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Condition Monitoring- A Case Study-Part II

Detailed inspection revealed scoring of the cylinder piston rods which created an abrasive surface for the seals and naturally wearing them. The equipment was brand new, for the given life of the hydraulic cylinders which runs into years of operations, this early failure of the piston rod was unusual and left the maintenance team baffled. Though late, but when they decided to run through past condition data they found a substantial evidence- A high copper concentration in the hydraulic oil. The oil sampling results had been showing increased copper levels but neither the field engineer who were reporting the data nor the bosses sitting in the head office caught the spike. Having done some quick primary root cause analysis it was concluded that the increased metal level was the prime reason contributing to the failure. The metal increased the abrasion thereby resulting into cylinder piston and a subsequent seal damage. The field engineers concluded that the origin of the rising metal level was a result of worn out copper bushing of the gear pump supplying hydraulic oil with residual metal directly into the hydraulic circuit. The field engineers claim- We gave all the necessary information for the analysis, were not aware how to decipher the readings against the reference values so could contribute very little. For the bosses in the head office, again, the data collection had been one of the rituals which they performed religiously on all new equipment to be supplied to the equipment vendor. Actually, the goals were never associated to do a proactive monitoring but some reporting which they themselves were not sure about. In summary, the information on an imminent failure was broadcasted allover but still remained invisible. The team did their hard work but an action of simple copper bush replacement did not preceded a costly cylinder replacement!
The proactive nature of the condition monitoring emphasizes on the Root Cause Analysis element of a Maintenance, and to support this it feeds in all critical information required for the continuous analysis and drawing of meaningful conclusions from a consolidated-comprehensive view with relations and dependencies factors. This then results into meaningful actions which will be made known to stakeholders to action. Condition monitoring while requiring data for analyzing the Asset behavior, also entails experience and understanding of The case discussed here is not a unique case, we can witness countless cases like this where heaps of information gets wasted after being collected. The purpose is sometimes not known well, as in this case the maintenance teams were completely cutoff from the mainstream use of the Asset data. None of the fleet engineers understood the actual intent of the data collection, neither did they appreciate the whole exercise. They considered the whole activity as a non-value because the entire fleet of equipment's were anyway covered under preventive Maintenance and anything over and above this and which did not contribute directly to the improvement of such PM programs  were naturally deemed a non-value add. At the same time, the crucial condition data were disregarded by the folks who actually ordered this information. Had the intent been known or responsibility assigned correctly on who's expected to do what, the exercise could have be a more meaningful helping one to perform what was needed to be done when and how. All this even without getting entangled into complex statistics and science of probability. An equipment delivering reliable service has direct implication on the overall productivity of the firm while significantly improving the parameters such as timeliness of the project, cost effectiveness, utilization of manpower and improving the quality of work. So let's make the most of what we have already.

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