Vibration analysis, oil analysis, ultrasound, infrared thermography, power quality analysis and electric motor diagnostics, are all tools in the suite of reliability maintenance technologies.
Motor testing is a preeminent predictive technology that is not widely utilized or, in my opinion, fully appreciated for its capabilities. To me it’s a “no brainer” to test motors. So why isn’t there more interest in this technology? Is it the expense? Is it a lack of understanding the capabilities? Is it a knowledge void in the education of our technicians and engineers? I would have to say yes to all of the above.
We live in a country where 25% of the power consumed is by electric motors. In most industrial facilities, 75% of power consumption is from electric motors. Worldwide, the use of electric motors is expanding exponentially. Investment in this technology is not an option it is essential.
Expense, in these tough economic times, is a justification, but not for disapproval of equipment procurement, for approval of equipment procurement. The cost of motor test equipage, training personnel and implementing a program may be a considerable expense. However, I can state with 100% certainty, that, every service customer that I have had over the last 22 years, more than paid for the expense. The identification of serious problems and the prevention of catastrophic equipment failure and unscheduled production downtime more than covered the expense associated with the testing.
The capabilities of motor test instruments are considerable. Although most think that they are unique to the motor, they also are fully capable of identifying problems both upstream and downstream of the motor. Problems within the motor, power circuit, supply, distribution system and driven load are easily identified when energized and de-energized testing is employed. However, with the lack of understanding capabilities, comes a lack of theoretical knowledge. In our motor training courses, we find time and again this knowledge void and a considerable void in basic electrical theory. Motor test vendors are limited in the amount of initial training they can provide. A good portion of that initial training is in operation of the test instrument and software and not theory. In order to fully appreciate the capabilities and be able to properly analyze acquired data, some type of formal training or remediation is essential.
Whether you have purchased a tester or are having the service contracted, your identification of discrepancies is going to be limited by the knowledge of the technician utilizing the equipment. That technician is only going to make calls on the things that he is comfortable with. That is going to be determined by his fundamental knowledge and understanding of what he is testing.
Unless you have went to a technical or engineering school where motors are focal point of areas of the curriculum, your exposure to motors would have been very limited. Most engineering programs spend less than a week on this topic. Technical colleges and apprentice programs usually have less exposure than the engineering schools. So the lack of understanding capabilities and the knowledge void go hand in hand.
So, after finishing my blog, I want you to go to your personal tool box and remove everything with 9/16ths. Now you will only be able to accomplish jobs that do not utilize fasteners with 9/16 on them. This is what you are doing to your reliability program when you do not have the proper suite of tools or the proper training provided for the technicians who use them.