5 Condition Monitoring Techniques

Condition monitoring techniques are used to evaluate machine health and performance according to condition-based parameters. Many manufacturing businesses rely on condition-based monitoring techniques in order to detect deviations from normal operating conditions. Condition monitoring systems are often built into broader asset management programs and integrated with other tech platforms.

Why is condition monitoring important? 

Condition monitoring is important because it provides you with a clear and continuous process for  measuring the health and performance of your critical business assets in real time. This, in turn, gives you the power to perform preventive maintenance and more advanced types of maintenance like predictive maintenance which aim to stop potential failures from occurring.

In the manufacturing sector, critical business assets usually include equipment, machinery, and industrial facilities. The productivity of your business depends on the functionality of these assets. Keeping assets functional in the long term requires routine maintenance and close performance monitoring.

The importance of monitoring critical business assets

Conducting real-time or high-frequency monitoring of critical business assets allows you to: 

  • Identify performance issues before they can escalate into costly problems and equipment failures
  • Optimize asset performance and extend equipment lifespan through preventive maintenance and repairs
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory standards and safety protocols while mitigating the risks associated with accidents or malfunctions

The drawbacks of failing to monitor and maintain assets

Failing to monitor and maintain critical business assets can have a number of negative consequences including: 

  • Unexpected breakdowns, prolonged downtime, production delays, and loss of revenue
  • Repair costs that significantly exceed the cost of regular maintenance work 
  • Compromised product quality, dissatisfied customers , and potential damage to your brand’s reputation 

Industries that depend on condition monitoring systems

Effective asset monitoring is essential for ensuring operational efficiency, safety, and sustainability across various industries. But in certain industries, the consequences of asset failure can be particularly severe. For instance:

  • In manufacturing, machine failures can halt production lines, cause unplanned downtime, and lead to significant financial losses. 
  • In transportation, failure to monitor the condition of traffic lights, signage, and electrical equipment can result in accidents, injuries, and property damage.
  • In the energy sector, unmonitored infrastructure like deteriorating pipelines or aging power plants can lead to environmental disasters and widespread disruption of services.

Condition-based maintenance programs

Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM) is an innovative, data-driven maintenance strategy designed to enhance equipment availability, prevent unplanned downtime, and reduce maintenance costs. CBM techniques allow your business to deliver maintenance exactly at the point it is needed in order to prevent system failure. This is different from predictive maintenance, which aggregates data in order to anticipate and prevent future equipment degradation with planned maintenance. It’s much different from reactive maintenance, which involves responding to failures after they have occurred.

Today, a growing number of maintenance platforms include condition monitoring sensors and tools, which can deliver real-time data collection and continuous data analysis. This data collection and exploration helps build and train algorithms for understanding machine condition, predicting failures, and building more proactive maintenance schedules

Emergent technology is lowering the cost of entry for implementing these advanced diagnostic tools. And relative to predictive maintenance, CBM techniques allow for early detection of deterioration, faults, or impending failures.  

5 condition-based monitoring techniques

There are various commonly used condition monitoring techniques. Each measures a specific condition parameter. The following are among the leading condition monitoring techniques used in manufacturing, production, and industrial operations:

1. Vibration Analysis

Vibration analysis is used to measure the vibration levels in rotating machinery. When vibration patterns change, this may be an indication of equipment misalignment, imbalances, or component deterioration.

  • How it works: With vibration monitoring, sensors are placed on or near rotating equipment in order to measure vibrations at various axis points. The vibration sensors analyze amplitude, frequency and waveform in order to detect abnormal patterns. With the help of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, these patterns can identify potential faults or measure equipment deterioration. 
  • Benefits
    • Detect potential faults and anticipate equipment failures before they occur
    • Improve equipment performance and reliability
    • Plan ahead for cost-effective, condition-based maintenance
  • Common uses
    • Performance analysis for equipment with rotating components such as pumps, turbines, electric motors, and compressors 
    • Condition monitoring in industries like Aerospace, Automotive, and Manufacturing

2. Oil Analysis

Oil analysis is used to evaluate lubricating oil samples for signs of contamination, wear, and corrosion. This non-invasive technique can provide insights into the condition of components such as bearings, gears, and hydraulic systems.

