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Online vibration devices- A viable option

01 April 2010

Corus engineers at the Medium Section Mill in Scunthorpe are planning to extend their condition monitoring activities throughout the plant with online vibration devices.No longer are such devices seen as a luxury but as necessary tools in the maintenance engineer’s toolkit, which can contribute to a continued focus on operating costs.

Online condition monitoring system is a necessity and not a luxury
Online condition monitoring system is a necessity and not a luxury


The Medium Section Mill at Corus Scunthorpe supplies railway lines and steel rail sleepers, as well as sections for the construction industry. The plant has been in operation for three years and consists of one abrasive saw that cuts hot rails, and four cold saws. The two sections saw lines consist of one fixed and one movable saw per line.

Engineers had been undertaking basic plant condition monitoring on the saw lines for some time. This involved maintenance engineers using portable patrol monitoring equipment to monitor the condition of the bearings in the motor and gearbox units that drive the friction saw. However, following a review of the area, the plant became a locked access area to comply with health and safety requirements. As Chris Smith, Plant Condition Monitoring Engineer, Scunthorpe points out, "Access to this saw line was a real problem for us. We could only do checks on the equipment when the saw was idling, but this rather defeated the object of monitoring and assessing the condition of the bearings and other rotating components under real time working conditions."

Access to the area is restricted by a Castell key system. This trapped key interlock safety system isolates the plant by ensuring that personnel cannot gain access to the locked gates surrounding the area until the power has been confirmed as switched off. This makes it impossible to conduct vibration monitoring using hand held devices, forcing engineers to consider various online systems.
Following the success of Schaeffler’s FAG DTECT X1 online vibration monitoring system, which monitors the hot saw gearbox in the Beam Mill at Corus’ sister plant in Redcar, Teesside, it was agreed to look at a similar system for Scunthorpe.

"We were very impressed with the culture of plant condition monitoring within Corus Group," says Wayne Jackson, Electrical Maintenance Engineer, Medium Section Mill, Corus Scunthorpe. "Not only did the DTECT X1 unit itself look very impressive in terms of the detailed information it provided to plant engineers, but the support given by the PCM team was excellent too. I realised that this was something that could be of significant benefit to the plant in Scunthorpe."

Although an FAG DTECT X1 system had been installed at Corus Teesside to monitor the gearbox on the hot saws, it was felt that the latest generation of online monitoring devices from Schaeffler would provide the best solution for the abrasive saw application. As Jackson points out, "We have a number of critical applications within the Medium Section Mill that require continuous monitoring. We were therefore looking for a device that has enhanced network capabilities and offers an increased number of input and output signals. The PCM team recommended the FAG ProCheck system to us and were able to support us with the installation and configuration."

FAG ProCheck is an online condition monitoring system that enables companies to monitor vibration levels on critical rotating plant or machinery, including electric motors, drives, bearing arrangements, gearboxes, pumps, generators, ventilators, fans and excavators. The system is easy to set up and is robust and reliable. The system’s modular design means it can easily cater for different maintenance and condition monitoring strategies employed across different industry sectors. For example, the system has a range of communications interfaces so that it can be easily integrated with a company’s existing plant management or production control and maintenance systems.

 Once set up, FAG ProCheck operates automatically without further intervention from the user, to measure, record, analyse and issue alerts on vibration data from rotating plant. By continuously monitoring a machine or piece of rotating equipment, FAG ProCheck can detect changes in their behaviour early and alert maintenance personnel to a potential problem before it actually occurs. Maintenance teams can therefore improve their planning and scheduling and production downtime is significantly reduced.

When asked about the common perception in the marketplace of online condition monitoring systems being too expensive and out of reach of most engineering maintenance departments’ budgets, Jackson was quick to refute this view. "Costs are very high profile within our business and we need to keep a strong focus on them. The FAG online monitoring systems are very cost effective units that are now much more of a viable option when compared to previous high cost systems, which were considered a luxury. Very often engineers took the view that the money could be better spent elsewhere."

With recent failures of motors adding to the plant maintenance costs, Jackson is keen to extend his condition monitoring regime to other areas of the plant. "We cannot afford the two to three months it takes for a motor to be repaired, nor do we like paying the repair costs which can be as much as £20,000 per motor. The cost of an online CM system is considerably less than this and we can avoid the disruption to the process whilst at the same time being able to plan changes rather than react to them and to ultimately make better, more informed decisions."


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