Condition Monitoring: Let your assets talk to you

Jul 6, 2020 12:34:05 PM


Just like us, assets can speak.

Their talk and their words consist of parameters and signals such as vibration, temperature, viscosity, decibels, wear particles, corrosion, and a whole lot more.

And when things get bad, the assets shout at us. The severity of their words goes up and up.

They tell us they are in poor health or bad condition.

And that’s a business risk.

Condition monitoring

It pays to listen to assets

Are you really listening? If you are, you are already performing some form of condition monitoring.

If you’ve ever been involved in maintenance in a plant, you’ll know all about the asset's voice.

Whether it’s audible: a rolling element bearing rattling away just before it seizes up. The tactile: a gearbox casing overheating as it runs out of lubricant. The visual: a pump’s concrete foundation cracking and crumbling into dust. Or the smell: slipping drive belts and burning rubber as the compressor loses its grip on production.

And as for taste, that’s a step too far, we don’t recommend that one...

But we do recommend you use condition monitoring.

Condition monitoring is defined as the measuring of specific equipment parameters, such as vibrations in a machine, its temperature, or the condition of its oil, taking note of any significant changes that could be indicative of an impending failure. Continuously monitoring the condition of equipment and taking note of any irregularities that would normally shorten an asset's lifespan allows maintenance or other preventive actions to be scheduled to address the issue(s) before they develop into more serious failures. (J Trout, Noria Corp.)


The techniques and technologies of condition monitoring allows us to see the symptoms of poor equipment health. It gives us an early warning signal of a potential or impending asset or component failure before it happens. Some of the most popular techniques include:

  • Vibration analysis
  • Infrared thermography
  • Oil analysis
  • Ultrasound
  • Motor current signature analysis

A condition monitoring engineer is often likened to a doctor of assets.

They listen to the heartbeat of the asset (vibration analysis). They take the bodily temperature (infrared thermography), and they take blood samples (oil analysis). All this helps to detect and diagnose impending failures or actual partial failures and then to extend the person’s or asset’s life cycle.

Traditionally, these techniques have been deployed manually: a technician or engineer walking from machine to machine with handheld data collectors or instruments and taking measurements manually every few weeks. He or she would then have to upload data to standalone PCs and report on the findings or even wait for analysis reports back from 3rd party service providers.

It’s not the most efficient way of doing things, is it?

With the advent of permanent sensors in the industrial internet of things (IIoT), maintenance 4.0, and industry 4.0, more and more, we see a change to continuous, digital monitoring of asset health and condition with dynamic information and data sent to the cloud via cloud-based software. In this new era of connectivity, diagnostic information is often available in real-time in asset information systems to all stakeholders and helps the planning and scheduling of maintenance greatly.

Be proactive for condition monitoring results

By being proactive and deploying a condition monitoring strategy, you can measure the deterioration of rotating, reciprocating, and static assets at your organization or plant. Here are some common examples of the many asset problems condition monitoring can highlight:

  • Worn bearings
  • Pump cavitation
  • Asset to asset misalignment
  • Gear teeth wear
  • External gearbox contamination
  • Structural cracks in pipes or foundations
  • Lack of lubrication
  • Poor electrical connections
  • Failing electrical components
  • Deteriorated motor insulation

Condition monitoring allows you and your team to understand the failure modes and failure mechanisms of your critical asset base. And that’s valuable data and information for business intelligence and operational efficiency.

But condition monitoring is more than that.

It isn’t only useful for highlighting impending failure.

It has a reason for being.

What’s the endgame of condition monitoring?

So, we know that our assets and equipment are starting to deteriorate, right?

After installation and a period of reliable, stable operation, they start telling us that something is going wrong on the inside – or outside. But what next? What do we do with that information?

We can use that powerful information to perform condition-based maintenance (CBM).

Condition Based Maintenance (component):

An equipment maintenance strategy based on measuring the condition of equipment against known standards in order to assess whether it will fail during some future period and taking appropriate action to avoid the consequences of that failure. The condition of the equipment could be measured using condition monitoring, statistical process control, equipment performance or through the use of human senses. The terms condition based maintenance (CBM), on-condition maintenance and predictive maintenance (PdM) can be used interchangeably.

SMRP Best Practices 5th Edition


CBM is a subset of preventive maintenance (PM). But whereas traditional PM focusses on replacing or overhauling components or assets that wear out on a time or usage basis, CBM allows us to perform data-driven maintenance on assets that suffer wear out and random failure modes. This means maintenance when it is genuinely needed. The other forms of PM – if not set up correctly – can lead to replacing components that are still in good, operable condition, i.e. over-maintaining and wasting valuable resources.

Your organization can only benefit from condition monitoring technologies and CBM

Here’s how:

  • Higher asset availability
  • Increased production output
  • Less unplanned downtime
  • Reduced maintenance and life cycle costs
  • Optimized human resources
  • Reduced invasive PMs (overhauls and component replacements)
  • Improved maintenance planning and scheduling
  • Better spares forecasting
  • Root cause analysis information for defect elimination

So, if you can implement condition monitoring in your organization and make it a central theme of your maintenance strategy, you can reap the rewards and get that value delivery your stakeholders demand.  All this amounts to reduced business risk, lower production costs and increased asset and operational performance: the three central principals of professional, modern asset management.


Read next: Comprehensive guide to IIoT in Maintenance


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