How to build a predictive maintenance strategy

Predictive maintenance can benefit virtually every chemical plant plant, big or small, old or new, an expert told Petrochemical Update.

Florian Buder, CEO of PRUFTECHNIK contends that by switching from a reactive to a sustainable predictive maintenance model, companies will save money, increase earnings and execute work more smoothly.

“Once employees, colleagues, management and executives see the cost savings, the smoother work execution, the less panic modes and eventually more earnings while getting a competitive advantage, it is no doubt that you have created a sustainable predictive maintenance model,” Buder said.

Predictive maintenance techniques are designed to help determine the condition of in-service equipment in order to estimate when maintenance should be performed. This approach promises cost savings over routine or time-based preventive maintenance, because tasks are performed only when warranted.

However, predictive maintenance isn’t cheap or one size fits all. The conditions that affect lifespan aren’t the same at every plant, leading to machines needing repair or replacement at different points in time. Recommended maintenance schedules found in equipment manuals are based on failure statistics and averages.

Predictive maintenance techniques are designed to help determine the condition of in-service equipment to predict when maintenance should be performed. This approach promises cost savings over routine or time-based preventive maintenance because tasks are performed only when warranted.

Predictive Maintenance Model

For maintenance departments to begin to shift from a reactive to a sustainable predictive maintenance model, a change of mindset is required, along with buy-in from upper management, a vision and a reliability DNA, Buder said.

“Once this is achieved, it is necessary to find the right personnel who can lead this project. This can be a combination of in-house engineers as well as external consultants and solution providers such as PRUFTECHNIK,” Buder said.

Clear and measurable KPIs need to be generated and monitored. Progress must then be measured to embed the predictive mindset in the company in the long run, Buder said.

Nearly two-thirds of owners plan to increase their investments in digital technologies over the next three to five years, although digital is not one of the top plant investment areas for owners today, according to consultancy Accenture.

While this spending is set to increase, only 19% of refiners rated digital as one of their top three priorities for spending on plant efficiency and productivity over the next three years in a survey of over 200 executives conducted by Accenture.

When asked to identify the most important benefits that digital technologies will provide, respondents most often cited more-effective plant management (63% of respondents), reducing operational risk (59%) and more-efficient and predictive maintenance (54%).

Avoiding failures that impact production is time-sensitive and critical, and yet there were 2,200 unscheduled shutdowns in the U.S. alone between 2009 and 2013, an average of 1.3 incidents a day, costing roughly $20 billion per year, according to Deloitte Insights. It’s no wonder that 54% of owners said their spending should be on predictive maintenance.

The most important aspect of a predictive maintenance strategy is to have clear goals, proper objectives, formulate the right strategy and execute with applicable measures.

Buder shared an example to explain.

Let's assume you want to make sure to increase the reliability of your rotating assets by establishing a Condition Monitoring program based on Vibration Analysis:
Goal: Lower breakdowns, increase machine life and availability
Objective: Plan shutdowns based on measured results and actual health condition of the rotating assets
Strategy: Collect data manually per criticality of asset. The more critical, the more often you need to collect data with a portable instrument or consider permanent monitoring with an Online Monitoring system.
Measures: Invest in right solution/technology, train staff or outsource

As productivity numbers continue to slip in the industry, Buder argues that predictive maintenance can solve some of these issues.

“It is indisputable that these parameters go hand in hand. Performance and Productivity will automatically go up by lowering maintenance costs if you align your machines with high precision maintenance tools such as a Laser Shaft Alignment,” Buder said.

Precise alignment pays off in many ways to improve performance and productivity including:
Reduce power consumption

• Decrease wear on bearings, seals, shafts and couplings
• Avoid overheating of bearings and couplings
• Reduce vibrations in shafts and foundation bolts
• Significantly reduce damage to shafts and foundation bolts.


The main barriers to getting to predictive maintenance are often buy-in from management, human resources, skilled labor and making smart choices of who to partner with.

“To reach this goal, evaluate every technology and the people behind it. Local support is as important as the soft and hardware technology itself,” Buder said.

“The focus should not be on the latest buzz words in the reliability world. Focus on best practices and focus on proven methods while acquiring the most modern interfaces and grow with those while always looking outside the box,” Buder added.

PRUFTECHNIK has been helping clients achieve the goal of predictive maintenance through various strategies.
The company has converted the industry from aligning machines with dial gauges to Laser Shaft Alignment starting in 1984 with the introduction of the first laser alignment system known as OPTALIGN.

Later, PRUFTECHNIK invented the first Roll Alignment system based on Yaw, Roll, Pitch of laser gyroscopes (PARALIGN) and in 2018, the company launched one of the most affordable and quickest high-speed data collectors in the market.

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