Computational Systems Inc. gives new meaning to the concept of predictive maintenance in manufacturing environments. Gloria P. Cahill spells out the company’s practical philosophy.
It’s every manufacturer’s nightmare. A key piece of equipment goes down in the middle of an important job. The process comes to a halt. The delivery date is put in jeopardy. The question is, how can a manufacturer cut the risk of this all-too-common occurrence?
Computational Systems Inc. (CSI) has built its business on the premise that predictive maintenance is the answer. This Knoxville, Tenn., company is the world leader in providing engineering services, products, training and customer support in strategic maintenance technologies. CSI’s use of technology enables maintenance departments to detect problem conditions in advance, operate with less equipment redundancy and spare-parts inventory, and increase production capacity from existing plant assets.
With a clientele that includes a majority of the Fortune 500 and a host of smaller companies, CSI has encountered — and resolved — just about every type of machine maintenance problem. From its beginnings in 1984, this service provider has distinguished itself in developing advance-maintenance technologies. In the 1980s, CSI designed a complete vibration system that has evolved into equipment capable of monitoring, analyzing and correcting a machine’s condition. The 1990s were defined by an expanded focus that encompassed fully integrated technology that includes oil analysis, motor diagnostics, thermographic monitoring, ultrasonic scanning, precision balancing and laser alignment.
Emerson Electric acquired the company in 1997. The current president, Dave Plum, began his tenure in 1998. Now, with about $60 million in annual sales (75 percent domestic), CSI has branched out again to add outsourcing services to its offerings. In its state-of-the-art designing and manufacturing facility in Knoxville and throughout its three offices in the United States and seven offices and affiliates around the globe, approximately 430 employees are involved in providing the company’s products and services.
CSI has responded to the opportunities of the new millennium — with the demands for lean manufacturing, quick turnarounds and just-in-time deliveries spurred by computerization and e-business. “Maintenance is not just a black hole of expense,” Plum says. “Good maintenance is the opportunity to increase productivity and capacity. We have proved that the technology works. From CSI’s perspective, we have changed our tag line to show the change we see in the approach: ‘CSI Means Reliability.’ For 10 to 15 years, we focused on products and now, we are focusing on customer solutions. Our comprehensive offering is services, products, diagnostic software and monitoring systems.”
At the core of this offering is CSI’s proprietary service: Reliability-Based Maintenance (RBM), a maintenance philosophy that improves industrial productivity by using an integrated set of condition-monitoring tools that are incorporated in a balanced strategy consisting of preventive, predictive and proactive maintenance techniques. RBM optimizes the condition assessment of critical components based on their impact on the plant’s operations. CSI’s unique RBM solutions include:
• Aligning maintenance strategies with plant operations and business objectives
• Designing new RBM programs or enhancing existing programs
• Implementing RBM programs
• Integrating multiple advanced technologies
• Turning data into decision-support information
• Providing technical services on site and via remote links
• Eliminating mission-critical equipment failures
• Providing services, training and support
RBM’s primary benefit is increased capacity, in that RBM programs enable plants to run closer to their rated design capacity for longer periods of time, resulting in reported productivity increases of between 3 percent and 10 percent. CSI tailors the RBM solution to each site so that the results are responsive to the specific needs of the location, the process and the products. Additional benefits of this customized approach include more dependable quality, less risk of catastrophic breakdowns, more efficient and less frequent scheduled shutdowns, reduced inventory kept as hedge, reduced scrap rates, better control of operating costs, better control of overtime and enhanced worker safety.
The Extra Mile
The latest extension of CSI’s offering is the outsourcing services for clients who have come to rely on the benefits of RBM. Plum notes, “Now, the plants that have been running the RBM program themselves want us to provide the people and the equipment so they have reliability. Over the past six months, the main product has become outsourcing. Some of the corporate customers we have dealt with over the past decade are frustrated with the headache of maintaining equipment. But they appreciate that RBM is the best way to maintain their machinery. So, they are looking to outsource that work. A big benefit to them is that they can upgrade their service that way without making a capital investment.”
Plum describes the outsourcing services as having several components, each of which is custom-tailored to the plant. Conducting an assessment entails a study of the business and service issues, an assessment and benchmarking of the plant, comparison to best practices and identifying the maintenance gaps. Plum notes that during the assessment, it is very important to understand the key business issues of the company and to evaluate the maintenance issues in terms of increasing productivity.
Designing a failure defense plan requires identification of the things that need fixing and the steps that can be taken immediately to improve conditions. Creating a simplified reliability plan includes identifying the most critical systems and the least critical. Plum explains that a key element here is an analysis to find the benefits of each potential improvement.
CSI’s most recent hardware and software advances are the Model 5200 Trivector oil analyzer and a line of RBM components. The latter includes an instrument for walk-around vibration data collection, a wireless micro-analyzer for vibration and a continuous on-line monitoring system.
As to the ongoing needs and challenges in machine-intensive environments, Plum describes CSI’s philosophy for uniting the technology with the company’s expertise as follows: “Technology continues to change. Until now, it has been mostly vibration analysis and motor analysis through handheld battery-operated devices. Now, with telecommunications, there is increased use of sensors on or inside machinery, so the machines operate in a more automated manner. But people will continue to be important because they do the analysis of the data. A greater link will be made between the installed condition-monitoring devices that tell the operators something is needed and when to call someone in.
“Optimizing price per point will require applying automated online systems for mission-critical and priority-process applications with remote diagnostics using walk-around technology in balance of plant applications. The key is to combine sensor technology using experienced analysts to turn the data into meaningful, useful information. As part of the Emerson Process Management Group, we now have the capability to bring a complete asset utilization solution to our customer that covers maintenance of machinery and equipment.”