Condition monitoring beats planned maintenance

Published:  25 February, 2014

Companies have never been more aware of the large costs and inconveniences created by downtime and urgent repair when equipment fails. However many are still exclusively reliant on routine maintenance which is not only a fixed, recurring cost in itself, but may also result in work and replacement of components. PWE reports.

In the same way that some modern cars now have intelligent, variable service intervals, those responsible for manufacturing plant and building equipment can apply condition based maintenance (CBM). By regularly monitoring the condition, or degree of wear in a machine, a smarter strategy can be applied to maintenance and service. For example, instead of routinely removing a machine and dismantling it to replace bearings, the work can instead be performed as required and when indicated by increases in the vibration levels. It is certain that once a bearing’s vibration ‘signature’ starts to increase due to noise it will only increase – and exponentially too. Bearings never become less worn. Furthermore, CBM can provide an early warning of the unexpected and catastrophic mechanical failures which are always a risk.

In addition to the above, by monitoring and therefore maximising machine efficiency, energy savings can be optimised. Vibration, regardless of the cause or source will increase the load on a motor or pump. For example, monitoring a machine’s condition over time can reveal that vibration has increased and, with the right equipment, a particular increase in low frequency vibration at three times the run speed would suggest a loose mounting. Addressing the problem with the mounting can achieve a significant reduction in overall low frequency vibration and in turn a significant increase in efficiency.

Clearly then, condition based maintenance can save money by allowing maintenance to be performed when it is actually required, thus avoiding the greatest cost of all – unexpected emergency repairs, as well as by reducing energy consumption. So why isn’t everyone using CBM? In the U.S.A. use of CBM has been in place longer, and is more widespread, than in Europe. On this side of the Atlantic there has previously been a perception that CBM was expensive and complex, (with some justification). But adoption is rapidly increasing. As European manufacturing plants and facility managers increasingly benefit from CBM it is imperative that their CBM equipment is straightforward to use and provides clear, colour coded alarms which any operator can act upon.

For more than a decade U.K. based C-Cubed has manufactured vibration analysers and CBM equipment for CBM specialists and plant and maintenance managers in blue chip companies. Now, that experience is being used to offer a unique line-up of products for a wider audience. From a simple ‘Vib Meter’ costing just a few hundred pounds, through a remarkable ‘pocket-able’ vibration analyser with trending software, to a fully featured asset management system with inspection records, RFID tagging, two plane field balancer and more. The common theme across this range of products is powerful information through simple operation. C-Cubed comments it has never been more practical or cost effective to implement a condition based maintenance strategy.

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