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Condition monitoring offers a whole new world of maintenance

May 27, 2009
Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor, says it's a new world for the maintenance profession.

The condition-monitoring footprint continues to grow. Temperature, oil/fluid and vibration analysis are presently the most used condition-monitoring technologies according to an online survey conducted in March by Plant Services magazine. Thermal imaging, power monitoring, ultrasound and current signature analysis follow closely behind.

The barriers to implementing new condition-monitoring technologies are wide-ranging — from the lack of funds or manpower to the inability to quantify or communicate benefits — it’s widely accepted that proactive monitoring and managing critical assets increases availability, reliability and plant performance.

Recent innovations in condition-monitoring technologies address the key barriers to implementation by minimizing the upfront investment, simplifying installation and use, improving speed and accuracy, supporting diverse technologies, and streaming complex analytics.

Wireless monitoring: More than 58% of the survey respondents plan to implement wireless technology for condition monitoring and almost 24% plan to increase usage of the technology. Devices compatible with a popular WiFi networking standard are easier to incorporate into existing wireless infrastructures. The new eight-channel SKF Multilog On-line System WMx communicates using industry standard 802.11b/g to enable remote monitoring.


This compact, field-mounted device is suited to hazardous areas and locations where portable monitoring devices aren’t practical, or to complement walk-around programs. The SKF Multilog WMx collects data on acceleration, velocity, displacement, temperature and bearing condition. The data are automatically uploaded in SKF @ptitude Analyst software for viewing, alarm evaluation, analysis and reporting. The device offers a quick and cost-effective implementation, and because it’s fully untethered, it can be relocated easily. It supports encryption for added security, and the device can be powered by batteries.

Another new wireless device is Emerson’s Rosemount 848T wireless temperature transmitter. The self-powered Smart Wireless technology monitors four independently configurable inputs. Monitoring many temperature measurements with one device reduces the cost per point and delivers more measurement data. Sensor wiring costs are reduced because the device can be mounted closer to the process, thus eliminating signal wiring.

Nano-enhanced measurement: Measuring the water vapor content in gases can be faster and more precise when nanotechnology is involved. PhyMetrix uses the properties of a nanopore aluminum oxide sensor for trace moisture measurement in gases. “Moisture is a contaminant. The PhyMetrix loop-powered moisture analyzer, PLMa, and explosion-proof moisture analyzer, ExMa, are online, loop-powered sensors that send an alarm signal when moisture reaches an allowable threshold, indicating action must be taken, such as shutting down a valve or other appropriate steps,” says Ani Omer, a founding partner at PhyMetrix.

Capillary action controls the sensor’s wetting up and drying down. Its nanostructure provides a uniform ratio of pore diameter to pore depth, which optimizes capillary action, allowing the sensor to react to even small changes in water concentration in the surrounding gas. The response time to a step change in moisture is fast and the slightest concentration of water in gas is measurable, including parts per billion at the very dry end. PhyMetrix analyzers have built-in temperature compensation and can be equipped to provide pressure measurement and automatic computation of pressure-corrected moisture content readings.

Aggregation and analytics: Enterprise-wide visibility into asset health might involve aggregating data from a variety of technologies across multiple remote locations in real time. For instance, North American renewable energy company enXco Service Corp. needed to manage more than 2,600 wind turbines from multiple manufacturers with diverse IT and turbine technologies, and the industry’s standard of 10-minute average data was insufficient for detecting asset degradation and impending failure. So, enXco’s Operations Control Center uses OSIsoft PI System to normalize operations and services, and provide remote access to the real-time data needed to manage the assets effectively and to mitigate risks.

Incorporating condition-monitoring data in the streaming analytics of a complex-event processing system takes everything to a new level. A collaborative effort to integrate advanced, low-latency, complex-event processing technology from Microsoft into OSIsoft’s PI System is underway. The Microsoft platform will expand on the PI infrastructure’s real-time capabilities by capturing data from events at the system level, application level and externally, and correlating them into patterns. The high-speed processing engine will streamline the data flow and execution of the analytics, providing better performance and scalability. Microsoft plans to offer the new technology platform in 2010.

E-mail Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at [email protected].

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