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Industrial Service: A Career

Predictive Maintenance: Job Description

Historical Perspective
Over the last 50 years, the duties and responsibilities of the traditional "Maintenance Engineer" overseeing production equipment in a manufacturing facility has changed.  No longer will a tool bag full of tools, a box of spare parts and a can of WD-40 solve all the world's problems.  Maintenance philosophy has evolved from "repair it when it breaks" to "know when it's going to break."  Today's maintenance professionals demand information that can help them properly manage their equipment and control when shutdowns occur, not react to them.  How is this done? Meet the world of "Predictive Maintenance" (PdM).

Predictive Maintenance (PdM) is the practice of performing frequent data collection and testing of mechanical and electrical equipment in an effort to predict performance issues which will, if not-corrected, result in unscheduled interruption of production.

Unscheduled shutdowns can kill a plant, especially when they happen to a key piece of machinery.  Think about it.  One machine powering one process can shut down a whole line of production which, in turn, can create a domino effect within the rest of the plant.  Unscheduled shutdowns like these can cost plants hundreds of thousands of dollars AN HOUR.

PdM: Practical Application
A PdM Technician trains in the art and science of collecting and analyzing performance data on equipment within a plant and, if needed, recommending a corrective action.  Technicians develop equipment "routes" which are performed weekly, monthly or at other intervals dictated by Plant Management.  A PdM technician will visit the site, determine the equipment route and connect a laptop or equivalent to a data collector.  The collector is attached to the machine itself to record a few seconds of performance data at various points on the machine.  The data will tell the interpreter if there are irregularities in the machine's performance such as irregular vibration, hot spots, electrical interference, and other issues.  These issues undetected and unreported will result in performance issues and ultimate failures in the equipment.

Assuming a serious problem is not detected while on site, the data is collected on the full route of machinery and delivered to the office for download and interpretation.  A physical report is then written and delivered to Plant Management who will review any recommendations and decide if next steps should be taken. 

If called upon, HI-Speed will correct the problem in the equipment detected in the analysis.  Some solutions include: proper alignment, balancing, rebuild, replacement, lubrication, etc.

Forms of PdM
Various forms of PdM can be performed depending on the equipment.  At HI-Speed, the primary forms of PdM performed are: Vibration Analysis, Infrared Thermography, Precision Laser Alignment, Ultrasonic Testing (metallurgical), X-Ray Analysis, Mag Particle and others.

PdM: A Career
A career in PdM will involve significant training and will result in various Certifications and Classifications required to provide reporting.  If a healthy balance between the practical (hands-on) and the technical (analysis/report writing/office) is preferred, then this field is a good fit.

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