What is predictive maintenance?
Predictive maintenance involves using real-time data, such as vibration analysis to predict when a machine will fail. That prediction is then used to perform preventative maintenance at the most convenient time prior to failure. Predictive maintenance thus provides cost savings over routine time-based maintenance options. It does this by allowing maintenance to be performed at the most cost-effective time while avoiding unexpected equipment failures.
With any machine, the question isn’t whether or not, but when the machine will break down. Routine maintenance can prolong the life of the machine. But moving parts wear out and eventually require replacement.
For a factory reliant on machinery, stopping the assembly line to replace bearings and change oil takes time, money, and resources away from daily production.
Maintenance and Repair Strategies Used Prior to Predictive Maintenance
Until the latter portion of the 20th century, these work stoppages were a necessary evil. Machines had to be stopped. Parts had to be replaced at pre-determined intervals. Without this maintenance, catastrophic equipment failure could end up costing your company even more time and money.
These part replacement intervals were based on conservative estimates of how many revolutions a fan blade should be able to withstand or how long a bearing should last.
The biggest problem with this maintenance model is the estimate of the time or wear a part can take before it needs to be replaced. Environmental conditions like humidity, air temperature, particulates in the air, and so many others, can drastically change the amount of wear on any given part. Hence the need for very conservative estimates for when parts should be replaced.
Why Predictive Maintenance is Superior
Predictive maintenance, on the other hand, allows the current condition of the machine to dictate when part replacements take place. By closely monitoring the smallest details of how a machine is operating, a very accurate picture of the current health of the machine and its parts can be seen.
Vibration analysis is one of the more accurate and detailed methods for gathering this data. Monitoring the vibrational waves being emitted by a machine, a vibration analyst can determine exactly how healthy any number of different parts inside the machine are at a given point in time.
Armed with that information, business owners can choose the most beneficial and cost effective time to complete repairs.
While there is an added cost to setting up and monitoring the vibration analysis equipment, in the long run, this monitoring pays for itself.
Business owners who get more time and wear from parts that don’t need to be replaced save money. Factories that avoid costly shutdowns when a huge job needs to be finished save money. And companies that avoid catastrophic failure through knowing the current condition of their machines save money.
As such, predictive maintenance is a tool every manufacturer should be utilizing.