The Pulse of Industry: How Machine Health Monitoring is Transforming Maintenance

Across industrial businesses, a silent revolution is taking place. No longer solely reliant on traditional maintenance strategies, factories are embracing a proactive approach: continuously monitoring the health of their machinery.

This concept, known as Machine Health Monitoring (MHM), utilizes a combination of sensors, data analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI) to gain real-time insights into the condition of equipment. By understanding the “pulse” of their machinery, industrial facilities can optimize operations, maximize uptime, and avoid costly interruptions in production.

Data is Key

The foundation of Machine Health Monitoring is continuous data collection. Sensors, strategically placed on critical equipment, capture a variety of parameters including vibration, temperature, current draw, and acoustic profile. This telemetry is then fed into cloud-based platforms or on-premise analytics software. Sophisticated algorithms analyze that data, identifying patterns and deviations from normal operating conditions. These deviations can be early indicators of potential problems, allowing for intervention before a failure disrupts production.

Traditional Maintenance Strategies

Beyond the unexpected, Machine Health Monitoring can also inform long-term strategies and schedules for machine care. The benefits of implementing a Machine Health Monitoring strategy become obvious when compared to the traditional approaches.

Reactive Maintenance

Reactive Maintenance simply means “fix it when it breaks.”  Consider a scenario:

A conveyor belt stops moving. Mechanics are dispatched to diagnose and repair the failed system. All work, upstream and downstream of that conveyor, is interrupted until repairs can be completed.

Knowing that work stoppage is expensive, an onsite maintenance facility must warehouse the items needed to fix nearly anything that goes wrong.  If a fix requires parts that are not stored onsite then downtime may extend from a few hours to several days.

Scheduled Maintenance

Scheduled Maintenance implies that components are replaced, rebuilt, or invasively examined at regular intervals whether they need it or not. In many facilities, this occurs once or twice a year during a full “shutdown” of the entire operation. This approach makes maintenance more predictable but incurs costs in the form of wasted time and energy.

First, much work that must be completed during this shutdown is to take apart or rebuild components that do not actually require any attention; a waste of labor, materials, and time. Second, this approach requires an enormous amount of work performed in a very short period of time. This means overtime. Lots of expensive labor that might, otherwise, have been spread out over the course of regular shifts.

See Our Work

Check out our work on the Emerson Wireless Vibration Sensor in the Porticos Portfolio.

Transforming Maintenance

Machine Health Monitoring is not exactly a replacement for Reactive or Scheduled Maintenance. It is an optimization tool for both. Consider these examples:

A monitoring system detects a sudden change in the vibration profile of a transfer pump. The profile is consistent with progressive bearing wear. Artificial intelligence predicts that the pump will fail within seven days. 
A very brief shutdown is scheduled. Mechanics are standing by, prepared with tools and parts to replace that bearing in under an hour, at a time that is least disruptive (i.e., expensive) to plant operations.

A monitoring system detects an increase in the electrical current drawn by a material conveyor. Artificial intelligence indicates that this will not result in near-term catastrophic failure. Lubrication is recommended for the next regularly scheduled shutdown.

Other Benefits

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Machine health also empowers industrial facilities to optimize performance. By identifying inefficiencies in energy consumption, for example, manufacturers can make adjustments to processes, leading to significant cost reductions. Furthermore, real-time data allows for adjustments to operating parameters, ensuring optimal output and product quality.

The applications of machine health can also extend beyond traditional manufacturing. In the oil and gas industry, for instance, sensors monitor pipelines for corrosion and leaks, preventing environmental contamination and costly repairs. Wind farms can leverage machine health to predict maintenance needs for turbines, maximizing energy production and minimizing impacts to the electrical grid. Even aircraft engines, once rebuilt on a rigorous schedule, now benefit from direct monitoring which enables what that industry refers to as Condition-Based Maintenance or CBM.

Closing Thoughts

The clear benefits of Machine Health Monitoring are quickly leading to changes in mainstream maintenance strategies, and the industry that provides these critical tools is growing.

Porticos has experience developing these groundbreaking tools, including the ProAxion Tactix® Sensor. Our team specializes in developing robust, cost-effective solutions for monitoring devices and peripherals. Contact us to learn more.

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About Porticos

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Porticos, Inc. is a Product Engineering and New Product Development firm located in Research Triangle Park, NC.

Established in 2003, Porticos produces innovative and effective solutions for their clients and the markets they serve. Porticos provides broad expertise in development, planning, and production. 

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