Mill reliability monitoring saves big money

The compact, robust and easily installed FAG SmartCheck online measuring system from Schaeffler Australia was deployed by Sunstate Cement in a short-term condition monitoring initiative on a tube mill that ultimately avoided the need to replace a trunnion end drive bearing costing more than $300,000 to buy new and install. 

Use of the SmartCheck monitoring technology – and the wider use of its complementary sophisticated FAG ProCheck monitoring technology – has facilitated ongoing optimum reliability of tube mills used by Sunstate, which is one of Australia’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of high quality cement products to commercial businesses throughout Queensland and Northern New South Wales. 

With a capacity to produce over 1.5 million tonnes of cement per year, Sunstate Cement Ltd has a long history as a major contributor to Queensland’s largest and most impressive infrastructure projects for over 25 years.

Sunshine State’s three tube mills have a production capacity of 60-100 t/h of products such as fly ash blend and GP cement, production, which is safeguarded against disruption by FAG condition monitoring.

FAG vibration monitoring technology deployed by Sunshine State includes the innovative, modular online SmartCheck measuring system for continuous monitoring on a decentralised basis to optimise productivity and overall process management. SmartCheck can be used on assemblies where such monitoring was previously cost prohibitive, while ProCheck provides a longer-term and more comprehensive solution, says Schaeffler Australia Industrial Sector and Product Manager Martin Grosvenor.

Challenge for Schaeffler

Sunstate Cement had performed visual inspection of the Tube Mill No1 trunnion drive end bearing. During this inspection, they found the bearing was in a reasonable condition after 28 years of service and decided to extend the service life by rotating the outer ring by 180°, which is a common practice for this type of application. 

After this rotation, Schaeffler technicians were asked to provide condition monitoring of the bearing, in order to provide Sunstate Cement Ltd with assurance the bearing was fit for purpose. Due to the unpredictable operating times – and despite the slow speed of the mill – the customer was considering the collection of vibration data.

Schaeffler recommended a temporary solution, consisting of two FAG SmartCheck online systems (one axial, one radial) and a remote wireless network system for communication monitoring and diagnostics from the Schaeffler Online Centre in Sydney.

The FAG SmartCheck units were configured to suit slow- speed bearings and set up to only collect data when the mill was operating, ensuring only relevant data was retained. This temporary solution proposed by Schaeffler was accepted by the customer for a period of one month. After this period, a machine condition report was provided by Schaeffler technicians confirming the trunnion bearing was fit for service.

By implementing the temporary FAG SmartCheck monitoring solution, Schaeffler was able to supply promptly a cost-effective monitoring system to assess the condition of the trunnion drive end bearing for continued service.

The FAG SmartCheck provided high quality vibration data at slow speeds.
Subsequently, Schaeffler condition monitoring technicians further analysed the data and made recommendations to the customer for continuation of service for the trunnion bearing. The benefit and value to Sunstate Cement was obtaining assurance that the bearing was suited for further operation, which meant a considerably more cost-intensive exchange could be avoided.

Cost savings exceed $300,000

The cost of a new trunnion drive end bearing exceeded $A150,000, while average downtime cost between $A2250-$A5,000 an hour. The average downtime for a bearing replacement was 3-5 days, a minimum of 72 hours.  Cost savings for every avoided bearing replacement exceeded $A300,000. 

In the same plant, two of the three mills operating were already equipped with FAG ProCheck technology with remote monitoring service. The customer subsequently equipped its third mill with a permanent FAG ProCheck monitoring system to effectively continue monitoring the remaining life of its bearing with Schaeffler online monitoring services. 

FAG ProCheck is used in general to monitor the vibration behaviour and other process parameters. In this application, it allows in particular the vibration monitoring of the slowly turning trunnion drive end bearing.

What’s special

“Before the final use of FAG ProCheck it was possible to provide a short-term
cost-efficient monitoring solution with FAG SmartCheck. The project shows how Schaeffler adds value to the customer by combining flexible solutions and initiatives with the right products and through the involvement of our service team that takes time to understand the uniqueness of individual plants and particular needs,” said Grosvenor.

 “FAG SmartCheck demonstrates that vibration monitoring does not have to be complicated or expensive. As a flexible solution, FAG SmartCheck technology adjusts readily to user demands and reliably fulfils even complex requirements,” said Grosvenor. 

“The technology offers the performance features of expensive systems, but is compact in design, easy to fit and simple to use. The system can be expanded on a modular basis at any time. Where requirements change, retrofitting can also be carried out at any time.”

The intuitively operated and expandable SmartCheck technology – backed with comprehensive service throughout Australia and New Zealand – is suitable for early detection of rolling bearing damage, imbalances, and misalignments, among other faults, on diverse machinery and plant. 

Machinery to which it applies includes electric and geared motors, gearboxes and compressors, vacuum and fluid pumps, ventilators and fans, spindles and machine tools, separators and decanters and vibrating screens.

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