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The current crop of predictive maintenance (PdM) management software now delivers instantaneous decision-making power for those engineers and plant managers charged with wringing the maximum utility from their facilities while conserving maintenance costs. Capable of instantly analyzing and interpreting vibration data--along with ferrography, used-lubricant analysis, and visual inspections--today's PdM software delivers integrated and prioritized information not only to plant managers in their offices, but throughout the entire organization by means of enterprise-wide "electronic in-trays," text messages, pager alerts, and even HTML pages accessible via a common Web browser.
Predicting the repair needs of critical components in lathes, mills, turbines, fans, drills, pumps, and any other rotating device allows maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) executives to control the destiny of their plants' operations by preventing unexpected shutdowns in the first place. This ability to plan for the future is no longer the domain of Fortune 500 companies, as PdM software's power to deliver answers, not merely data, has even trickled down to small and mid-sized businesses. However, it wasn't always that way.
Building upon the Past
It wasn't that long ago that plant engineers relied on run-to-fail (RTF) maintenance schedules--a method that almost guaranteed unscheduled process--line shutdowns. Hardly satisfactory,' the maintenance industry welcomed advances in computerization as a means to help prevent expensive machine breakdowns.
When machine condition analysis was started for the U.S. Navy back in 1966, the vibration work was all manual. In a typical scenario, a group of engineers would stay on a ship for 10 days or 2 weeks to gather measurements by means of analog instrumentation tape recordings. These recordings would then be played back by technicians through a processor to produce a 5-foot-high stack of graphs. For the next 3 weeks, a group of engineers would go through all the data, manually categorizing all the machinery and making specific repair recommendations.
Even the private sector "made do" with rudimentary results while absorbing huge manpower expenses. Automakers and power companies, for example, would maintain vast banks of vibration experts for the sole purpose of tracking machine life.
Perhaps the persistent …