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How do you actually resource a truly condition based maintenance operation based say on the IIoT?

“If we only react to assets that reveal their deterioration, then we aren’t back in the days of firefighting again?”

It is true that for facilities that enable truly predictive technologies to “protect” their assets, that the dilemma will be how to ensure that the right skills and resource are available to react to the call for action when it comes. Like buses, you may wait all day and then find that they all come at once, how do we manage this?

The potential problem is that companies may see IIoT as a means to design out the need for maintenance skills resources to reduce costs. Clearly operating on a minimal resource when there are fluctuating demand cycles will leave you wanting at times when you are in the most desperate need for available resource. So this must not be a driver in the evolution of maintenance management strategies.

However if you take a look at the value structure of maintenance management the real return on investment is elimination of failures and not the ability to react to them when they present themselves. Yes we need to know early so we can plan and so we avoid secondary and tertiary effects of faults, but our goal is 100% up time no failures, no down time, lowest cost.

So how to we do this?

Well, its like all the best strategies, there is a mix of resource and deployment strategies that will be right for each entity.

Starting with the human resource there will be an optimal number of permanently employed and correctly skilled engineers and technicians however, they must be capable of both reacting to unplanned events such as a need to intervene and restore function but they must also be gainfully employed in the elimination of failures at times when no intervention is required.

We must remember that the majority of maintenance jobs, some of which can be handled by machinery operators ( TPM model) are not high technology jobs but more about maintaining standards, cleanliness, oil levels, noting and reporting performance changes and changes form the norm.

There are tasks such as retrospective analysis of machinery performance and reliability data in order to uncover, understand, and manage issues that lead to opportunities for improvement or elimination of failure.

There are knowledge transfer activities to ensure that we do not lose valuable insight as we move forward.

So the answer to resourcing is to take a wide and pragmatic view to the need to properly resource our maintenance needs, to not see reductions in the labour resource as where the cost savings are.


Marine Diesel Cylinder Lubricants


12S90ME-C Mark 9.2

As 2020 moves ever closer the need to ensure long term reliability is assured is a hot topic in the minds of the marine lube industry product development and marketeers.

The linked article by Dr Neil Canter for Tech Beat, references some of the key players in the lube oil field and is a very useful reference when trying to understand the future needs of the industry.

Cold corrosion gets a mention though the measures to engineer out the issue via choking the cooling circuits and thus raising the liner temperature above the dew point for the acidic byproducts is not mentioned. A fine read nevertheless.

Cylinder lube oil 2020

Oil analysis review for fleet management

Data Info Grahic Marine

So much useful information is waiting for you

If you operate multiple vessels within your fleet then as a fleet engineering manager, superintendent or technical director, you are missing some great insights into the areas where machinery systems are revealing opportunities for improvements.

Oil analysis reports get sent to the ship and they are either acted upon or filed according to the risk assessment performed by the Chief engineer. However, if you have multiple vessels you may not know if issues are being mirrored elsewhere and due to the daily prioritisation of tasks onboard these issues may not be being managed and resolved often with significant hidden cost.

By performing a simple review of the data from the fleet oil analysis repository we have found that there is a real opportunity to reveal hidden issues that are simple and often in expensive to perform.

In addition by performing this simple activity on an annual basis it is possible to review KPI’s and demonstrate an objective degree of improvement that can be used to demonstrate active asset management to your quality system and also to your clients via processes such as TMSA as used by the vetting agents for tankers.

We have performed a number of these activities both manually by reviewing paper/pdf reports and by using automated data provided directly from the oil analysis provider.

We can compare performance form ship to ship, or engine type A vs. engine type B etc. we can also look at the performance of EAL’s and stern tube systems, hydraulic oil cleanliness management, filter management etc. Meaning that what ever strategies you wish to employ we can look at the data to generate a high level set of information and insight to guide the management process.

Furthermore, this approach can be extrapolated and include other data sets for example, vibration analysis and thermography data as well as manually or automated watch data.

Call for more details and to discuss how we can help.

See this primer for more details CM as a fleet maintenance performance analysis tool


Focusing solely on the location of the pain may not reveal its source


Just before Christmas I was watching TV with the family, but unusually I was sitting on the floor, a carpeted but hard surface on which to sit. Every now and then I would shift my position as you might expect to to regain a more comfortable position.

I started to get a tightness in my outer thigh and a little discomfort in the knee, thought little of it and went to bed as usual. In the night the tightness awoke me and I tried to stretch the thigh to ease it with some improvement enough that I was able to get back to sleep.

The following morning I awoke and swung my self out of bed as usual but as my leg lifted I felt a monumental jolt of pain through the hinge of my knee, leading to an
unstoppable cry in pain and surprise.Knee and hamstring injury

I could hardly bear weight on the right leg a
nd found it hard to stand. I immediately called the GP and managed, luckily, to get an appointment with the practice nurse. Upon seeing me the course of action was as you might expect i.e. painkillers, advice to keep moving and to come back if things did not improve or deteriorated within a week.

