ASK THE EXPERTS: How do we determine which machines are worth doing condition monitoring activites on?

by | Apr 4, 2024 | ASK THE EXPERTS, Condition Monitoring

This question is from Cindy, a Manufacturing Technology Engineer in the Bio-Pharmaceutical Industry:

How do we easily determine which machines are worth doing condition monitoring activities on and which aren’t?


My answer to this question is I don’t believe there is one perfect answer. As with this and other industry types, the first and usually easiest question to ask is “Which machines directly and immediately affect the path of production?” These machines will have the highest impact on production and the largest
negative effect when they fail.

Some like to say size matters, but in production that is not always the case. For the unit to have a large impact on production, it does not need to be above a certain size. Just because the motor is a $500 standard 1 HP motor, doesn’t mean it cannot negatively impact your process if it fails. Do not automatically exclude units from your condition monitoring program based on size alone.

The flip side to that coin is the hard-to-replace, long lead time units. Every industry type has some machine setups that are unique and replacements are not readily available for them. Replacement lead time should be a factor in the decision-making process as well, as poor planning can lead to not only production loss, but expediting fees that can add up significantly when calculating the cost of the failure.

What it comes down to is that not just one question will give you the answer you need when setting up your condition monitoring program. A number of factors should be used to determine the criticality of equipment and the investment you are willing to spend on them to ensure your facility meets the


I certainly select any machine that its failure would cause a severe consequence to the operation of the plant. The machines that are most often nominated are the ones that are critical for the production process and that is rightfully so, but we should certainly include assets that would impact the plant safety and the environment. These machines are usually not as visible but their failure can be a financial disaster for the company.


Hundreds of thousand of pages have been written on this topic, most of which make it seem much more complicated than it needs to be. As a fan of the TV show Shark Tank, I like to simplify it the same way that the Sharks do when interviewing the Entrepreneurs pitching to them by asking the question “How do I make money at this?” The only difference between deciding which machines are worthy of the condition monitoring investment and which ones aren’t comes down to the answer to the simple question, “If this machine fails, can we still produce our product so that we, as a business, can make
more money?”

The answer to this question is obvious in many cases when looking first at the glory machines, those that actually make the product that makes the business the money. But what are often neglected are the next tier supporting machines – those that if they fail would cause the glory machine to need to be shut down and thus halting production and revenue generation. Examples in many industries include things like lube oil pumps, cooling fans and pumps and the conveyance systems that move materials through the various production steps.

My experience in your industry has shown repeatedly that even less obvious machines are the ones most likely to cause productivity problems. Considering that many bio-pharma batch processes require long periods of time in the same vessel, with very stringent temperature and environmental
requirements, the environmental heating, cooling and ventilation (atmosphere control) systems are far more critical than they are in most other industries with the risk of whole batches, sometimes worth millions of dollars, being ruined when a chilled water pump, for example, unexpectedly fails.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your ability to make money with your production and support equipment. If a machine fails and your ability to produce your product that makes your business the money is reduced or eliminated, then condition monitoring is absolutely warranted as an input to your maintenance planning and scheduling process.


Subscribe to Our Blog

We regularly write a blog about Predictive Maintenance and the technologies used in PdM programs. Give us your email address and we’ll make sure you get a copy in your inbox each time we publish a new post.


We also post each blog article on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 Follow our LinkedIn Company Page      

Related Blogs


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.