Food companies can significantly improve production line efficiency through the use of vibration monitoring, says Chris Hansford, managing director of Hansford Sensors
The cost of delayed deliveries or wasted produce means food processing and packaging companies understand more than most the vital need to protect production and optimise productivity with predictive and preventative machine maintenance. Surprisingly, maintenance is still sometimes carried out when equipment has already degraded, which means that sudden failure can cause unexpected downtime, while there has been a steady decrease in plant efficiency during the run-up to this downtime. However, more progressive manufacturing and process companies have recognised that the implementation of more proactive preventative maintenance programmes can improve efficiency. Although these are sometimes carried out for individual applications rather than an entire plant, the effect is still positive for the balance sheet.
As a result, many companies in the food and beverage industry are now seeing the benefits of predictive and preventative maintenance, with condition monitoring programmes – and especially vibration monitoring programmes – playing a role in optimising efficiency. By taking this proactive approach, machine monitoring and maintenance is no longer an expensive necessity but rather an opportunity to increase profits. This is especially true in food and beverage, where the profit margin to be protected is potentially larger than in many other sectors. Not only is food and beverage the largest manufacturing sector in the UK, it has also remained relatively buoyant, even in the current economic climate.
The continued success of this industry depends on its ability to further increase efficiency and product quality. This means there is a need to continually enhance the reliability of processes.
To achieve this, vibration monitoring is probably the most used predictive maintenance technique. By monitoring vibration in, for example, rolling bearings, it is possible to detect exactly which components are due to fail and when, enabling the efficient replacement of parts and the subsequent smooth running of the operation. Despite the fact that mass of the rolling elements, their velocities and the resulting movements of the bearing are extremely small, vibration monitoring equipment is capable of detecting these movements and providing engineers with readings from components such as bearings, motors and gears that enable informed decisions to be made on when and how to repair or replace equipment.
Rolling bearings typically produce small degrees of vibration when they are functioning normally but when faults develop they exhibit higher frequencies, and these can be used to identify bearing damage. A standard 100mV/g AC sensor suits most food and beverage manufacturing equipment, and can be supplied as either top or side entry components. The sensors are also available with stainless steel enclosures that meet the strict hygiene standards imposed within food processing.
However, there are occasions where a more specific sensor specification is required. For example, the signals generated by bearings at low speeds are harder to detect, so vibration monitoring systems used require components with the sensitivity to enable accurate, repeatable readings at low speeds. The low sensitivity Hansford Sensors HS-100 Series sensor, for example, is also available to a high sensitivity specification in the form of the HS-100F. With sensors on the input and output ends of a drive shaft, the HS-100F sensors provide a reliable, repeatable reading even at slow running speeds. High sensitivity sensors are also a suitable solution for applications such as fans, which may alternate between extremely slow rotational speeds and relatively fast speeds required at periods of maximum cooling.
Food and beverage processors using vibration sensing equipment from companies such as Hansford Sensors can protect machinery against unscheduled failure and thus optimise production efficiency. This helps protect and maximise profits, even in uncertain economic climates.
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