I was musing with an old industry friend the other day about condition monitoring. He and I both have strong roots in condition monitoring dating back to about 1990. During those early days, we were enamored by the sex appeal of high-end condition monitoring techniques and technologies. We loved the bells and whistles. About the same time in 1995, after gaining a bit of experience and maturity under our belts, we both reached the same conclusion — the sensory inspection is our most important condition monitoring tool — yes the old "eyeometer." Unfortunately, this powerful condition monitoring tool is rarely used to it's maximum capability.
Strange and obvious as that might sound, it was very common during that period for plants to acquire vibration data collectors, thermography cameras, on-site oil analysis instruments, etc to support their condition monitoring activities. These are all great techniques and technologies. However, they often came into organizations that either lacked or failee to effectively execute a basic sensory inspection process — looking at, listening too and touching your machines to determine if there are problems or opportunities to apply proactive condition control. Strangely, the phenomenon still exists today — dare I say it's rampant?
I'm not saying abandon your high end condition monitoring tools. Not by any means. However, I encourage you to look hard at your process for sensory inspection of your machines. Here are 10 tips for making it work.
- Make sure the sensory inspection is complete — covers all the probable problems that would be detectable with sensory inspection.
- Ensure that every inspection item counts. Don't include tasks that can't be completed or aren't relevant. Also, don't include inspections that can't be done due to lack of access unless you plan to modify the equipment to improve accessibility.
- Make each inspection task binary — pass/fail or go/no-go.
- Eliminate ambiguity. Don't say "check pressure" — say "pressure is between X and Y psi."
- Add visuals. For inspections that can't be quantified, utilize pictures to illustrate what's OK and what's not.
- Provide a sensible information collection process — preferably using hand-held data collectors. These are now widely available, inexpensive and very powerful.
- Collect and trend inspection data. Yes, you can trend pass/fail data — just look at the frequency with which excursions occur.
- Provide a mechanism for creating a work request at the time the inpspection is completed. Avoid the common mistake of failing to close the loop. It's no help to do the inspections if excursions don't result in work requests.
- If you are engaging operators to perform the inspections and create work requests (ideal), be prepared to complete the work. If operators' work requests are ignored, they'll become demotivated. Nothing derails an inspection-based operator care initiative faster.
- Don't try to get it perfect at the start. Just get the process going and incorporate and review and revise process to continuously improve. Inspections that don't make sense will reveal themselves as mill missing inspection opportunities.
The eyeometer should represent the foundation of your condition monitoring, condition-based maintenance and operator care activities. Take the necessary steps to use it correctly.
I look forward to your comments!