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An Appraisal of Monitoring Methods (with a focus on used oil analysis), for assessing the Mechanical Health of Plant & Equipment

Dr David J. Edwards and Dr Gary D. Holt

Product Information:
An Appraisal of Monitoring Methods (with a focus on used oil analysis), for assessing the Mechanical Health of Plant & Equipment
Item Code:  PUB-004
ISBN:  0-947974-23-7
Published:  2004
Publisher:  Off-highway Plant and Equipment Research Centre (OPERC), Loughborough University Press.
Pages:  21 (Softback)
Price:  £30.00   
(Member Price: £20.00)
Produced in association with Finning (UK) Ltd and the Defence Logistics Organisation, UK Ministry of Defence.

Since the turn of the Industrial Revolution, UK industry in general and the construction sector in particular, have borne witness to increasing utilisation of plant, equipment and other forms of mechanisation. The momentum of this trend has resulted from the benefits that mechanisation gives industrial activities, not least of which are increased output and greater productivity. Of course, these benefits bring with them an economic gain in terms of lower production costs.

However, as with most economic concepts, these positive aspects have to be considered against some of the ‘negative’ ones characteristic of plant ownership and operation. First, one has to consider that plant ownership requires a large capital investment. This obviously means that plant needs to be looked after and well maintained if such investment is to issue a satisfactory return. In this context, the plant owner’s objectives must be a ‘long’ working life, high utilisation levels and trouble-free operation. Second is the fact that machines wear out, and if not properly maintained will tend to break down with ever increasing frequency. Here, the objectives are to minimise wear out, minimise down time and prolong safe and efficient operation.

In striving to meet these fundamental objectives of plant ownership and operation, maintenance regimes are implemented. However, typically these are ad-hoc in design and often somewhat reactive. The ‘better’, more structured maintenance regimes tend to revolve around periodic service (replacement of consumables etc.). However, even these ‘Fixed-time-to’ (FTM) approaches have an inherent failing. That is, they tend to replace parts on the basis of age (i.e. at service interval), regardless of whether that part(s) has been adequately inspected for wear-out. This can waste resources (consumables) and create regular periods of down-time (for such servicing to be carried out).

An alternative approach is to monitor a machine’s health and only replace parts when they are nearing the end of their working (or safe) life – as determined by such monitoring – not by time interval or age.

This appraisal document looks at machine health monitoring in general and focuses particular attention on the method of Used-oil Analysis (UOA). Not only do these approaches minimise the use of unnecessary parts and servicing down-time, but they also serve to act as early indicators of other (sometimes potentially larger) mechanical problems. Machine health monitoring can be used to underpin a well designed maintenance strategy; the combined advantages of which serve to ensure longer plant life, minimal mechanical failure, minimal plant down-time, and encouragement of safe and efficient operation.