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Condition Online Monitoring

Wind Turbines pic


When thinking about online monitoring, many things can come to mind:

The most common questions asked by all vibration specialists, plant managers, and reliability personnel are :

  • Why should I do it?
  • Which equipment should be monitored?
  • How many equipment?
  • What frequencies should the measurement be set at?
  • Is it worth the investment?

The 3 Top Reasons for installing an Online Monitoring System are:

  1. Insurance requirements: Example: Wind turbine main bearing, gearbox and generator, mine shaft hoist, underground mines ventilations, etc.
  2. Critically based equipment: either the equipment is dangerous for itself, for the production or for the safety of the personnel.
  3. Money and all the savings it will generate: The most common and important one
Forge image

While writing these lines, I am on a plane, on my way back from the biggest monitoring project I’ve been involve in. The plant managers started a predictive maintenance program some years ago, they were using portable data collector/ ultrasound and thermography.

Since the start of the maintenance program, the company has seen a 40 % reduction in the cost of maintenance, and this is just in material, saved down time is not calculated here. The managers decided to step up the maintenance program and upgrade half of their portable data collection point with online condition-based monitoring. This took the online monitoring points project, to a little bit more than 4000 points.  The plant manager realized all the potential saving from an online monitoring system if most of the plant was monitored, 100% of the time. With programmable acquisition based on operating condition, post-processing on historical data, absolute, relative and statistical alarm levels, it will be easier to analyse, and pin point the root cause of the defect and prevent it to happen again. They will also be able to find favorable operating conditions for different equipment, thus increasing the efficiency of the production line.

The dreaded: How much will it cost ? 

The killer question, How much? The answer: it depends. It depends of what type of result your plant is looking for?
Some more basic online monitoring system are relatively inexpensive and require low or no vibration skill to install and interpret. Scalable vibration analog sensors are easy to integrate to a PLC system and track, and if your plant doesn’t have vibration knowledge, ISO standard or manufacturer alarms levels for certain equipment type, are often available.

The next step in the online monitoring system is the semi-online. The semi-online monitoring system is a new thing that came to life with the venue of wireless vibration sensors. These vibration sensors come in all sort of sizes and flavors, but basically, due to battery management, these sensors don’t monitor 100% of the time, they have some sort of mechanism that wakes the sensor, checks for some threshold and/or capture some data. These types of sensors have a big advantage in the installation phase, they have no cables to run, thus less engineering, less install time, less maintenance.

At last, there’s the condition-based monitoring systems. This kind of monitoring can be, at times, a challenge to integrate into your current systems, with all the different communication protocols now available on the market and all the IT’s security nightmare, a project of online condition-based monitoring, can quickly become unmanageable. But, with the right tools, the right team, the right support, these kinds of project are well worth-it. Imagine a sales person trying to sell you a system so precise, that you could, pre-program all the known failure modes of your machine at different speeds, products, or loads.

Making it such that if one of the failure modes come in alarm, it would automatically send a email to the right group of people, so they can asset the problem, would you still say; How much ?


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