Want to be more proactive? Add route-based vibration to your technician’s toolkit

Predictive maintenance

Application note

Some of the jobs being performed by today’s technicians don’t even have names or descriptions, yet, and are being added on the fly to keep up with today’s innovative tools and advanced equipment condition-monitoring techniques. What were once complex tasks performed only by reliability engineers or specialized contractors can now be accomplished by less experienced technicians with easy-to-use tools, such as vibration screeners and thermal imagers.

Consequently, this allows analysts and reliability engineers to use their time and expertise more efficiently by examining equipment condition data and making proactive decisions to prevent equipment failure, ultimately saving money.

Case in point—train the technician to use high-tech

Recently, a large, globally-recognized automobile manufacturer successfully deployed maintenance technicians, who normally repair equipment, to also carry out route-based condition monitoring using handheld vibration meters and thermal imagers.

Like many plants, the manufacturer had started to incorporate new technology into their operations, however, much of the machinery was still not equipped with sensors and therefore, little or no equipment condition data was being gathered. Also, no regular condition monitoring routes or schedules had been set-up.

Both the company’s thermographer and reliability team supervisor understood the value of equipment condition monitoring in relationship to proactive maintenance to extend equipment life. They decided to put vibration screening meters and infrared thermal imaging tools and technicians—to the test.

“Our main reason for testing these tools was to see if we could pass along some of the vibration testing and thermography scans to maintenance technicians so the reliability team could concentrate on the most difficult issues,” said the Reliability Supervisor.

“Right now, we’re only able to look at certain pieces of equipment because we only have so much manpower. If maintenance could collect data on more equipment, and the experts could spend their time analyzing the data, we could look at everything more frequently. Whatever tools we use have to make it easy for the maintenance techs to upload the data because we want them to be more efficient.”

In the end, the pilot program proved that techs could be deployed to assist the reliability team. It also provided technicians a nice change of pace from some of their usual tasks.

A natural progression—pairing regular route-based vibration screening with an asset criticality list

With the techs now trained and armed with thermal imaging and vibration screening tools, a natural next step for any manufacturer would be to transition to regular route-based equipment condition monitoring, such as vibration screening.

Obviously, not all equipment is created equal, nor is the failure of a particular machine component, so it makes sense to give more attention to machinery which, should it fail, will have the highest impact on overall production. Many times, the most common culprit for equipment failure is caused by misalignment, looseness, imbalance, bearing wear, and motor electrical issues. By implementing route-based vibration screenings and by prioritizing the right schedule based on an asset criticality list, you can avoid much of the damage common machine faults can cause before they happen.

Prioritize your list

It’s imperative to prioritize assets and rank them in order of importance before making your schedules, assigning work orders, and creating your routes. You can further ensure the success of your efforts by selecting a qualified assessment team familiar with the various pieces of equipment; then, together you and your team can use the quality criteria to gain consensus about why you included a piece of equipment and how you ranked it.

Technician performing vibration screening with Fluke 805

Assessment decisions:

  1. What assets should be included and why?
  2. What criteria will be used to analyze the asset?
  3. What are the expected / typical failure modes for each asset?
  4. What impact does the asset have on:
    • Health and safety
    • Environment
    • Production
    • Repair costs
    • Energy costs
    • Quality
    • Maintenance costs
  5. What background information and data can you use to support asset criticality determinations?
    • OEM manuals
    • Nameplate
    • information
    • Equipment lists
    • Inventory hierarchy

Rank your assets

Once you’ve decided on the assets you want to include in your list and identified them by type, size and location, etc., create a numbering system, such as on a scale of 1 to 5, to rank each asset from ‘most critical’ to ‘least critical’ based on importance to overall production and processes. Lastly, add the numbers up to arrive at a criticality ranking for each piece of equipment.

Example—Asset criticality list

Develop a screening schedule

Now that you have your asset criticality analysis list, the next step is to establish a preventive maintenance task for each data collection point on the route for accurately screening machine condition changes. Once the maintenance plan has been established and a fixed route of data collection points is in place, start laying out vibration screening schedules and testing frequencies, such as daily, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly or yearly, depending on the asset criticality ranking and associated risk factors important to your industry, company and plant. Additionally, you’ll want to identify the appropriate technician or engineer (less-experienced, semi-experienced, highly-experienced) to address the task, depending on the asset ranking, difficulty of the task and expertise/training needed.

