Can We Just Scrap The Condition Monitoring Program?

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In a competitive climate, disruptions to a business’ productivity can prove costly.

When the disruptions are unexpected and unpredictable, costs, fulfillment of customer orders, risks to the business, safety, and profit can be almost impossible to control.  Continued unexpected disruptions have the possibility to lead to an unrecoverable financial position or the shut down of an operation due to safety concerns.

Today, many organisations include conditioning monitoring programs as part of their maintenance strategies to better manage the risks associated with unexpected equipment failing.

However, Bluefield’s observations are that businesses often find it difficult to articulate the value of a condition monitoring program and the value of specific pieces of equipment or components.

In difficult financial times, many businesses search for ways to reduce their costs by removing activities that do not add value to their business.  In these times, Chief Financial Officers can be overheard asking questions such as  “If we have a condition monitoring program, why isn’t it working?” and therefore, “Can we just scrap this Condition Monitoring Program?”

This article aims to answer these questions.


Why isn’t the conditioning monitoring program working?

Based on Bluefield’s experience gained from providing advice about and managing condition monitoring programs, a program can fail for one or all of the following common reasons:

  • A focus on monitoring the change in equipment but a failure to understand the condition of their equipment
  • Equipment components are hard to access, have unpredictable failure modes, or are not economical to monitor, so they are not monitored
  • Incorrect or poor condition monitoring techniques used that don’t identify the impending failures resulting in no reduction in breakdowns
  • Limited understanding of how all the components of the equipment work together
  • Missed low-frequency failure modes and the opportunity for catastrophic failure events to occur
  • Limited understanding of the value in monitoring the condition of the equipment and therefore monitoring is viewed as costly, unnecessarily time-consuming, and as such, too little is monitored
  • Cost, safety and productivity risks related to equipment failure are not well understood

Will a conditioning monitoring program add value to this business?

A condition monitoring program can add cost and time to a maintenance program and therefore, careful consideration should be given to assess the value of such a program.

To assess the value of a conditioning monitoring program, Bluefield asks the following questions:


1. Is equipment downtime excessive?

Original manufacturers of the equipment (OEM) often set standards for equipment downtime. Industry benchmarks also commonly exist for the downtime of specific equipment.  If the downtime of a specific piece of equipment is in excess of industry benchmarks and OEM standards and the cost of maintenance plus the loss of productivity is beyond the cost of monitoring that equipment then a conditioning monitoring program is of value.


2. Are the machines achieving their expected life?

When equipment or a large component is purchased by an organisation, a business case is commonly created to justify the capital expenditure.  One of the key inputs to the calculations used to justify the business case is the expected life of the machine.

If the machine or a large component is not meeting its expected life (e.g. hours) and the value in the business case not realised is larger than the cost of monitoring the condition of that machine (or component) then there is value in the monitoring.


3. Are the business’ risks being managed?

Unexpected and unpredictable equipment failure can have the potential to injure or kill someone, cause significant damage to the rest of the machine or cause the whole or significant part of an operation to shut down.

If the risks of unexpected and unpredictable equipment failure surpass the cost of monitoring the condition of equipment then a conditioning monitoring program is of value.


4. Is money being spent on unnecessary maintenance?

Time based preventative maintenance strategies are often used on equipment whose condition is not being monitored.

If the costs spent maintaining the equipment under a time based preventative maintenance strategy is more than the money saved by not unnecessarily maintaining it plus the cost of monitoring the condition of the equipment then a condition monitoring program is of value.


5. Can the business effectively implement a condition monitoring program?

As with any improvement program, the implementation is critical, to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved. Implementing a condition monitoring program can require new skills, changes to the current processes and resources to ensure the value is gained.

If the business is ready to accept change and will own the implementation of the program then it will achieve the intended value.


A condition monitoring program is not mandatory

While there are many cases where condition monitoring programs provide significant value to the organisations that employ them, it is not a mandatory part of a maintenance strategy.

The cost of equipment, labour, lost revenue, as well as operational and safety risks all, play a part in determining the value of a condition monitoring program for an operation, a piece of equipment or a single component.


Talk to Bluefield about condition monitoring at your operation

Contact Gerard Wood (Queensland) or Geoff Fox (Western Australia) at Bluefield Group to find out more about condition monitoring.



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