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How to Setup Remote Vibration Monitoring (Series)

09/03/2021

2021-07-vibration analysis series-part 6This blog post continues an 8-part series on vibration analysis written by Dr. Sara McCaslin & Nolan Crowley, Business Development Manager at HECO.

Dr. Sara McCaslin: Sara has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington. Sara has also taught materials science, manufacturing, and mechanical system design at the University of Texas at Tyler.

Nolan Crowley: Nolan has BS from Miami University along with extensive field experience with powertrains, electric motors, & vibration issues since 2007.

Remote vibration monitoring is a great tool for continuously monitoring key equipment in your facility, detecting major issues before they happen, and determining when something needs to be replaced/refurbished. But what’s really involved in it? And is it worth the investment?

What is Remote Condition Monitoring?

Remote condition monitoring is a powerful tool for PdM (Predictive Maintenance) made possible by technological developments such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). It allows you to track in real-time the performance and condition of your equipment. And in the context of vibration, it can be used with critical rotating equipment in your facilities such as electric motors, fans, pumps, and powertrains. 

Sensors gather data about vibration in real-time and forward that data via Bluetooth, Wifi, or Radio Signals to a server or computer. Visualization (e.g., charts, graphs, plots) and tables of data can then be remotely downloaded on PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. The data can also be used to perform frequency-domain vibration analysis and rotor vibration analysis to better inform predictive maintenance and condition monitoring.

In addition, remote monitoring systems can be configured to send out alerts when certain operating parameters fall outside preset limits.

Benefits of Remote Vibration Monitoring

There are several benefits to properly setting up remote vibration monitoring for rotating equipment:

  • Alarms and alerts can be configured
  • Equipment performance can be monitored from anywhere
  • Data trends can speed up the troubleshooting process if something goes wrong
  • Allows the health of your rotating equipment to be easily evaluated
  • Because issues can be detected before they become serious, MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) is increased and downtime is decreased
  • Enhanced reliability of rotating equipment

Some Things to Consider

Let’s go over some things you need to consider before investing in a remote vibration monitoring system. 

Oddly enough, the biggest problem we’ve seen with the setup of a remote monitoring system isn’t actually a technical issue. You can have a top-of-the-line system installed, but if you don’t use the data then it’s all a waste of time & money. You see, remote monitoring systems generate a ton of data. 

So, the first question you should ask is this: How consistent is your maintenance team in following up on red flags revealed by vibration analysis? If that kind of data is ignored or treated lightly, there’s no reason to believe they’ll take the results of remote monitoring any more seriously. 

Next, do you have a vibration analyst in-house or available to help interpret the vibration data and make recommendations? Certain tools might help you be able to perform modal analysis or frequency domain analysis, but interpreting those results is another matter. Without that, the data will not be of any use.

Finally, keep in mind that remote condition monitoring won’t take the place of the feedback you get from people that work with the equipment. Technicians that are familiar with the equipment are still an invaluable part of your maintenance program. They can see and hear changes that even the best remote vibration monitoring system may not pick up on.

Setting Up Your Remote Vibration Monitoring System

Selecting the Equipment to Monitor

Careful selection of what equipment needs to be monitored remotely is important. If you try to monitor too much, you might find your team overwhelmed with alerts and data. Selecting what rotary equipment to monitor depends heavily on how important that piece of equipment is to your facility. For example, the motor that drives a critical powertrain is going to be a better candidate than a rarely used pump or fan. 

Selecting the Remote Monitoring Tools

When shopping for a remote vibration monitoring system, here’s what we recommend you look for:

  • A package that comes with accelerometers in addition to the necessary data transmission tools
  • The option to add additional accelerometers
  • Tools for downloading the data in a variety of formats
  • Data visualization that includes at minimum a dashboard and frequency plots
  • Tools for report generation
  • Apps that will work not just on PCs and laptops but portable devices as well (e.g., tablets, smartphones)
  • The ability to configure alerts and alarms


There are other factors you may need to consider as well, such as certain parts of the system that need to be industrial rated for hazardous environments, the distance between the sensors and the wireless nodes that transmit data, etc.

Choosing Where to Place the Accelerometers

In a previous blog post, we talked in detail about how accelerometers work, where to place them and how to mount them in order to get the most useful data. To summarize, they should be mounted firmly and never placed on shields or covers. The mounting area should be thoroughly cleaned, free of all paint and debris. Where they should be positioned depends on the type of data you need to gather--and we really recommend that you consult with a certified vibration analyst to ensure you get the right data.

Using the Data

Let’s talk about how you can put the data to use. Keep in mind that vibration data for rotating equipment can reveal issues with balance, misalignment, bearing defects, loose fasteners or welds, and resonance.

The results of analysis and reports based on the data support PdM and CBM (Condition Based Maintenance), which in turn can significantly increase the reliability of your equipment. It can be used to predict when equipment is about to fail and help your team recognize trends related to equipment issues. Those trends can then inform decisions about refurbishment or replacement of rotating equipment as well as aid in troubleshooting when something goes wrong. However, to get the most out of the data, you will need to consult a vibration analyst.

Conclusion

The data and real-time information that remote vibration monitoring provides can prove extremely valuable to the reliability of your rotating equipment, and there are basic packages available to simplify the process--especially if you are new to it.

If you’re wondering whether remote vibration monitoring is right for your equipment, contact HECO today. Our team of certified vibration analysts and PdM specialists will work with you to find out what solutions best fit your needs and budget. In fact, we even offer turnkey CBM solutions!

 

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