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Periodic Infrared Inspection Best Practices – Route Based Surveys
In the late 1960s, thermal imaging was limited to substation inspections of power lines and overheated electrical connections. Those systems were heavy vehicle-mounted systems that cost about $500,000 in today’s dollars. While these systems offer a simple and intuitive method of identifying connection problems the first time, these systems cannot measure temperatures or digitally record images for later analysis and reporting. In 1970 the global market for infrared cameras was less than 50 units. The market for infrared cameras used for maintenance inspection today is estimated to be over 18,000 cameras. Along with thermography, vibration monitoring, oil analysis, laser sighting-based rotating machinery shaft alignment, and ultrasonic testing have become toolsets used by maintenance departments in a growing number of capital intensive facilities.
By adopting a path-based thermography approach with an in-camera database and intuitive data logger, PdM users can save time, achieve more consistent results, and dramatically improve the return on investment (ROI) of their thermography program.
Today’s operations manager is under tremendous pressure to increase asset availability, reduce costs, manage and change employee skill levels, safety regulations, ISO quality compliance and an ever-increasing competitive environment. A new class of thermography data collectors is now available designed to create and follow user-created paths, capture event details in the field, and drive automated report generation and database synchronization. By relying on a path-based thermography approach with an in-camera database and intuitive data logger, PdM users can save time, achieve more consistent results, and dramatically improve the return on investment (ROI) of their thermography program.
CMMS is not route-based maintenance
The dilemma is that the CMMS provider doesn’t think at all in terms of route-based activities. Their system is driven by work orders. If each inspection is assigned a work order number, you can perform inspections with more than 250 work orders in a documented way. First of all, it is impractical for the inspection person and secondly, it takes a lot of time for one to close all the work orders. Another way route-based activities are performed in a workorder-driven CMMS is to assign a work order number to each route and describe each inspection in a sub-task sequence. This still creates complexity and administrative time. A third example of how some plants document and manage route-based activities is to assign a work order number to each route and document the route in a spreadsheet. Again, the dilemma is that this method will not support effective routes and will make changing inspection materials, transferring tasks to operators, changing frequencies, merging mechanical and electrical inspections, etc. more cumbersome than necessary. All these activities are repeated if you have a good system in place. So the solution is to have a separate system for route-based activities. Although it may seem that all activities must be integrated into one company-wide system that covers everything, the best solution may be separate systems. In a path-based system there are very few—if any—things that must be connected to other activities. Therefore, you can purchase a separate system for this activity. A single-user system that can do this well is not expensive.
Pen-based computers facilitate field data collection
Pen tablets allow computer technicians to collect infrared inspection data, perform temperature analysis, diagnose problems, assess their urgency, suggest corrective actions, and capture visual reference images. Powerful handheld, pen-based computers are now integrated with infrared cameras that provide a field technician with all the computing power needed to perform on-site inspections and maintenance—then integrate their operations with a computerized maintenance management system. will be or inspect, diagnose and repair equipment on site.
The pen tablet is one of the most widely used devices deployed in field applications because of the versatility of its interface, its touch screen for data input, and its considerable memory capacity.
Pen computer in hand
For industry and the military, the problems of using laptops in the plant or field are being solved by handheld pen-based computer-pen tablets or personal digital assistants (PDA). To date, the pen has become the most widely used device deployed in tablet-laptop-like powerful but smaller and lighter-field applications because of its interface, its touchscreen for data input, and significant memory capacity. Electrophysics’ Hotshot HD infrared camera incorporates a tablet PC processor running the Microsoft Windows CE operating system. The touchscreen has additional data-type features such as direct-function icons large enough for finger actuation and file naming using a stylus. More reliable data is obtained. Error-prone, handwritten records are replaced by reliable data, automatically aggregated, stored and consistently available across the enterprise. Reduces record keeping costs. Less paperwork reduces administrative overhead because data is processed more efficiently and disseminated widely without creating redundant copies—or any printed records. Decision-making is faster and more cost-effective. By integrating real-time field reporting with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), managers at all levels share complete, up-to-date information and can react quickly to changing field conditions or emergencies. Condition monitoring tests involving multiple parameters—vibration, heat, oil quality, pressure—can be quickly compared to confirm impending problems before they become catastrophic.
Access to information
Maintenance starts with knowing how the equipment is running, what stresses have increased, how conditions have changed. Data must be collected, either by remote monitoring systems or by on-site workers. In the latter case, handheld computers make data collection faster, more accurate, and more flexible.
Path-based infrared detection
Many PdM technicians are familiar with or are users of path-based vibration data collectors. Many of today’s vibration instrument vendors provide software tools on both PC platforms and their portable vibration data collectors to manage and create route instructions that are uploaded to portable systems that guide the user through a series of inspection points. For example, Electrophysics’ HotShot HD is a first-of-its-kind infrared camera that integrates all the necessary interfaces to create route logic and routes, and captures all inspection details in its pen-based computer with an in-camera data logger. The camera has two root programming modes.
Mode 1: Learn the route
Following the natural flow of how equipment is laid out in most facilities it is beneficial to simply walk through each point and create a route file and adapt any support labor or personnel protective equipment (such as the need to comply with safety regulations). PPE) policies. At each point the operator captures a reference image and enters location and equipment details. After a walk/learn route is created the route log file is uploaded to a PC database application for editing and adding any additional information desired.
Mode 2: Create root file in PC and upload to camera
In this mode the user populates the thermography asset database with data exported from the CMMS system or with new data records and creates a route by selecting files in the desired inspection sequence. A root log file will be created and once uploaded to the camera all relevant data sets will be pulled into the camera. On-screen prompts will direct the user point to point. An additional feature enables the user to add a point that is not on the current route and then sync the updated route log file if the intention is to include new checkpoints on a recurring basis.
Route prompts guide data collection
Once a route is created and uploaded to the camera, the camera presents prompts to help guide the user point to point. It is possible to add descriptive information that gives the probe some level of notice about the point.
Return on investment
In order to fully appreciate the impact of a comprehensive software suite (asset database, route management and reporting) we have created a thermography program cost analysis and experienced possible improvements that are highly integrated into the camera and PC host software. . For this analysis we will make the following assumptions:
- The camera and software cost $20,0001
- The hourly salary for infrared technicians is $60 per hour, or about $125,000 per year.
- A technician uses an infrared camera 50% of the hours worked.
- The thermography program documents 20 events per week or about 1000 events per year.
- A camera is a capital asset and is depreciated over 5 years
Annual savings of about $14,000 could result
The ROI on productivity tools is very high because they are integrated into systems available for less than $20,000.
1 – The monthly cost for the camera, based on a 5-year or 60-month depreciation schedule, is about $350 per month. An infrared camera operator will cost $1200 per week or $62,400 per year.
The biggest cost in a thermography inspection program is the camera operator/technician. By focusing on incorporating advanced features in route management and camera data logging, operators can dramatically improve the efficiency and cost of their programs while improving the quality of work and simplifying operator training demands. Ongoing developments to integrate infrared inspection data into CMMS and asset performance software systems will result in the next step in convergence on the plant floor and continue the development of new and innovative solutions designed to improve overall facility operations and capital equipment availability.
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