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Implementing an Infrared Thermography Maintenance Program—in 5 steps!

You’ve purchased your thermal imager, you’ve done the training—now what? Here are 5 steps that will help you grow your thermography program into a key part of the way your company does business.

1.  Creating Inspection Routes

The first few routes may be rough if thermography is new to your plant, but they should eventually run smoothly as you get more experience and establish standards.

  • Start with existing lists of equipment from a CMMS or other inventory, and focus on equipment that creates production bottlenecks. Also, look at history to guide you—where have failures occurred in the past?
  • Then, group the equipment by area or function using a database or spreadsheet and give about 2-3 hour inspection blocks—you don’t want to rush!

2.   Conducting Inspections

  • Create a pre-inspection checklist to make sure you and your thermal imager are ready to go.
  • Inspect the area you’ll be conducting your work, and make sure you and your co-workers note any unusual conditions that may impact your data.
  • Download any data you’ve collected after each route—ASAP to prevent any accidental data loss…

3. Improving Inspection Quality

  • Install highly-emissive “targets” on components (i.e. buss bars, tubular buss and any large metal electrical connectors) to improve temperature accuracy and consistency.
  • Install ‘infrared windows’ (crystalline or special plastic) in electrical panel covers so you can inspect components more safely by not opening the enclosure.
  • Modify the clear plastic, “touch-safe” covers inside electrical control cabinets using hinges, or routing small holes in them over the connectors and fuse clips, since they are NOT transparent to infrared!
  • Thermal mirrors—thick sheets of plate aluminum—can make it easier to see a thermal signature when faced with an awkward viewing angle.

4. Reporting Results

  • Report formats can vary widely and can be customized to your needs. If possible, find a way to tie your report into the work order generated by the CMMS so that your findings can be tracked through their useful life.
  • Rate your assets based on infrared findings—
  1. Red (alarm stage)
  2. Yellow (unknown stage)
  3. Green (good condition stage)
  • Reports organized using the green/yellow/red indicators quickly show whether overall plant asset health is improving, which is a powerful communication to managers.

5. Track Your Results

Data analysis over long term is very beneficial towards:

  • Seeing trends not apparent day-to-day
  • Evaluating what is working (or not!) about your program

If you follow these steps, your company will be able to ease maintenance costs while improving productivity—who could ask for a better pair?

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