Modern diagnostic tools on equipment such as compressors are helping firms to reduce the maintenance needed to ensure equipment continues to work reliably, while cutting the cost of replacing parts unnecessarily.
Compressors specialist Boge has developed a series of such tools designed to eliminate the need for rigidly fixed maintenance intervals and the precautionary replacement of parts. Boge claims ‘status-based maintenance’ cuts costs and improves investment security.
When making investment decisions, it has long been standard practice to take into account not only the purchase price, but also the costs incurred during the service life of the machine, for maintenance and replacement parts, for example, said Boge. However, innovative diagnostic tools are now available that help to reduce these lifetime costs by extending maintenance intervals – while simultaneously improving operational reliability.
‘Less traditional fixed maintenance’
This approach means moving away from more traditional fixed maintenance intervals in which components are replaced as a preventative measure after a specified running time.
When calculating replacement intervals, the manufacturer usually incorporates a safety factor. In order to reduce the risk of damage, the figure is based, at best, on the average life expectancy of the parts – the more expensive and important the component, the higher the safety factor. This means important components tend to be replaced before they are worn, which often results in premature maintenance and substantial costs.
“Thanks to Boge's modern diagnostic methods, it is no longer necessary to replace high-value components, such as compressor stages and motors, at previously defined intervals. This results in cost savings for the customer, since the replacement intervals are increased,” says Jürgen Hahn-Barth, the firm's aftermarket manager.
This trend has been aided by the increased use of electronics in compressors, aimed at optimising switching behaviour and reducing costs and energy consumption by using intelligent control systems. Data collected by these control systems can subsequently be used to provide information regarding the wear of the machinery and its components.
This is particularly the case if this data is linked to additional information, such as that provided by vibration sensors on compressors.
“By monitoring vibration, the status of the rolling bearings is determined on a continuous basis,” said Hahn-Barth. “These are then replaced or renewed only when the diagnostic data indicates that this is necessary. The expensive, preventative replacement of parts is dispensed with – without increasing the risk of an unscheduled shutdown of the plant.” Monitoring can either be carried out locally or remotely.