  • How it works: With oil analysis, samples are collected directly from operational machinery and equipment for assessment in a laboratory setting. Analysis will typically include several layers of assessment including spectroscopy, chromatography, and particle counting. These methods are used to assess viscosity and identify contaminants, particles, metals, and other indicators that equipment may be deteriorating or in need of maintenance.
  • Benefits
    • Detect equipment wear and component degradation before breakdown
    • Extend the lifespan of your equipment through preventive maintenance
    • Reduce the occurrence of unplanned downtime 
  • Common uses
    • Assessing the condition of engines, gearboxes, and hydraulic systems
    • Monitoring oil quality in Automotive, Marine, and Industrial applications

3. Thermography 

Thermography is used to detect abnormal temperature variations in equipment. Thermal cameras can identify changes in temperature, which may be an indication of overheating, lubrication issues, or mechanical problems.

  • How it works: With thermography, thermal cameras are used to detect infrared radiation emitted by objects. This radiation is converted into visible images representing surface temperatures. Infrared thermography makes it easier for observers to spot abnormal temperature patterns, which may point to issues with equipment or help predict potential equipment failure.  
  • Benefits
    • Inspect equipment using non-invasive imaging
    • Detect overheating components before they cause equipment malfunction
    • Improve safety and mitigate the risk of accident or injury due to malfunction
  • Common uses
    • Inspection of electrical systems and mechanical equipment for loose connections, insulation defects, pipe leaks, misalignment, and more
    • Condition monitoring in the Power Generation, Oil & Gas, Defense & Aerospace, and Automotive industries, among others

4. Acoustic Analysis

Acoustic analysis is used to capture the sound waves generated by your machinery or equipment. Microphones or acoustic sensors may be used to detect changes in sound patterns, which can indicate abnormal equipment function.

  • How it works: With acoustic analysis, sensors are used to capture the sound waves produced by machinery during operation. Acoustic analysis usually also includes advanced signal processing, which is used to distinguish between normal and abnormal operating sounds. Shifts in the frequency, intensity or pattern of sound may point to potential faults or impending equipment failure
  • Benefits
    • Detect mechanical issues such as gear damage before equipment fails.
    • Monitor inaccessible or hazardous equipment remotely
    • Implement at low cost and with quick turnaround time
  • Common uses
    • Detection of leaks and anomalies in pipelines and fluid systems
    • Assessment of mechanical components in Chemical Processing, Power Generation, Oil & Gas refineries and other operations dealing with hazardous materials

5. Electrical Monitoring

Electrical monitoring is used to provide continuous, real-time analysis of critical electrical parameters including voltage, current, and induction. Electrical monitoring can detect changes in these parameters, which may be an indication of electrical overload, equipment degradation, and other serious safety and fire hazards.

  • How it works: Sensors and meters are placed on electrical panels and other equipment. These sensors produce data about your equipment’s power signature analysis (i.e. voltage and current) along with other parameters like induction (electricity generation via magnetic field interaction), capacitance (the ability to store an electric charge), and insulation condition. These data can then be analyzed to detect deviations from normal operating conditions, which may be an indication of faults or inefficiencies in electrical systems. 
  • Benefits
    • Detect electrical faults and potential hazards before they can pose a safety threat
    • Optimize the energy consumption and efficiency of your equipment
    • Improve the reliability and uptime of your electrical systems
  • Common uses
    • Monitoring of power distribution systems, switchgear, and transformers
    • Condition monitoring across all industries including Chemical Processing, Mining & Materials, Energy, Building, and much more

Establish a condition-based monitoring program

Establishing a condition-based monitoring (CBM) program requires a structured approach and careful consideration of your operation’s goals and needs. Your business can implement a condition-based monitoring program by following the six steps listed below:

  1. Prioritize the assets you want to monitor with a focus on equipment that is costly to replace and critical to your productivity.
  2. Identify all known and probable failure modes for selected assets.
  3. Select compatible condition monitoring systems and techniques in response to the probable failure modes identified above.
  4. Define baseline limits for chosen CBM solutions so that the system can warn you when monitored equipment is beginning to deteriorate with enough time to perform corrective actions.
  5. Establish the CBM program by defining tasks and delegating responsibilities to your maintenance team with an emphasis on collecting and recording measurements.
  6. Analyze the data, plot out trends, and schedule maintenance work accordingly.

By following these steps, you can establish a robust condition-based monitoring program in order to improve asset health, reduce unplanned downtime, and optimize preventive maintenance practices.

But you should keep in mind that some condition monitoring sensors and solutions are easier to implement than others. Before diving into implementation, you should have a complete understanding of the resources and costs needed to implement each condition monitoring solution, and a clear sense of the solution that best fits your maintenance needs. 

Need help transitioning from reactive maintenance to more proactive, data-based strategies? Download our free guide to start seeing the benefits of better maintenance plans and schedules.

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