Conference: Predictive pros gather around ultrasound


By Paul Studebaker, CMRP, Editor in Chief

Jan 31, 2008

They call it Ultrasound World IV, but the conference Jan. 27-30 in Clearwater Beach, Fla., put as much emphasis on change management, culture and the need to use suitable combinations of predictive technologies as it did on the power of sensing and understanding your equipment’s ultra-high-frequency sonic emissions.

The keynote presentation, “Creating Value in Supply Chain Partnerships,” by Tim Goshart, Cargill, discussed the ways companies can interact on a global scale, and how the relationships we build can help us all to succeed, or not.

The tone for the rest of the conference was set by Dan Warren at Dow Corning, whose presentation, “Ultrasound: Engrained in our maintenance culture,” described how his organization uses ultrasound to catch failing bearings earlier, but backs up their findings with vibration, thermal or oil analysis whenever the findings call for major work.

Dow Corning’s proactive maintenance program has not only saved the Midland, Mich., facility millions of dollars ($3 million in the past two years in energy losses by steam traps alone), it has raised the plant’s profile in the global company’s pecking order. “Maintenance cost index [MCI] is used to compare plants and decide where to invest and to place new products,” Warren says. He was not able to name a dollar figure as a matter of company policy, but he says, “The plant has received a very significant amount of capital investment.

“I’ve grown to appreciate the effect we as reliability and maintenance professionals have on the success of our companies,” Warren observed. “These tasks we perform have a much greater impact on our futures than I originally perceived.”

Presentations by Terry Harris, Reliable Process Solutions; Mike Howard, Commtest; and Ernesto Gayle, Panama Ports Company, described how they harness predictive technologies as part of the journey from reactive to predictive to proactive maintenance.

Ultrasound measurements taken during grease lubrication of rolling-element bearings can both indicate the correct amount of lubricant (just enough to minimize the sound level) and detect bearing deterioration (by trending before- and after-lubrication sound spectra). In specific examples, minimizing over-lubrication reduced grease consumption as much as 80%. Avoiding over-lubrication prevents seal and shield damage, excessive temperatures, lubricant breakdown and, in the case of motors, destruction of the equipment.

Other applications cited energy savings and improved plant performance by identifying defective steam traps and detecting compressed air leaks. Don and Darrel Adams of Northwestern, Inc. told about paybacks commonly as short as 90 days for fixing steam traps. “If they have not been maintained in the past three to five years, 15% to 30% of traps will have failed,” say the Adams brothers. “The typical failure rate is 5% per year.”

They described a textile plant where fixing traps increased the production rate of a dryer 25% to 60%, depending on the particular product. The dryer was the production bottleneck, and trap repairs let the facility avoid investing $275,000 in a second dryer.

Compressed air leak audits are rising in popularity with energy prices. Presentations by Paul Payne and Kevin Whitehead, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Daniel Blackford, Allied Reliability; and James Neale, University of Waikato, New Zealand, described proven methodologies for quantitative evaluation of compressed air leak rates that allow immediate estimates of annualized energy costs and repair ROIs.

Other sessions showed how ultrasonic emissions measurements complement thermography and signature analysis for finding incipient failures in electrical equipment.

Attendees from all four hemispheres saw exhibits by sponsors, including Allied Reliability, Commtest, The Infraspection Institute, Ludeca, PdMA, SMRP and Stockton Infrared, as well as event organizer UE Systems. They had the opportunity to attend post-conference classes on ultrasonic analysis or take the CMRP certification exam.

The latter was the subject of a presentation by Rick Baldridge, Cargill, titled, “How Cargill has benefited from the CMRP.” In short, reliability has been very good to Cargill, and the company actively seeks certified personnel. “Take the exam,” Baldridge says. You will benefit “whether you pass or not,” he says. “The only losers are those who won’t try.”