immediate correction, such as a wind turbine. Here, it is vital to identify faults as quickly as possible to avoid the prospect of very expensive catastrophic failure. Similarly, fast-running production machinery would benefit from a connected condition monitoring system, especially if it runs alongside many similar machines. Other assets require less immediate

attention. The process data they generate can be saved and analysed at a later date. A system such as SKF’s Multilog IMx-8

SKF says introducing condition monitoring in a selective fashion, such as prioritising the most critical machinery first, is an efficient and cost-effective way to keep an eye on your machines


ondition monitoring is critical to improving machine uptime and

manufacturing efficiency and this will continue to increase in the age of digitalisation. Machines can now be retrofitted with a

range of sensors that capture vast amounts of process data. The data can be instantly uploaded to the Cloud and analysed. This approach has revolutionised condition monitoring, making it easier to diagnose faults and avoid potential failure and downtime. Condition monitoring is big business. A

recent report from Mordor Intelligence valued the global machine conditioning market at almost $2 billion in 2017 and more than $2.5bn by 2023. Similarly, the Microsoft 2019 Manufacturing Trends Report says the market size for sensors and controllers is expected to swell by nearly 20% between 2016 and 2020. Part of the reason for the growth is the

desire by manufacturers to make their legacy systems more intelligent. Few businesses are capable of replacing their entire stock of old machinery with the latest models. Instead, they install sensors into existing equipment, allowing them to gather vital process data. Condition monitoring should be adopted

in a manageable way. It is tempting to imbue every machine with sensors, to generate more valuable data, but manufacturers should only invest in the monitoring they need. Data is relatively easy to collect and

store but analysing it all may prove to be impossible. Instead, it is wise to concentrate on the most critical assets. How expensive is a machine to repair or replace? What is the potential cost of lost production through downtime? And are


The Multilog IMx-8 can be wirelessly configured and monitored using a variety of mobile devices

there any safety implications? Investing in higher levels of technology

makes most sense when assets are remote or difficult to access. Overall, the cost of buying, installing and operating each option must be carefully considered.

CONNECTED VS STANDALONE Seamless connectivity is a feature of the modern world. However, it is not always necessary to run a condition monitoring system in this way. Sensor data can be routed into the Cloud, for analysis and feedback, but condition monitoring can also be performed in standalone mode. Instantly connected data is useful for applications that need fast feedback, or

By introducing a selective condition monitoring strategy, companies can invest judiciously in new sophisticated machinery, while enhancing other areas of production with retrofitted sensors

or Multilog IMx-16Plus can be used to monitor machine health. The Multilog IMx-8 can be wirelessly configured and monitored using a variety of mobile devices. However, it also boasts a 4GB internal memory. In stand-alone mode, with no need for connection to central software or external communications, it can store a year’s worth of machine and event data. In addition, the Multilog IMx-16Plus is

flexible enough to be used across a range of applications and industries. It has the ability to monitor everything from a single machine to an entire plant from one, central location. Condition monitoring is an extra

business expense, but one that is easy to justify. Smaller companies may feel they can cope adequately without condition monitoring. However, the prospect of component failure causing machine downtime – leading, in turn, to missing an important order – should be enough to rethink this view. At one time, the cost of installing a data

collection system was beyond the means of a smaller company. Now, the price has fallen dramatically, due partly to the availability of affordable sensors such as vibration accelerometers. The Microsoft 2019 Manufacturing Trends Report estimates that average sensor costs dropped by around two-thirds between 2004 and 2018. At the same time, the cost of connecting these sensors together has become less than ever. Together, it makes intelligent manufacturing more affordable for companies of all sizes. This means manufacturers can introduce

condition monitoring at their own pace and at an appropriate scale. Rather than making a sudden switch, from an old system to a smart factory, the process can be isolated to those assets that will benefit most. Condition monitoring can seem like a

daunting prospect but the ability to introduce it selectively, using affordable, interconnected sensors, means that even smaller companies can achieve it without having to invest in the latest generation of smart machinery.

SKF (U.K.)


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