Condition Monitoring of Electrical Machines: The Secret to Preventative Maintenance
Written By: Brant Henne
3/25/2020 Read Time : 5 min

Manufacturing operations are inherently complex; even managing the maintenance of plant and factory equipment can be a complicated undertaking. Take, for example, a fabricator of outboard engine parts. They may own millions of dollars in production and assembly machinery. They did not build this machinery themselves, but rather purchased it from another manufacturer, who specializes in making factory machinery. In this example, the outboard engine maker maintains and operates machinery they’ve purchased, perhaps only enlisting the machinery maker in the event of a serious problem. But as machinery becomes more complex, this calculus is changing.

Newer machines sometimes are complex enough, that a service agreement is reached, which sees the machinery maker to monitor, maintain, service, and guarantee uptime for their factory customers. Making operations even more complex is the likelihood that a factory may contain a mix of older, self-maintained assets, and newer assets that are specially serviced. Add on top of that the likelihood that large manufacturing companies own different sites and facilities, each with their own unique blend of self-service and vendor-serviced equipment.

Regardless of who is responsible for uptime and performance, condition monitoring can be a game-changer for these complex, electrical machines. What if your machines could alert you when they’re starting to wear down? What if you could get them up and running at full capacity remotely, before having to deal with costly downtime? Online condition monitoring can open the door to predictive maintenance and service. By remotely monitoring machine performance, you can drive revenue growth, build customer trust, and ensure machines don’t unexpectedly go down again. This is great news whether you are maintaining and servicing machines you own, or are servicing equipment for industrial customers.

What Is Online Condition Monitoring?

Online condition monitoring of electrical machines is the continuous surveillance of the performance of a machine and its components. Analyzing real-time data on a manufacturing line’s assets means your organization can detect a problem and implement a solution before a malfunction takes place. This means you can plan for outages, make preparations for new parts, and arrange maintenance visits in advance.

To start monitoring the condition of your manufacturing equipment online, you need to identify your key data points—those that indicate the health of your machine. These include metrics relevant to a given piece of equipment. Once these key metrics are identified, you can then connect your asset to a combination of wired, wireless, cellular, or indirect attachments to record, store, and deliver actionable data back to you.

Online condition monitoring systems allow you to set alarms when your preset limits have been surpassed. This will not only immediately alert you when a malfunction happens but—even better—can indicate when a malfunction may occur in the future. Performance data can be used to forecast future performance, allowing you to implement fixes and adjustments well in advance of issues occurring. This is an IIoT technique known as predictive maintenance. More robust IIoT systems, like ThingWorx, can be configured to give provide granular information, such as the amount of time before current conditions will result in downtime.

How Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance Can Impact Service

Condition monitoring of electrical machines allows you to replace both reactive and preventive maintenance with predictive delivery of maintenance. This is a desirable outcome whether you are maintaining electrical machines in your own business, or are you using condition monitoring of electrical machines to deliver service to customers.

From your customer’s perspective the benefit of preventative maintenance is perceived in two areas: your ability to reduce downtime, and in delivering products and services (or products as a service) that are inherently of greater value.

Reduce Machinery Downtime

A remote monitoring tool allows your organization to visualize data on a manufacturing part anytime from anywhere. This means you can troubleshoot issues before problems arise. It also allows you to effectively plan your future maintenance budget and eliminate wasted expenditure on unnecessary spare parts. Diebold, an ATM manufacturer has used remote monitoring to dramatically decrease their machine downtime. By solving 17% of their machines’ problems remotely, they have reduced their average repair time by 83% and decreased ATM downtime by 15%.

Deliver Extra Value and Drive Up Revenue

By implementing condition monitoring of electrical machines, you can offer your customers extra services which will help build customer loyalty as well as increase your revenue. Providing remote monitoring also allows you to build out a Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering, opening up a whole new revenue stream.

Gerber Technology which produces automated cutting machines began offering their GERBER Connect product (a remote monitoring and predictive maintenance service) and engaged more than 40,000 more machines. Similarly, Elekta which produces cancer-fighting radiation therapy tools uses remote monitoring tools to predict a product’s end-of-life. They then sell parts proactively to minimize downtime, which in turn builds customer trust and retention.

Predictive Maintenance vs. Reactive and Preventative Maintenance

In a service setting, the customer satisfaction benefits of condition monitoring can’t be overstated. Consider three service scenarios. With reactive maintenance, your customers are calling you only when there’s already a problem. Even if you are successfully fixing issues, your customers associate you with the cost and disruption of downtime. With preventative maintenance, you are getting in front of problems before they might happen, with scheduled service—but you are also spending time and resources addressing equipment that doesn’t actually need servicing. This can lead to customers reducing you to the cost of doing business, or worse, a misspent investment. With predictive maintenance, the equipment and assets themselves tell you, through data, if they are at risk of failure. In this scenario, you are servicing equipment only when it requires attention, and preventing problems with unwavering reliability. This approach fundamentally changes your relationship with your customers. You become an unobtrusive, indispensable partner, and are recognized as the guarantee of necessary uptime. Predictive maintenance elevates your value, trust, and reputation.

Inform Future Product Development

For manufacturers that go to market with products as a service, deliver a usage-based consumables subscription business, or otherwise blur the lines of product and service, condition monitoring provides another key benefit—data that can influence product design roadmaps. Historical performance data from your machines equip your product designers with information they’ve never had before, allowing them to identify design flaws much faster. Additionally, this information empowers your product designers to build more durable, powerful machines that better meet your customer’s needs, and therefore have greater value.

Learn More about Remote and Condition Monitoring

If you aren’t harnessing the power of machine data yet, you’re missing out on tremendous cost-saving and revenue-building opportunities. Implementing online condition monitoring is a solid investment for manufacturing and service industries. If you’re ready to discover how integrating your machines with remote online monitoring can revolutionize your processes and increase revenue, read our remote monitoring Buyer’s Guide.


Tags: CAD Industrial Internet of Things
About the Author Brant Henne

As a Content Strategy Manager, I thrive on engaging technology stories. There's no shortage of these stories at PTC; we're helping entire industries use the IoT and AR to transform their business.