condition monitoring conveyor

What is Condition Monitoring?

Condition monitoring is an important tool in the predictive maintenance of machines. By collecting and analysing certain signals from motors, developing faults and inefficiencies can be identified, and unplanned downtime can be avoided.

There are a number of different signals that can be taken into account when monitoring mechanical assets. Traditional condition monitoring was mostly based around vibration analysis, but more modern, innovative techniques focus on MCSA (Motor Current Signature Analysis). For a SAM4 MCSA demo, click here.

What are the benefits of condition monitoring?

Simply put, condition monitoring uses a number of signals to predict three things. First, if a motor will break. Second, how it will break, and third, the time you have to fix or replace the motor before it functionally fails. Armed with this information, you can schedule maintenance at a time that suits production.

Avoid unplanned downtime

The ability to plan downtime in an industrial environment is hugely beneficial, as the true cost of unplanned downtime due to a failed motor is often wildly underestimated. There are a number of cost factors which are routinely ignored, such as:

  • The true cost of an unplanned delay in production.
  • The need to pay overtime to maintenance staff to replace the motor.
  • Depending on the severity and type of machine break, other machines may be damaged as a result of the motor fault.
  • The cost of needing to store large numbers of spare motors in case any one of your motors breaks. Condition monitoring means you will be forewarned of any motor break (sometimes up to 4 months in advance); meaning backups for faulty motors can be bought when needed.

Apart from the avoidance of downtime due to machine breakage, condition monitoring contributes to a well run plant in a number of other ways:

Maximise ROI

Predictive maintenance using condition monitoring allows you to maximise the return on investment in your mechanical assets. By monitoring the actual condition of your machine, you can inspect, fix or replace the machine only when it’s necessary, and not before.

Conversely, preventative maintenance requires the replacement of all machines after a certain period of time, (or running hours) regardless of whether they have started to show signs of a fault. By keeping your machines in action until it is necessary to change/replace them, you can get more out of your machine (improving TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)), and maximise initial capital ROI.

Maintenance engineers can act more efficiently

In a scenario where there has been a breakage, maintenance engineers are able to act faster using condition monitoring. Different motor signal patterns are indicative of different developing faults. So condition monitoring will help the maintenance engineer to focus on the right fault, and not waste time checking parts of the motor that are not broken. This ultimately makes the maintenance engineer faster and more effective at his/her job.

Safeguard employee safety

By being able to determine when an asset will break, the maintenance personnel can ensure safer work practices. Depending on the nature of the asset, a breakage could be quite destructive, and could pose a threat to the safety of employees working around the asset. So using condition monitoring, the maintenance personnel can plan maintenance before a motor break poses a potential threat to safety.

Improve motor efficiency with MCSA

SAM4 by Semiotic Labs uses Motor Current Signature Analysis, meaning that it can also detect when a motor is beginning to run less efficiently. As a result, you can focus your efficiency improvements on specific motors.

Future proofing your plant

Statistically, 20-40% of your maintenance personnel are likely to retire in the next 5 years. So your ability to react to future unplanned downtime could suffer. SAM4 helps your maintenance team to avoid unplanned downtime and maximise plant productivity in the future.

Who is condition monitoring for?

Condition monitoring is an important part of any industrial maintenance strategy, and has a wide range of uses in a range of different environments, including:

  • Oil and Gas
  • Transport
  • Food and Beverage
  • Healthcare
  • Local municipalities

The specific assets that condition monitoring is used for include:

  • AC induction motors
  • Pumps
  • Compressors
  • Conveyors
  • Blowers and Fans

To find out how SAM4 by Semiotic Labs could benefit your maintenance strategy, book a demo today.

What are the different types of condition monitoring?

There are a number of different ways to monitor the condition of machines, each with their own advantages.


As mentioned, SAM4 by Semiotic Labs uses Machine Current Signature Analysis (MCSA)  to analyse the condition of the machine, and detect developing faults. MCSA is an accurate form of condition monitoring which is used in a variety of processes across many industries.

MCSA builds a model based on the relationship between the voltage and current running through a motor. SAM4 requires 2-6 weeks of data collection from a motor to build the model. The model is then applied to the motor’s voltage signal to simulate an expected current signal. The simulated current signal is compared to the actual current signal of the machine to determine inconsistencies (and therefore potential faults).

One significant benefit of MSCA over other forms of condition monitoring is that it copes well with signal changes caused by variable frequency drives. As the the VFD alters frequency,  the MSCA model can identify when changes to the current waveform are caused by changes to the frequency of the voltage waveform. This means the model doesn’t incorrectly identify the current signal change as a motor fault.

MCSA is also often easier to install than other forms of condition monitoring. This is because sensors are installed inside the motor control cabinet, and not directly on the motor, which can often be in difficult to reach places.

Installing sensors in the motor control cabinet also means cheaper sensor maintenance. Assets can sometimes be placed in hostile environments (for example in the steel industry sensors may be placed in environments with extremely high temperatures). This means vibration sensors that are installed on the actual asset can often be damaged by the environment around them. Consequently, and depending on the situation, sensors may need to be regularly repaired or changed, which can become expensive. A broken sensor may also lead to a missed fault, which would be even more expensive.

Vibration Analysis

As mentioned, a more traditional method of condition monitoring is known as Vibration Analysis. The sensors are installed directly on the motor, and so can warn of a failure as soon as they begin to detect vibration patterns that are outside the range exhibited by a healthy motor.

Installing vibration sensors directly on the motor can sometimes be difficult, especially if the motors are located in ATEX zones, harsh or dangerous environments, or hard to reach places. As mentioned above, if the motors are in harsh environments, the sensors are more likely to be damaged and so may need to be frequently replaced. Unnecessary costs such as this can impact the ROI of your condition monitoring project.

In an industrial environment, changes in vibration patterns can be caused by a number of things, not just motor faults. This means that vibration analysis can sometimes create false motor fault reports, which can lead to the scheduling of unnecessary maintenance. This is another factor which can damage the ROI of your condition monitoring project.

Other frequently used condition monitoring techniques include ultrasonic analysis and oil analysis.

Condition Monitoring Training

The amount of training required will depend on the condition monitoring vendor you opt for.

SAM4 has an intuitive dashboard which helps you to visualise performance data in a helpful way, and take action faster. By making our dashboard as intuitive as possible, very little training is needed to use SAM4, meaning you can start monitoring your assets as soon as possible.

Semiotic Labs also offer installation and technical support if needed. However we find most of our clients are able to install SAM4 without any problems.

In sum

Condition monitoring is a crucial part of a well run plant, as it allows you to optimize your maintenance schedule and minimize unplanned downtime.

To sign up for a SAM4 demo, click here.