Installing acoustic emission technology prevents hundreds of hours of downtime for a century-old U.K. flour miller.
WHITWORTH Bros Ltd. (WBL) is one of the U.K.'s largest independent flour millers and supplies flour to some of the largest food manufacturers in the U.K.
Established in 1886, the company operates from production sites in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire and Peterborough in Cambridgeshire and supplies flour in bulk loads as well as bag deliveries.
WBL, in a news release, said it recognizes the importance of monitoring key elements of its plants and equipment to ensure that it is always able to meet customer demands.
With a view to moving from a reactive to a proactive maintenance strategy, WBL made the decision in 2009 to invest in the MHC-Memo Pro Acoustic Monitoring system from Holroyd, part of Parker Kittiwake. Part of this undertaking was to employ a condition monitoring technician to roll out the system across its sites.
The main driver for this initiative was to ensure that WBL uses the best technology available to minimize any potential for unplanned production plant downtime, the news release said. The necessity to minimize the risk of equipment failure and resulting impact on production led WBL to devise a proactive condition monitoring strategy. The company considered various monitoring options — such as vibration and temperature — and eventually discovered the MHC range of instruments from Holroyd.
WBL started collating data capture routes across all of its sites and, within a short time, commenced data acquisition and analysis.
WBL said, "The hardware and software associated with the Memo Pro system has been very well designed and constructed. It is portable, robust and straightforward to use. This functionality is mirrored with the analysis software, which allows new data to be quickly downloaded and compared against historic data for all machines detailed for each production area."
With data acquisition routes established, condition monitoring of the production-critical plants commenced, which enabled WBL to take a proactive approach to monitoring and maintaining the equipment at its Wellingborough and Peterborough sites.
The MHC-Memo Pro identified machines in need of remedial action, and appropriate preventative maintenance was undertaken as required. Anytime machines were thought to be beyond routine servicing, they were withdrawn from operation as part of planned maintenance activity.
Data collection takes place on a regular basis for all critical plants and machinery. This allows engineering resources to be directed to the plant in need of maintenance and is organized as part of planned, proactive activity rather than as a result of a machinery breakdown.
WBL uses a suite of sensors that are compatible with the MHC-Memo Pro system. The standard magnetic mounted sensor is used to collect the vast majority of information, with the handheld extended probe allowing for data capture in hard-to-reach areas. Low-profile sensors have also been installed to allow critical plant data to be gathered. All three sensors are connected to the MHC-Memo Pro so data can be captured almost instantaneously.
Over the period of time that WBL has been using the MHC-Memo Pro equipment, it noted the following key benefits:
* Usability — the data collection method is straightforward, and the hardware is easy to operate and robust, with excellent ergonomics.
* Intuitive — the system doesn't require intensive training.
* Multi-user application — it has value in that it can be used across different sites.
WBL currently carries out routine monthly data capture, supplemented with weekly collections for any machines suspected of having an underlying bearing issue. The MHC-Memo Pro is also used to take one-off readings to help correctly diagnose issues with individual machines as they arise.
Current data collection at the Wellingborough site spans 2,500 separate data points, which ensures that a comprehensive data set exists that allows for the completion of machine condition trending.
WBL has devised a cost metric calculation to assess the savings to the company from the newly implemented condition monitoring activity. WBL noted that the condition monitoring approach has significantly reduced the potential for unplanned production stoppages.
Currently, data are captured at the majority of the Wellingborough site using the range of standard sensor products, so WBL said it is now looking at the monitoring challenges it will face with oscillatory equipment (flour sifters) and will be investigating technology that allows condition monitoring of these machines.
In collaboration with Holroyd, WBL said it will continue to monitor further advances in condition monitoring technology with a view to minimizing future plant breakdowns and maximizing production efficiency across all of its sites.