Operator Driven Reliability
Many of the tasks possible with ultrasound are easy to execute. Some require less than an hour of instruction in the hands of a conscientious inspector. Scanning for leaks, inspecting shaft couplings, and testing steam traps are just three examples of simple checks an operator might perform on her work area at the beginning or end of a shift to ensure assets were found and left in good working order. And there are many more tasks that should be considered the primary responsibility of asset operators; not the Condition Monitoring team.
This strategy leverages the familiarity operators have acquired from working with the same assets, day in and day out. Operator inspections can reduce energy waste and even lead to fewer unplanned emergency maintenance interventions. They help take a load off the condition monitoring and maintenance teams who now have more time to focus on assets with higher criticality ratings.
Ultrasound also has its limits. Conducting a plant-wide leak survey on your compressed air network? Ultrasound is the tool of choice. On the other hand, searching for a minuscule Freon leak in an air conditioning system might be asking too much. There are better technologies for finding Freon leaks. The risk of deploying this trusted technology for tasks where it is not well-suited is very real. Consequently, understanding when and where ultrasound gets utilized, is as important to your success as are the skills and techniques of the inspector.
The Eight Pillars of Ultrasound
In all, SDT identifies eight domains for applying ultrasound to asset reliability. These eight are famously known as “The Eight Pillars of Ultrasound” and address these elements:
The eight pillars support reliability in a world of unreliable assets. But it is easy to understand how the technology could be prone to misuse. To guide novice inspectors SDT devised a simple, three-letter acronym. All assets will produce ultrasound in the presence of three phenomena; Friction, Impacting, and Turbulence. Together they spell FIT. If you believe the failure mode you are searching for produces one, two, or all three of these conditions, then Ultrasound is a FIT for your FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis).