Let me start by saying that we love sensors and gadgets! In fact we are selling and installing sensors daily. The available IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technologies for reliability and predictive maintenance have never been greater. The tools available today have saved hundreds of millions of dollars in lost downtime and repair costs. Some of these technologies boast that they call tell you of an impending failure down to the week/day of that imminent failure.
Even with all of the information available to us today, there are still failure modes that cannot be detected by today’s gadgets. There are instances in which the best tools are our own eyes and ears.
As I walk through a plant looking at critical motors, I am looking for things like oil leaks. Leaking oil will usually mean low oil in the reservoir, and if oil is being sucked back into the motor and has covered the windings, dirt and contaminates will cause the motor to run hotter.
I watch for plugged air filters. Starving the motor of air will significantly shorten the life of the windings or, at the very least, cause nuisance thermal alarms from the winding thermal protection. Oil levels and oil color in sleeve bearing motors is important to look at. Low oil can cause a bearing failure, dirty oil is usually due to some type of wiping to the bearing or other contaminates, and too much oil can dump past the seals and into the motor.
I also look at the base to see if the grout is cracking or if shims are loose. I even try to talk to the operator. The operator is the person who walks by that motor every day and has a wealth of information about that motor. That operator knows if the sound has changed, if the exhaust air seems unusually warmer or if the motor smells differently. The operator can usually tell you if oil has been added or air filters have recently been changed.
These are only five examples of things that are easily looked for. These are things that can be spotted without costing a lot of money or involving outside contractors.
It should be understood that all of your reliability initiatives and predictive maintenance doesn’t need to rely on gadgets or the newest technology alone. The modern technologies available to us should be utilized and implemented but let’s not forget the tools that we have relied upon for years and that is our eyes and ears.
HECO - All Systems Go
About the author:
Bob Bolhuis is the Business Development Manager, Large Machines & Projects for HECO - All Systems Go. Bob has over 30 years of experience in the electric motor industry with a focus on large electric motors. Bob has been instrumental in the implementation of a variety of Motor and Powertrain Performance Systems that HECO has partnered with end-users on.