Diagnostic tools for industrial maintenance

industrial maintenance diagnosis of equipment

Diagnosis using tools is one of the fundamental steps in industrial maintenance. In order to be effective, its final objective is to ensure that the overall production cycle runs smoothly. In this sense, diagnosis is essential in order to target precisely the repairs that need to be made and on which tools. Without diagnosis, there can be no maintenance.

Moreover, this diagnosis is carried out at several levels to enable quality industrial maintenance: in a constant and automated way via a data collection using a series of sensors; in an analytical way following the study of the data collected by the connected sensors (or by series of values collected manually); and finally in a traditional and human way by the careful study of the equipment in breakdown (or quality control as part of a preventive industrial maintenance plan).

The various installations and equipment have a certain tendency to deteriorate over time, and this in a natural way, under the action of a multiplicity of causes such as wear and tear, deformations due to operation, or the use of corrosive agents. Such deteriorations are likely to cause the operation of the said equipment to stop, reduce production capacities, endanger the safety of people, cause waste, lead to a drop in the quality of production or increase operating costs (increase in water and electricity consumption), etc. and reduce the market value of the means of production.

In order to avoid or diminish these concerns, companies use industrial maintenance policies. The aim of these maintenance policies is to maintain or restore the proper functioning of the means of production. The objective of maintenance is thus to overcome possible failures in production tools.

In this article you will discover the advantages of diagnostic tools for industrial maintenance:

1. Different ways of identifying a failure
2. Digital at the forefront of data collection
3. New benefits and opportunities from new diagnostic tools for industrial equipment maintenance

1. Different ways to identify a failure

Failure means the cessation of the ability of a device to perform a required function. After a failure, the use of an asset is impaired and the asset fails. In order to overcome a failure, it is necessary to understand its mechanism and logic: a diagnosis to identify the causes of the failure. Diagnosis is thus a preliminary step in the proper performance of both preventive and corrective maintenance. The diagnosis of production equipment is therefore a method for determining whether or not a tool is faulty or not, but also for identifying the cause of the failure. This identification can only be made after studying the information gathered through observation, various checks or tests. The diagnosis thus makes it possible to identify the cause(s) that led to the failure.

Based on this identification, an action will be carried out, by intervening either on the cause or on the failure. In the first case, corrective maintenance actions will be carried out; in the second case, palliative maintenance actions will be carried out. In the same way as the types of faults or failures observed, the diagnostic tools in industrial maintenance are many and varied, and do not systematically require human intervention.

Among the most commonly used diagnostic tools are vibration analysis, thermography, endoscopy, oil analysis, ultrasound, gamma radiography, magnetic particle testing, penetrant testing and leak detection.

  • Vibration analysis of machines, to begin with, allows the identification of misalignments, bearing faults, fluid vortices, electrical imbalances or resonances.
  • Thermography is used to check electrical connections, phase shifts, bearings, mechanical overheating, thermal insulation, internal defects of certain components.
  • Endoscopy allows to visualize remotely, without necessarily dismantling the production equipment, the possible causes of failure.
  • Oil analysis is a tool for detecting external or internal pollution, normal or abnormal wear and tear of equipment, but also the ability of the lubricant to perform its functions.
  • Ultrasound allows the identification of volume defects, such as slag blowholes or inclusions, and plane defects when they are perpendicular to the beam (cracks, lack of fusion ...).
  • The gammagraphy, on the other hand, is used to highlight included defects.
  • Thanks to magnetic particle inspection, it is possible to detect defects flush with the surface, but only on ferromagnetic materials.
  • Penetrant Testing is used to search for surface microdefects, and leak detection is used to identify microscopic defects.

Industrial maintenance diagnostic tools are a very important part of maintenance, as they allow to identify in a very precise way, where there is a breakdown or a failure. Among these tools, some are all particularly used by technicians, as shown in the graph below.

2. Digital at the forefront of data collection methods

New technologies are also at the service of diagnostics during industrial maintenance. Monitoring and tracking the state of production tools in the field is indeed one of the essential elements of the operation, whether it is a question of dealing with an identified problem or a simple maintenance round. In order to optimize diagnostic operations during industrial maintenance, it is necessary to guarantee the accuracy of the data used (and their correct updating), everything must work transparently, smoothly and reliably. As this graph shows, a significant number of technicians still take their operating notes on paper.

However, the monitoring of diagnostics on paper exposes the companies concerned to significant risksincluding in terms of data losses This is especially true since these notes may be taken in haste and may turn out to be illegible and thus unreliable because they are incomplete. Some steps may be neglected, even though they will be crucial for the future.

Ermeo thus offers interactive forms in its application, allowing the operator to go step by step in his diagnosis. Moreover, without database entry, the company cannot establish precise trends on the state of its equipment. Incomplete audit logs on adjustments or repairs made make it impossible to know precisely the general condition of the equipment. Furthermore, even if an operator visually notices a malfunction on an asset, without an analysis tool, he will not necessarily be able to make the appropriate repair as quickly as possible. When a simple check is not enough, the operator has to return the equipment to his workshop, or go and look for a missing tool, and in any case a considerable loss of time occurs.

3. New advantages and possibilities thanks to new diagnostic tools for industrial maintenance of your equipment

Trying to analyze faulty equipment without the right tools forces field technicians to multiply low value-added tasks to examine the various problems. Repairs generally take even longer. Also, the lack of a portable diagnostic tool is a real handicap for the technician, and a serious drag on productivity for the company. In order to be efficient, quick and complete access to diagnostic data is essential.

Most studies show that the majority of technicians are equipped with digital devices, whether smartphones or tablets, for professional or non-professional use. By offering a mobile application, Ermeo makes it possible to limit the costs of installation or modernization of traditional industrial maintenance tools for a company. Such a tool is therefore intended to be light, and does not modify the technicians' usual equipment. No effect or accommodation time with new equipment is to be expected; especially since the application has been designed as a mobile application, making it very ergonomic and easy to use both when getting started and during daily use.

The advantages of this type of software solution are numerous. The step-by-step guidance of the technician is essential, so that the technician is not led to forget, or to overlook, any of the points necessary for the proper establishment of a diagnosis. In addition, more than a manager, the technician has, thanks to the mobile application, access to a rich technical documentation. This will obviously help to improve the quality and reliability of his industrial maintenance diagnosis.

Access to a real database will allow him to confirm his impressions and judgements, but also to have access to the decisions taken by his colleagues, for example, during a relatively similar intervention. Such a database is obviously not only textual, the technician will also be able to find photos showing examples of realisations, and even videos for didactic purposes. The application thus offers a real decision-making aid. All the more so as an application encourages the use of an expert. The technician can quickly take a photo and send it in a few clicks to an expert, located several hundred (or even thousands) kilometers away if necessary. Digital technology is thus truly at the service of industrial maintenance diagnostics.

Emma Duverne Marketing Manager Treatment of nonconformities