Condition Monitoring as a Paradigm Shift in Electrical System Maintenance

Electrical systems and devices have turned into the lifeblood of the modern world. From powering our homes, workspaces, and businesses to diverse manufacturing industries and critical infrastructure, they play a crucial role in our daily lives. However, ensuring electrical systems are safe and reliable is of utmost importance, as the complex interconnection of these systems can expose them to a range of menaces.

In bygone days, electrical system maintenance encompassed aspects such as testing, monitoring, evaluating, changing, fixing, and replacing elements of an electrical system. It primarily depended on reactive measures, acquiescing to failures as they arose. While this approach is straightforward, it often paves the way for catastrophic consequences like safety hazards, injuries, equipment downtime, and even damage to electrical equipment.

Condition Monitoring, commonly known as CM, is a vital part of preventive maintenance that changes how electrical systems are managed by constantly checking and evaluating the parameters of a machine’s condition. This is particularly based on factors such as temperature, pressure, vibration, etc., which help in determining the health condition of machinery and its important components and identifying possible issues before they arise.

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What is Condition Monitoring? 

Condition Monitoring (CM) is an important equipment maintenance approach that allows proactive identification of possible failures, either before they occur or at an early stage. This proactive and data driven approach is used in machines, vehicles, and other valuable assets. It continuously monitors key parameters, including temperature, pressure, voltage, current, vibration, etc., and gives real time insights on the working condition of the electrical system. With the help of sensors installed on the components, details are collected and sent to the computer for the software algorithms to analyse and spot anomalies and possible issues.

The CM approach is used on a wide range of electrical equipment, such as auxiliary systems and components such as presses, pumps, and motors. Once failures are detected, real time notifications are sent to the electrical maintenance team in charge, helping them schedule repairs or replacements at an early stage. This prevents unplanned downtime as in the traditional CM methods and ensures the safety and reliability of the system. , Moreover, it contributes to saving time, minimising downtime, indicating repairs accurately, reducing maintenance costs, improving efficiency, smoothing operation, and increasing the lifespan of the electrical equipment. Condition monitoring incorporates two primary techniques:

  • Condition checking: A picture of the equipment’s working condition at a specific time is captured and sent to identify potential issues.
  • Trend monitoring: Here, the performance of equipment is tracked over time to identify the working pattern and understand potential issues. 

Though trend monitoring improves predictive maintenance abilities, it may not always identify issues before they cause downtime.

Benefits of Condition Monitoring

Condition monitoring services help provide a better and more comprehensive understanding of the operational condition of the machines. Its implementation, which is based on four pillars – detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and programme – offers many benefits for managing the electrical equipment. The following are some of the key benefits of condition monitoring:

  • Better maintenance planning and efficiency: Since CM is a standard process, it offers well-organised maintenance planning and scheduling, allowing restructuring of the process, enabling better utilisation of resources, minimising disruption and thereby decreasing the burden on maintenance professionals.
  • Early detection of anomalies: CM helps detect any possible issues at an early stage. As CM supports taking required actions before the issue deepens, it prevents unforeseen downtime, disruptions in operation and safety hazards.
  • Enhanced safety: Detecting and efficiently addressing any potential electrical hazards early on reduces the risk of accidents, electrical shocks, and fires. This may benefit conducting regular maintenance, adjourning the need for undesirable repairs and replacements, and extending the machinery’s lifespan. 
  • Enhanced system reliability and availability: CM helps in maintaining system reliability and availability, deterring unanticipated failures and ensuring that critical electrical equipment is functioning within safe limits.
  • Reduced downtime and maintenance costs: Sensors notifying any rising concerns in real time allow electrical maintenance specialists to avert major breakdowns. This particularly reduces unplanned downtime and associated maintenance costs. The process translates into increase in productivity, cost savings, and optimal utilisation of assets and resources. 
  • Lower environmental impact: By adjusting major breakdowns, we can delay the obsolescence of electrical equipment. This can significantly reduce ecological and climatic impacts and contribute to sustainability.

Implementing Condition Monitoring

Nowadays, businesses are looking for cost-effective and efficient methods to remain competitive. But how to implement modern condition monitoring systems? Here are some key considerations for implementing a CM system:

  1. Sensor selection: Choosing the right sensors for specific applications is crucial. But what sensors are used in condition monitoring? Common sensor types include vibration sensors, pressure sensors, speed and position sensors, temperature sensors, humidity sensors, thermography, partial discharge monitoring, and motor current analysis. All these play important roles within industrial condition monitoring applications.
  2. Data collection and storage: The data collected through sensors needs to be transferred to a storage point for further processing and analysis using AI algorithms. Security and integrity of data are important; they are crucial elements in implementing CM.
  3. Data analysis and interpretation: Analysis of data collected through sensors, interpreting the results and understanding machine condition monitoring using artificial intelligence aid in detecting working patterns, anomalies, and any possible failures. 
  4. Integration with existing systems: CM systems should be designed in a way that allows seamless integration with the existing electrical systems, maintenance protocols, and processes of the business.
  5. Training and support: Proper training and support are important for electrical maintenance personnel to effectively maintain the protocols, use the CM system, and interpret the data.

Future Trends in Condition Monitoring

When it comes to enhancing the levels of protection and optimisation of electrical systems, condition monitoring is experimenting with innovative approaches to incorporate new technologies and methodologies. The following are some future trends in condition monitoring:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI-based condition monitoring in manufacturing systems and machine learning applications for condition monitoring are changing the game. AI and ML can review and process large amounts of data to identify complex patterns, predict potential failures with more precision and accuracy and offer corrective measures.
  • Wireless sensor networks: You might have heard about Ocean-me, the best wireless condition monitoring service in Oman, which effortlessly identifies changes or variations in machines that are different from their usual operations. Wireless sensor technologies are gaining popularity.

Ocean-me’s wireless condition monitoring system can be easily installed on an existing system without any modification. This reduces the cost of installation, allows easier placement in hard to reach areas and facilitates real time data transmission.

  • Edge computing: Edge computing allows for real time data collection from the equipment and making decisions at the gateway level or sensor. This reduces response time and facilitates autonomous maintenance.
  • Internet of things (IoT): What is the integration of IoT and cloud computing? This is another possibility that permits hassle free communication and connectivity. It also enables cloud based data storage, access of remote data and real time monitoring from anywhere on the globe.

Final Wrap

Condition monitoring services have become an important tool for electrical systems. It enables predictive capabilities that ensure seamless and optimised operations while minimising downtime for equipment maintenance and cutting down on operational costs. By proactively detecting and addressing possible issues before they occur, CM allows maintenance professionals and system owners to save time on unwanted repairs and replacements, thereby extending the lifespan of the electrical equipment. 

As technological breakthroughs are restructuring the arenas of CM, the future holds an upgraded assurance for asset management, optimisation and protection of the system. Electrical system monitoring and maintenance practices will take a huge leap forward with the successful integration of technological advancements with AI, ML, wireless sensor networks, IoT, edge computing, etc. This will usher in a new era of electrical system reliability, efficiency, and sustainability.

In short, adopting condition monitoring is a smart investment that ensures the safety, reliability, and longevity of electrical equipment. Since the power grid is becoming more advanced, complex and interconnected, CM will play an even greater role in preserving critical infrastructure, resulting in a more adaptable and sustainable future.

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