Predictive maintenance can provide detailed data and actionable repair instructions.
by James Farley
June 24, 2019

Pumps are the heart of fluid-transfer operations. Unexpected failure can devastate production and profits. Operators in the industrial-manufacturing realm have been looking for ways to see into the future, to know when, how and why a pump will need to be serviced before a catastrophic breakdown will bring the production process to a halt.

Over the years, manufacturers have worked to improve pump reliability and have developed tools to monitor pump performance and health. Sometimes these tools result in little more than a “check engine light” scenario. There is a problem, so what is the next step?

Evolving technology allows the pump and driving motor to be monitored around the clock via continuous cloud connectivity. This article illustrates how the technology works and how it can optimize pump performance, reliability, and cost of operation and maintenance.

image 1 predictive monitoringImage 1. A predictive-monitoring system can identify failure modes and provide actionable repair guidance, monitoring the pump and motor 24/7 with Wi-Fi or cellular access. (Images courtesy of Griswold, part of PSG)

The Challenge

In most industrial production and processing plants, unexpected failures can be devastating to the production schedule and, by extension, the operator’s bottom line. There are many negatives associated with pump failures:

  • disrupted production
  • batch failures
  • excessive downtime
  • costly repairs
  • costs for new parts and shipping
  • costs for service calls, which can include overtime
  • lost or compromised revenue

In many cases, failure can be prevented if the pump is installed and operated correctly. At the very least, operators should ensure that the pump is properly aligned, operating without cavitation, has properly lubricated bearings, sufficient baseplate rigidity and more. Getting these wrong will lead to costly—and preventable—repairs.

When a pump failure occurs, replacing the broken component alone may not be sufficient. Getting to the root cause can also be difficult and time consuming for plant staff.

If a mechanical seal fails, for example, simply replacing it may not prevent a repeat failure if there is a shaft vibration issue that should be resolved. Pinpointing a root cause can lead to hours of if/then assumptions and trial and error, along with the chasing of symptoms that may ultimately require a level of expertise that can only be provided by a third-party source.

Furthermore, if the pump is in a remote location, the level of complexity is ratcheted up. In these installations, it is difficult to monitor the pump without a technician at the site, which brings its own added costs and safety issues.

Current Industry Solutions

Facilities have focused on deploying predictive maintenance (PdM) techniques as a solution to increasing production reliability since the 1990s. In the pump industry, PdM uses techniques such as vibration and temperature monitoring to observe a pump’s performance and health during operation. Early on, PdM was a manual process where measurements were taken by hand-held devices, then documented and analyzed. This process relied on vibration experts to interpret the data.

Table 1. Average cost chartTable 1. Average cost chart

The pump industry has taken steps to deploy advanced technology in PdM as a way to automate the process.

While some current technologies have automated the data collection, they still may have limitations:

  • Complete machine monitoring. Most technologies are designed to monitor the pump only, even though the pump is only part of the machine.
  • Not true remote monitoring. The majority of “remote” monitoring technologies require technicians to be within Bluetooth range of the pump with a mobile device to accurately gather the data.
  • No real-time data. Due to the remote-monitoring restrictions, this eliminates real-time data, as well as 24/7 monitoring.
  • Alarm only. The data collected by other diagnostic technologies is equivalent to an alert only with no clear level of urgency.
  • No repair guidance. While there is an alert to signify a problem, the root cause is not identified nor any repair guidance offered.
  • No single-source data collection. It is cumbersome to collect the data on all machines within the plant in one easy-to-reference and accessible location.

The Solution

There are predictive monitoring systems that can identify failure modes and provide actionable repair guidance, monitoring the pump and motor around the clock with Wi-Fi or cellular access.

Two sensors are installed on the pump, and two are installed on the motor. The sensors work in unison to predict the health of the pump and motor. This capability allows a diagnostic reading and analysis of a number of performance parameters for the pump, motor, coupling and foundation, including:

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