Condition Monitoring

Condition monitoring is, in essence, the process of monitoring a condition within a machine. Specifically though, it is the process of monitoring a parameter of the condition, of which a change is indicative of a developing failure. Basic condition monitoring is of critical importance for achieving maximum bearing service life. Even the most thorough and comprehensive maintenance program will likely be unable to stop faults developing in machinery. Faults can lead to system failures which can result in damage across several parameters. Successfully implemented condition monitoring gives you back the control and puts you in the driving seat to ensure breakdowns are prevented and maintenance resources are optimised.

In an ideal world it is preferable to commence monitoring the condition of a machine either upon installation, or when refurbishment or modification(s) have been undertaken. This is to have as closely as possible a datum to measure from. If Condition Monitoring is actioned during a machines’ life there is no way of understanding Condition monitoring assesses the health of a machine by periodic monitoring and analysis of data obtained during operation. It should be “efficient, non-intrusive to the production process and with the proven potential to save thousands of pounds in secondary damage, lost production and unnecessary maintenance.” Source –

There is a wide range of SKF measuring instruments on the market for analysing the critical environmental conditions. Such conditions can have an impact on the performance of both the bearings and the machine. The SKF range covers the most important parameters for measuring machine condition in order to achieve optimum bearing performance. There are a number of such parameters including temperature, speed, vibrations, noise, oil and bearing condition.

SKF’s range of condition monitoring equipment is wide and far reaching. The Advanced Thermal Imager can produce high quality images from invisible infrared radiation. Endoscopes allow fast and easy inspection with a video function and give the user the ability to view applications in restricted spaces. Sound Detection Probes sense high frequency sounds, leaks and electrical discharges produced by operating equipment. It then translates these signals by a heterodyning process, making them audible. A Viscometer is a handheld tool that can give you rapid and reliable viscosity measurements of lubrication oils and hydraulic fluids. These, along with Tachometers, Stroboscopes, Ultrasonic Leak Detectors and Bearing Assessment Kits; help make up a comprehensive array of products that SKF have for your condition monitoring needs.

One final thing to consider is the Criticality Index. This is a metric used to determine the degree on condition monitoring on any given machine. It takes into account the purpose, redundancy, cost of repair, downtime and several other key factors. The index will ultimately put all machines into one of three categories.

1. Critical Machinery – machines that are of such importance to a plant or process that without it things cannot function.

2. Essential Machinery – key to the plant or process, but if they fail, the process is still able to continue.

3. General/Balance Machinery – the remainder and monitored less closely.

To help achieve the maximum service life from your bearings, condition monitoring cannot be underestimated. Choose the right process for the right condition and your machinery will last longer and run better and, ideally, your plant or process shall not fail.

+Clive Simkins