The "what" and "why" of condition monitoring
Condition monitoring is the practice of monitoring key information to predict and prevent problems.
The principles of condition monitoring can be applied to many classes of equipment and processes. Smart instruments and smart valve positioners provide condition information throughout the plant. Even "dumb" instruments can be effectively analyzed by software tools.
Traditional condition monitoring considers, for example, vibration data from rotating equipment, operational hours, design capacity, environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, and many other parameters. Production rate, quality and uptime, and are reviewed on a daily basis.
This information can automatically set off an alarm when there's a deviation from the norm. But a detailed analysis of the information can also be used to predict or prevent specific upcoming failures.
Fundamentally, condition monitoring serves to improve the reliability and performance of controls, equipment and the overall process. But ultimately, it should go beyond reliability to encompass safety, environment, quality and production.
It's not just about equipment
For a long time, the monitoring of the process, equipment and controls were done separately, without good methods to compare information. And many problems originated from poorly understood interactions of the three.
Luckily, the latest tools improve this interaction, such as root cause analysis tools. These streamline problem-solving by determining whether a root cause is related to the equipment, process or controls. Then the right people can perform the right corrective actions, avoiding any trial and error.
A healthy central nervous system
Instrumentation and controls, sometimes referred to as the plant's "central nervous system", are the basis for effective condition monitoring. You must have accurate information provided by well-performing instrumentation and controls before you start any monitoring effort.
Many plants operate with more than 20% of their controls in manual operation, up to 5% of instruments showing signs of failure and as many as 30% of valves with significant mechanical faults. While plants are able to keep running in these conditions, big gains can be made by improving these issues and making sure your central nervous system is functioning properly.
Get everyone involved
Chances are, you're doing some condition monitoring. But is all your condition monitoring information being used effectively? Here are a few suggestions on how to gain more from condition monitoring:
- Prioritize – Choose the process operations with the highest business impact.
- Leverage – Make good use of what you already have.
- Consolidate – Put systems in place to share data with people in different roles.
- Routine monitoring – Monitor continuously, and determine corrective actions.
- Prioritize again –With the key information, prioritize the actions to take.
Condition monitoring should not be a function purely of the maintenance department. Many different people should be involved. Mechanics may need to investigate a motor, instrument technicians make repairs, control engineers perform loop tuning, operators adjust the process – and process engineers make changes to the operating procedures.
Today, condition monitoring offers plants much more than just checking the performance of individual instruments, equipment and processes. When used properly and the data is synchronized, a plant can take full advantage of condition monitoring to enhance many of its other key performance metrics.
The original article was released in the July 2016 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering magazine.
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Head of Performance Solutions