For example:

Screening—schedule junior technicians using electrical, thermal and vibration screening tools to monitor:

  • Star machines—daily
  • Critical and semi-critical machines—monthly
  • Non-critical machines—quarterly

Diagnosis—schedule mid-level technicians using vibration testers to measure and diagnose faults on:

  • Star machines—weekly
  • Critical machines—quarterly
  • Other machines—as needed

Alignment—schedule mid-level technicians to perform alignment checks and corrections on:

  • Star machines—monthly
  • Critical machines—yearly
  • Other machines—as needed

Analysis —schedule senior technicians/engineers or contractors to perform advanced analysis and resonance testing on:

  • Star machines—quarterly
  • Critical machines—annually and as needed
  • Semi-critical machines—as needed

Keep in mind that, although the asset criticality analysis list serves as a strong guide, it also needs to be flexible enough that unique considerations or decisions can be made as needed.

Moreover, firm actions or procedures should also be in place, such as, 1) if a star machine problem is found, then it should be immediately reported to a senior technician or engineer; 2) if any critical or semi-critical machine problems is found, then it should be reported to a mid-level technician and added to an upcoming route.

Example—Asset criticality analysis list

NOTE —There are times when you’ll need to add an additional data collection point or make a route adjustment. Some vibration screening meters, such as Fluke’s 805 FC, have this added feature. Additionally, the Fluke 805 FC lets personnel create work orders with or without a computer maintenance management system (CMMS). This can be extremely important for plants that have not yet transitioned to a CMMS.

Making proactive, planned stops along the road to reliability

Making the switch to a more proactive maintenance approach takes time. Transitioning, or adding to a technician’s skill set early in the process and introducing things like smarter tools will help you combat the growing need for a more technologically advanced workforce and will make each consecutive addition to your program that much easier. Additionally, by adding condition monitoring, based on an asset criticality list, companies can improve both personnel and plant efficiency and take quality, proactive actions based on data, to prevent equipment failures before they happen. Remember that reliability is a journey and not a destination. Never let your guard down or stop documenting successes or else a new directive will cancel the great accomplishments that you have seen with your reliability program.

What’s your next stop?

One consideration might be the addition of a Cloud-based computer maintenance management system (CMMS), such as eMaint, which allows access to data from Fluke Connect™-enabled handheld tools using a desktop, smart phone or tablet. In conjunction with tools such as thermal imagers and vibration screening tools, a CMMS easily connects workers, like technicians and reliability engineers, to critical historical and real-time data—anytime, anywhere.

Key features of the 805 FC


  • Overall vibration (low frequency: 10 Hz to 1,000 Hz) for trending and providing a severity score for overall machine health.
  • Crest Factor+ (high frequency: 4,000 Hz to 20,000 Hz) for trending and providing a severity score for bearing condition.
  • IR temperature for a broader understanding of machine health.



  • Instant sharing of machine health risk via Fluke Connect
  • Consistent results with innovative sensor and sensor tip design
  • Four-level severity scales for both bearing and overall machine health
  • Severity assessment for motors, chillers, fans, cooling tower drives, centrifugal pumps, positive displacement pumps, air compressors, blowers, gearboxes, spindles
  • External accelerometer support for hard-to-reach places


Fluke 805 FC Vibration Meter now optimized for route-based maintenance

Two of the guiding values of Fluke are: we listen to customers and we strive for continuous improvement. That’s why we updated the 805 FC Vibration meter to greatly improve the ease of performing vibration screening routes for technicians and managers. Here are highlights of the exciting new capabilities in the 805 FC for managers and technicians to better manage and monitor their work flow:

  • Build equipment setups and maintenance routes using Fluke Connect
  • Easily push work orders and routes to your technician’s smart phone via Fluke Connect
  • Add work orders directly to the unit using the Fluke Connect mobile app
  • Easily upload results after measurements are made
  • Share and view results remotely, receive alerts when equipment health changes, and view active trends of multiple parameters

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