17 November, 2018

Condition monitoring: a key part of Industry 4.0 and the ‘Dark Factory’

29 August, 2018

While condition monitoring (CM) systems are continuing to prove their value in industrial applications, many companies are still unsure how CM should fit into their Industry 4.0 strategy and the automated ‘lights-out’ factory, writes Ian Pledger, service engineer at Schaeffler UK.


In the UK, most process industry sectors have now implemented some sort of condition monitoring (CM) strategy or CM systems within their process plant, even if it’s just CM for process-critical rotating equipment and machines. Outside of the process industries, discrete manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace, wind power and rail industries are also benefiting from the implementation of CM systems. In fact, any business that utilises gearboxes, air compressors, fans, conveyors, pumps and electric motors can benefit from CM services.

Measuring vibration is one of the most widely used CM techniques for detecting and diagnosing equipment faults. Vibration monitoring systems are one of the most reliable methods of monitoring the condition of rolling bearings and for detecting the early onset of damage to bearings and other machine components.

Most CM systems to date have been used as local systems, collecting vibration data from machines and using analysis algorithms and a rolling bearing database to check for signs of wear, defects or other unusual behaviour. While this works very well for many companies, it is now possible to share and compare local machine condition data, via the cloud, with other similar items of equipment across a plant, or better still, with other equipment at multiple plants within a business, wherever they are located globally.

Minimal skills, knowledge and experience required

The latest cloud capable CM systems from Schaeffler, such as the Smart QB and the SmartCheck, offer a suitable platform for managing and processing ‘Big Data’. These CM systems are quick and easy to install and set up, with the user requiring no specific skills or knowledge of vibration diagnosis.

The advantages are that analysis can now be carried out anywhere at any time, with the expert being located anywhere in the world within a company or external. Similar equipment can be compared across global manufacturing plants, to compare and/or develop trends.

Digitalised I4.0 technologies

Schaeffler’s components such as bearings are used in important parts of plant and machines, which produce critical information about conditions and movements. Schaeffler is continuing to invest heavily in research and development and has incorporated sensors, actuators and control units with embedded software into its products including rolling bearings and linear guidance systems. With these new digitalised, Industry 4.0 technologies, it is now possible for these products to collect and process valuable data on the condition of a machine or process and then convert this data into added-value services.

Schaeffler’s Cloud-capable SmartCheck CM device, for example, allows a simple and flexible point of entry into the digitalisation of machines and equipment based on vibration monitoring.




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