How to Create Detailed Inspection and Detection Strategies

Tor Idhammar President & CEO, IDCON, INC., IDCON INC
Tags: condition monitoring

Detailed inspections require the right type of person with the right mind-set, attitude and training. Most mills/mines/plants have some type of inspection program, but unfortunately the inspections are often ineffective.

There may be many reasons why inspections often aren’t effective, but one reason is that inspections are not done detailed enough to find problems. Many inspectors simply walk by equipment, making sure it wasn’t stolen last night, and if they are in a good mood, they may make sure it hums.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Example 1: A typical pump and motor coupling configuration in a paper mill

This plant has an inspection system in place, which means Mr. or Mrs. X should have checked it. I watched this piece of equipment intermittently for a whole week, and it looked pretty much the same. Some questions would immediately come up when an experienced inspector looks at this equipment.

An experienced inspector would note:

Example 2: A jacking bolt (push bolt) on a motor in a refinery

This is a close-up of a jacking bolt on a motor base. What would an experienced inspector see? This photo was taken in the southern United States in March.

An experienced inspector would note:

Example 3: Inspecting a solenoid valve in a food plant

In the picture, you see a typical solenoid valve on a hydraulic system. An inexperienced inspector may just look at it and confirm the valve is mounted and that the electrical cable is undamaged.

An experienced inspector would:

Example 4: Pneumatic regulator in a surface mine

The picture illustrates a pneumatic regulator that has been in the game for a while. Most inspectors would not look at the instrument at all since mechanics feel it belongs to instrumentation, while instrumentation techs seldom do physical checks of devices.

An experienced mechanic would put his or her hand in front of the weep hole and check if air is leaking out of the weep hole. If he or she feels air, that person would know the membrane inside the unit is broken.

Leadership and inspections

These four simple examples illustrate that there is a difference between walking by equipment and actually understanding how to inspect it. As leaders in operations and maintenance, we shouldn’t just give people a list of 40 equipment numbers and assume they know and are willing to inspect equipment correctly.

We should:

  1. Make sure we have a documented system for how to inspect equipment and why we are doing these inspections. IDCON has more than 100 standards that we use in our projects and training. 

  2. Train people in how to do inspections. Even if many operators and craftspeople would know the simple techniques above, training and coaching the execution of the inspections are important to change attitudes and explain the level of detail that is needed.