been indentified early on. Newton also observed that insurance providers are taking an increasing interest in condition monitoring and asset health when setting premium rates.

4. Clyde Volpe, Vibration Institute of Australia, delivered a terrific and highly technical presentation "Rolling Element Bearings – Why the Harmonics, Why the Sidebands," which helped clear up various misconceptions in reading harmonic signatures, recommending that "when we see harmonics, we should ask immediately, what does the time waveform look like?"

5. Tarun Motwani, Visy Paper, presented "A Framework for Integration of Various Condition Monitoring Techniques," by breaking down the process of integration into several clear steps:

  • Select the right condition monitoring technology combination
  • Optimize your database setup according to industry segment
  • Optimize data collection setup for each machine/asset type
  • Develop integrated alarm framework based on identified failure modes, resulting in a "reliability index" based on number of alarms recorded for each fault category