Well, over the next two nights I found I could not sleep in bed as either the weight of my leg or the slight twist that you experience when lying on my side, even with a pillow under the knee did not afford any relief to the extent that I had to make my way with stifled cry downstairs to my fireside chair. Only here in a “W” configuration , i.e. sat upright knees bent and under the influence of Codeine could I manage the odd hour or two of restful sleep. This continued for three more nights by which time the good lady said that she could take no more of my visible discomfort so she advised that I return to the nurse, which I did the following day to be told that my only course of action was to visit my local A&E, something that I would have avoided normally so as not to burden the stretched service with a non life threatening situation, but unfortunately I had no other option as the pain and discomfort was not easing over time.


Upon arrival I was dealt with quite quickly being mid morning on a weekday, but it became clear quite early on that they were more concerned about my pain relief activities than my pain. This became further evident when I revealed that I had been taking Codeine routinely every two or three hours for the last 48 or so hours. I had not been taking Codeine -i.e. Codeine Phosphate but Cocodamol which contains paracetamol and as such I had involuntarily overdosed by some considerable margin.

This resulted in a 30 hour stay in the A&E observation ward whilst they pumped three bags of detoxifying fluid into my system. Paradoxically I knew quite well that Paracetamol should not be consumed above the recommended dose but being racked with pain and making the false assumption that I was taking Codeine Phosphate I had simply self medicated without checking the label. (Embarrassing at best and potentially fatal a mistake at worse).

That done, we had an X-ray and an ultrasound scan to look for mechanical sources of the knee pain and also to check for a potential aneurysm or clot bit of which came back negative. The only other non invasive option was an MRI scan to detail soft tissue damage but this was not possible so upon completion of the detox and the all clear from the blood tests I was discharged with Codeine Phosphate this time and an appointment for the aforementioned MRI.


By this time the pain was starting to improve and the tablets allowed me to sleep lying down but not on either side. However what came through was the numbness in the out thigh accompanied by a sense of surface discomfort akin to having been scalded by hot water. I realised that this had been there and I had reported it, but it had been less significant and as such I had not made much of it. But now, the knee pain being controllable, it became quite obvious.

I had mentioned this in A&E but as you would expect the clinicians were focused on the knee as this was the primary complaint. But now I started to think along lines of a machinery diagnostician, remembering that root cause may not be initially obvious.


More of that in a while, however I went to see the orthopaedic consultant, a very professional and practical clinician who reviewed the MRI and indicated his disappointment that we had not been able to have it done during the most acute period of the discomfort. He reported that there was evidence of swelling and some wear and tear as you might expect for the patient, but that there was no evidence of any mechanical anomaly that might be addressed by surgery or the like. His only advice was to keep moving and report any changes at the next appointment to follow up in 5-6 weeks. Meanwhile he recommended a consultation with the physiotherapy team at my local hospital.

This was the most productive of the meetings as we discussed the system and not the components. I found that my knee and the muscles involved were each as strong as each other and that there was no specific reason why my pain should be referred here, however the knee is part of a lifting device which has elements in the spine, the hip the thigh and the lower leg, all of which refer to the knee as one of two primary mechanical hinges the knee and the hip.

I mentioned the numbness, the burning sensation, the tightness in the outer surface of my thigh, the pain in the knee and the particular ways in which I could initiate the knee pain by twisting or hanging the leg off the bed etc.


My therapist then lay me on my side and gently, using her elbow strangely enough, worked each muscle from my knee to my hip and at the hip stimulated a pain that referred to the exact spot that had been keeping me awake. So our conclusion was that there had been a compression of the nerve that controls sensation in the outer right thigh, this had lead to a tightening of he IT band that connects the hip to the knee and this had lead to the discomfort in the knee. So no knee injury, but lots of referred pain as a result.

At present this is only a theory but as the patient and one who has some logic built in, it makes complete sense.

What I conclude form this episode however, and the point I wanted to share with you is that the symptoms may not necessarily point to the source of the problem and if you do not take into consideration all the “actors” in the scene that is the fault, then it is possible that you will fix the symptom but fail to fix the root cause.

I know that a great many engineers replace pumps and motors when they fail, only to replace them again a short time later because the forces acting upon them are not right. I am also aware that you lose the hunger to get to the nub of the problem once the plant is up and running again.

Learning – We may get fewer unnecessary sleepless night if we simply undertake and completed a thorough root cause analysis each time we find a component in a failed or failing state.


Condition Monitoring In the Marine Community – A little help is needed!


