Condition Monitoring or Condition Management?
I have a friend, let’s call him Brian. Or should I say I had a friend. Brian was tall fit and strong, there was almost nothing he couldn’t do and nothing he was scared of. When he was young Brian was like so many of us men, invincible. The abuse of his body was both impressive and scary at the same time. Brian drove himself at a rate that other mortals could not even contemplate. As time wore on however the rubbish he fed himself, the drink, other substances and lack of self-care started to take its toll.
Brian however would ignore any illness, any symptom and medical advice of any sort was out of the question. Whether Brian was scared of what he might find out will never be known. As he always said “What I don’t know won’t hurt me” Brian was thought by many of us and by himself as an unstoppable force of nature. He burned brighter than most until his untimely death two years ago at the age of 50.
Then there was Ken. Ken knew everything about every part of his body, both inside and out. Ken had pulse monitors, blood pressure monitors, thermometers both analogue and digital, both rectal and oral. His bathroom cabinet would have made Lance Armstrong jealous. Some called Ken a hypochondriac , but Ken never thought he was ill, he was just obsessed with his own well-being in a misguided way. Ken tested his urine regularly, took colonic irrigations and his daily diet of supplements, vitamins and bodily purges, cost him a small fortune. Ken however was not getting his information from any trained medical source but from health magazines and off the internet. What he was putting into his body to do him good, in the end made him very ill. Ken tried to self-diagnose and treat, only to make things worse. Eventually Ken became so ill he crashed and his system took several years to recover.
As human beings we are fallible and we are prone to diseases that can affect us no matter how well we look after ourselves. It is however true that the better our living environment and the better our access to regular and preventative expert healthcare the longer we live. As men we are more reckless and liable to take risks. We men get ourselves killed younger lowering our average life span compared to the more sensible half of the population women. The average life expectancy of a Northern European male is however now over eighty years. Contrast this with second world countries at 65-75 and third world countries 45-55 the link between environment and access to preventative health care is clear.
Machines are also fallible, but not in the same way as humans. Machines are therefore much easier to understand, predict and protect. If we understand their environment, monitor it, manage and control it we can pro-long the life of the machine, substantially increase the mean time between failure and ensure that if failure occurs it is minor and not critical.
In the wind power generation industry the run to destruction philosophy is still prevalent with some owner operators. I have been told by more than one asset manager “I don’t need condition monitoring, it wasn’t fitted by the turbine manufacturer so it can’t be necessary” On one occasion I was actually told, “I don’t want to know, because what I don’t know won’t hurt me” These are the same words as Brian used. The Brians of this world are dinosaurs, but unlike dinosaurs they still exist and in our industry.
Then there are the Kens. A myriad of systems that are not in synergy with each other, providing information that is misleading and often provided by those not experts in their field. The misdiagnosis of problems leads to un-necessary work and or causes greater problems.
Just the act of condition monitoring is not the whole answer. Expert analysis, correctly managing the monitored data and taking the right corrective action is. We should therefore not just talk about Condition Monitoring but instead we should be implementing Condition Management. In machines as in humans “Prevention is always Better than Cure”. In wind as in every other power generation or process industry Condition Management is a proven concept so why do so many in wind still bury their heads in the sand.
If you would like to know more about Condition Management for your wind turbines and how this will reduce the cost of generation then please contact me at David.firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published in Wind Power Engineering Magazine in the fall of 2013. The writer is Moventas' wind gearbox service sales manager.