A machine inspector who is eager to determine the state of machine health – good or bad – needs help from the machine. What hurts, where does it hurt and what are the symptoms of being hurt? Information exchange, like basic communication, is a two-way street.
Now, assume that each and every machine in your plant is not yet Inspection ready. How does one proceed?
Start by compiling a list of machine faults and root causes you want your inspection program to reveal. This is generally a list of all the things that could go wrong that you definitely don’t want to go wrong. Next, take this prioritized list and construct an inspection gameplan that will reveal each of these alert conditions in real-time. For instance, how might shaft misalignment be quickly recognized? If not, what modifications are necessary?
Smart Machine, Smart Inspections
Your machines can be smart, real-time communicators of the state of their health. It is disappointing that very few original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) build machines to a suitable state of inspection readiness. This puts the burden on the plant operator to source needed parts and devices to be retrofitted on machines either at commissioning or during a scheduled or forced shutdown
These are examples of small factors to be considered in determining machine-readiness
Outside Dirt – This is always a good place to start. Keep your machines clean, inside and out. We all know that dirt is destructive to the machine’s internal frictional surfaces, but it also masks many important inspection alerts, such as surface distress shown by cracked paint, tempered metal tints, and chronic corrosion.
Inside Dirt and Fouling – Dirt and sludge can make oil so opaque that other oil properties become invisible. Additionally, sludge can stain sight glasses, preventing the oil level and other conditions from being easily determined.
Know What You Need to Enhance Your Machines
Expanded Metal Guards – Couplings and other exposed rotating or reciprocating mechanisms are typically protected from accidental contact by the use of guards. These guards often restrict visual observation of the movement mechanisms. However, they can be replaced with expanded metal so that both functions (safety and inspection) can be enabled.
Sample Ports – These can be located in return lines, live zones or other strategic locations for quick sampling and at-machine inspections. In addition to visual inspections, you can perform a simple blotter spot test or a crackle test for the presence of free water.
Grease Purge Traps – What emerges out of a grease purge port during relubrication or during normal operation is an indication of lubricant health in the core of the bearing. Different traps and collection devices can be installed and used to inspect the discharged grease for hardness, oil content, particles, color, etc.
You are not trying to maximize inspection readiness within your organization, but rather optimize it. It’s false economy to try to save money by not investing wisely. It’s like education. If you think it is expensive, try ignorance.