In the UK the number of plastic bags being used by supermarket shoppers was astronomical, the waste and cost in terms of energy to produce something that was essentially an unnecessary item was considered by the vast majority of people to be   also an unacceptable situation. I can remember people being interviewed on TV saying that this was terrible and should be stopped.

Even so behaviour did not change. This is because we humans and creatures of habit, we don’t like change, we certainly find it difficult to behave differently even when we are asked and we make it clear that we think the behaviour is unacceptable.

So we have to legislate, as its not enough for us to simply feel better about our behaviour so we have to be actively participating in the avoidance of the danger of a penalty before we are prepared to change.

We now we have to pay for plastic bags at the supermarket. Occasionally I forget and have to buy a few but now I take with me the required carrying capability to allow me to pack my goods in the car and take them home.

We also used legislation to great affect with drinking and driving  and for very good reasons. Also for helmet wearing on motor cycles and seat belt wearing in cars. Now in the vast breadth of UK society drinking and driving, not wearing a helmet or a seat belt is simply not acceptable. If you don’t believe me get into a car with a 7 year old and see how long it takes for them to remind you ( with a disapproving face), to put on your seat belt.


The word is that paper cups for coffee will go the same way as the plastic bag as they are inherently non-recyclable and have to be made from premium materials (not recycled and high production energy costs). So we need to take a refillable cup into the coffee shop or they will charge us a premium for the socially unacceptable vessel they are forced to provide.

My point here is that people don’t naturally do stuff just because they know its the right or better way to do things. They do it because that’s the way they do it. Unless of course someones holding a big stick over them or threatening them with some detrimental thing, like a fine, or an on cost or a repetitional black mark or fewer customers etc.

Condition Based Maintenance as a primary maintenance strategy is proven ( see airline industry) to be the most effective way to ensure that your assets meet the reliability and operational requirements for your business. It is not just a good idea, it works, is is cost effective, it improves the bottom line of every business that has adopted it.

My guess is that soon the underwriters will get tough on preventable failures by ensuring that companies who do not do enough to protect their assets by managing their risks will not benefit from financial assurances in the event of a failure.

I also suspect that the shipping industry needs to take a look at the airline industry and take advantage of smart ship technology including that for reliability and maintenance and that the class societies will have to become more proactive in recognising that poor maintenance when set against best practice is effectively a negligent behaviour and one that should be highlighted and ultimately eradicated.



Gap in training standards – A threat?

Quality control in condition monitoring diagnostics is critical to ensure reliable analysis and advice. As a means of controlling this, the CM community has relied upon the standards community to develop a range of technical and competency standards from which the user community can select according to need.

In the area of the practitioner, there are a number of training standards and qualifications available that can be used to build contracts and to ensure that the individual experts are indeed proven and certified as such. As a result, you can demand that your provider must demonstrate their competence by using only certified data collectors, analysts and programme managers. This is true for Vibration Analysis(VA), Thermal Analysis (TA), Lubricant Analysis (LA) and Ultrasonic Analysis (UA) etc. ISO 18436 and its parts covers this.

These discreet condition monitoring technologies have evolved over the last 70 or so years from high-end sciences to user-friendly device oriented tools that can be deployed easily and widely used. However…

I am a little nervous about the future, for the following reasons.

As machinery items get fitted with ethernet cables and the ability to collect, store, distribute and process data we will start to see, via the “Internet of Things”, an exponential rise in the amount, depth and breadth of data in-feed. We will naturally want to use this to gain a greater understanding of the  performance  and condition of our valuable assets and we will apply existing trending techniques to these new data sets. Thus applying existing process techniques to new data which may not yield the value we expect.

The cylinder or silo’s of condition monitoring will continue to be valuable, but we will soon find that the vast amount of new data exists outside of these traditional areas. In addition we will be able to pull together VA+TA+LA+UA and OTHER data into holistic analytical tools and we will be looking for correlations that refer to future anomalies that we may wish to manage. Thus delivering greater sensitivity in detection and improved reaction time for asset health management.

From  CM practitioners perspective, I can tell you this is very exciting, but we will find that at the moment that we gain access to this wider field of vision, we will regress to immaturity and naivety. Naivety ,because we will be seeing things for the first time and having to learn how to make sense of these things. There could be no certificate for competence in advanced machinery data analytics. As a result, there will be no way to hold your service supplier, who may well also be the service contract holder, to account. We will have to have faith in our suppliers based upon an unverifiable claim that they are the experts in something we have already revealed is new and un-tested.


I predict that we will experience 1) An increased level of inconsistency in reporting and decision support information and 2) An in crease in “confirmation bias” where the analyst looks for evidence to support their case – either knowingly or otherwise.

So my conclusion here is that we need to consider a broader certification system for data analytics for machinery asset health management  and we also need to remain realistic that new and exciting tools will not necessarily bring about better decision making  – it may in-fact lead to indecision.