The three essential elements of condition-based maintenance

Posted on 29 Apr 2022 by The Manufacturer
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Equipment failure is responsible for around 42% of unplanned downtime – and with downtime costing UK manufacturers more than £180bn each year, every business needs a strategy to tackle it.

With unexpected downtime being both damaging and costly, failure to develop a clearly defined predictive and preventative maintenance strategy exposes manufacturing firms in every sector to potentially avoidable risks such as unscheduled outages, expensive repairs and a reduction in the lifespan of valuable assets.

Although creating a strategy can seem overwhelming, here maintenance engineering academic Dr Moray Kidd shares an easily adaptable approach that focuses on three core areas: condition monitoring, laboratory testing and a basic maintenance regimen.

1) Condition monitoring

Every machine generates heat, noise and vibration when in use. Introduce condition monitoring and you’ll see when usual levels change – indicating that something isn’t working as well as it should be.

Dealing with the issue as soon as possible at this stage reduces the likelihood of more severe and disruptive failure later. A predictive maintenance programme of this kind can, for example, yield a 10-fold increase in ROI as well as 25%-30% reduction in maintenance costs, 70%-75% decrease of breakdowns and increased uptime of between 35% and 45%.

Asset analysis, however, must be accompanied by action. According to Dr Kidd, “A lot of companies will say they do condition monitoring but when you scratch the surface and ask what interventions they’ve made as a result of that analysis, they’ll often say they haven’t got the resources to make any.

“They’ll say: ‘We tried that – it didn’t work for us. It was expensive, so we didn’t carry on,’” adds Dr Kidd, who will be the expert speaker at the inaugural RS Connect exhibition in May.

Often the biggest challenge is resources, particularly lack of personnel. In these situations, working with a specialist service provider who will assist with identifying the most efficient and cost-effective maintenance strategies can pay dividends.

Engineers looking at tablet in factory setting. Credit: iStock

Downtime costs UK manufacturers more than £180bn every year. Image credit: iStock

2) Laboratory testing

However high-tech engineering and manufacturing becomes, there is still a vital role for low-tech inspections.

“The reality is that some of the biggest gains can be achieved by doing the basics well – establishing good housekeeping processes,” Dr Kidd advises.

Analysis of oil, for example, whether in-house or by an outside service provider, feeds into a condition-based maintenance model as it too can reveal the presence of problems that can be dealt with by prompt action rather than unplanned downtime down the line.

“Some of the biggest gains can be achieved by doing the basics well.”
– Dr Moray Kidd, Maintenance Engineering Academic

3) Maintenance regimen

In the RS & Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply 2021 Indirect Procurement Report, 44% of UK businesses said ‘maintaining ageing assets’ was one of their biggest day to day challenges.

This makes having a simple and reliable maintenance regimen essential. The first step is to define the optimal running condition for a machine – then ensure regular cleaning to keep it that way. Regular cleaning also provides another opportunity to inspect the machine.

Assess what needs to improve, then take step-by-step action. Prioritise assets that are the most critical to operations but, cautions Dr Kidd, remember that improvements are gradual.

“This is absolutely a living and breathing, continuous process.”
– Dr Moray Kidd, Maintenance Engineering Academic

“This is absolutely a living and breathing, continuous process,” he says. “And the great thing is that the real value is in the journey, not the destination.

“It gets people thinking about what ‘critical’ means within their business. What can cause things to fail, and what the right response should be. And that can make the biggest difference in any business following a formalised approach to maintenance engineering. That’s the real value.”

To learn more from Dr Kidd about plant reliability, the challenges and best practice, register for the first RS Connect event at the International Centre, Telford, on 12th May 2022.