Plant & Works Engineering
Keep ahead of the curve
Published:  09 September, 2019

PWE takes a look at monitoring in an aggressive manufacturing environment.

If you’re a maintenance manager working within an “aggressive” manufacturing environment, you will need to adopt a different approach to traditional condition monitoring methods.

That’s according to David Manning-Ohren, condition monitoring manager at ERIKS UK & Ireland, who says: “In order to be effective, condition monitoring needs to allow a window of opportunity in which corrective or preventative measures can be taken.

“Equipment that faces intense pressures, forces or temperatures has a sharper failure curve than equipment that doesn’t. Any issues, therefore, are likely to occur quickly and have more of an impact.

“For this reason, traditional methods are unlikely to spot an issue until it’s too late, leading to the very downtime and costs that condition monitoring was supposed to prevent.”

Luckily, technology exists to cope with the higher demands of an aggressive manufacturing environment. Tools that use live, real-time data acquisition to keep on top of even small machine changes as they occur, for example, are particularly effective in aggressive environments.

He continues to explain: “Data acquisition is more useful than periodic portable monitoring, because it identifies alterations, such as an increase in dust, fluid, or debris, before they become issues.”

Manning-Ohren advises maintenance managers in aggressive environments to do the following:

1. Define ‘aggressive’.

“What’s aggressive in one context might not be in another,” he says. “Flour on a bakery floor isn’t aggressive, but flour in a bearing is.”

2. Keep it clean.

Keeping the factory floor as free of contaminants as possible will help to prolong the lifespan of equipment. “Dampen down dust with sprays, or use extractor fans to remove it,” David says. “Actions such as these make the aggressive environment smaller and more manageable.”

3. Evaluate the location of equipment.

“Just because an asset is part of the process creating the aggressive environment, doesn’t mean it physically needs to be there,” David says. “There are few applications in which you can’t create enough distance between a motor and a gearbox, for example. In fact, driveshafts of up to 10m in length are entirely possible if engineered-in at the design stage.”

4. Check your assets have the right IP rating.

Even the cleanest production lines spread contaminants, which ultimately leads to the expansion of the aggressive environment. Make sure, therefore, that any component working as part of the process has the correct IP rating, whether it’s based directly within the aggressive environment, or not. “If it only has a standard IP rating, it won’t be long before its performance and reliability are affected,” David says.

5. Defend your assets.

A good defence should be the final step before implementing condition monitoring. “Consider moulded-oil bearings and super seals to increase protection against contaminant ingress,” David says. “Automatic lubricators are also effective, because they place positive pressure on the lubricant within the bearing.”

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