Posted at 15-Oct-2020

Raising the reliability bar through sophisticated technology

Paul Skade
By Gareth Pollard
Product Manager, Bearings

I started work at ERIKS UK in March 2001 after being on a temporary contract at Ball Packaging Europe. 

My life at ERIKS began as a Junior Inside Sale...

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Asset performance and reliability are popular buzzwords across industry, and critical factors for engineers and plant managers. Over the years, the importance of optimising production uptime has increased significantly, alongside the requirements for planned maintenance, with engineers now embracing regimes of predictive maintenance to closely monitor their machine health.


This new approach anticipates issues and provides engineers with time to react before problems become too serious. And serious problems are normally costly problems.

Predictive maintenance diverges from the traditional approach, which tended to wait until assets had failed before fixing them. But by constantly monitoring the health of your machines, this modern approach can help to lengthen product lifecycles, improve productivity and reduce your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).


But we mustn’t forget that applying best practice is always the most effective way of reducing your TCO. However, companies do not always follow the rules, which will often lead to equipment failure, downtime and rising costs. In fact, analysis has shown that in just over a quarter of all cases, asset reliability issues are caused by ignoring fundamental principles, proving that getting the basics right is crucial for any organisation.

The basic approach

It may seem strange to suggest that highly sophisticated engineering companies should follow a basic approach as they strive for success, but that doesn’t mean that they should only be implementing rudimentary tools or methods. Many of the tools now that their disposal are powerful, sophisticated and rooted in the latest Industry 4.0 protocols.

But even with that being said, they should be operated in a methodical, repeatable and effective manner, meaning that following basic, well-proven guidelines remains essential.

Many of these new tools do more than simply facilitate asset inspection or log results in the Cloud. They help maintain and improve employee skillsets by recording their progress and providing detailed instruction of jobs in hand. Simultaneously, they can offer instant access to online catalogues to instantly determine whether or not a replacement component is readily available.

An example of this is SKF’s Bearing Assist – a mobile app designed to assist customers in how to mount replacement bearings more efficiently.

Bearing replacement has never been easier

Speaking with customers on what would help them better perform their jobs, field research uncovered a clear picture. Quicker access to product information and maintenance instructions for workers, and assistance in improving maintenance and asset reliability emerged at the forefront of the wish list.

Many also agreed on how it should be done. Place a barcode on the box or bearing, which can easily be scanned with the mobile app for instant access to information. These comments helped in the creation of the recently launched SKF Bearing Assist.


Available to download from the App Store today, SKF Bearing Assist helps users quickly source the information they require, saving time and effort using application filters. It also provides detailed instructions, so even technicians with limited experience can now mount a wide range of bearings correctly and efficiently. It also allows a group of users to share asset information, history, notes and photos of completed jobs for future reference, to increase and simplify collaboration and knowledge transfer.

An affordable entry

Implementing a predictive maintenance regime requires investment and commitment. In the past, small to medium sized manufacturers in particular may have struggled to adopt this new approach due to restricted budgets, shortcomings in plant infrastructure and lack of skills. However, a system such as SKF’s Plug and Play, which combines an intuitive sensor called SKF QuickCollect with the Pulse mobile app, offers an affordable entry point to predictive maintenance.

The sensor collects data such as velocity and temperature from your rotating equipment, and transmits it wirelessly to the app. 

A green, amber or red indictor shows whether an asset requires attention. For more difficult issues, the app provides users with instant access to SKF experts, who and ready and waiting to offer remote support on any bearings and lubrication issues.

The app also provides access to SKF’s e-learning platform, designed to help technicians improve their skills further and learn how to best implement a condition monitoring regime. 

SKF Mobile Solutions Product Manager, Barrier Rodgers commented: “Providing remote access to our expertise enables us to support small and medium-sized customers and transition them to more advanced solutions when required.”

Gathering more data

For more advanced solutions, you to need to gather data more extensively, and by introducing SKF Enlight Collect IMx-1 sensors, you’re on the right track. These advanced sensors collect and transmit data, across a low-energy mesh network, to a gateway.

Transmission is not affected by typical wireless obstacles on the factory floor, therefore from the gateway, the data connects to the plant’s network or the internet to access services such as remote diagnostics.


For an appropriately sized organisation, this innovative approach is an effective way to build an automated machine monitoring system. IMx-1 sensors have the capability to detect a host of issues, such as imbalance, misalignment, and electrically inducted vibration. This constant monitoring of assets helps to avoid unnecessary downtime and reduces the need for manual site walks, reducing the risk of accidents.

Best practice is key, but only the beginning

In short, best practice guidelines exist in order to help engineering organisations operate at maximum efficiency, productivity and safety. But this is only the beginning.

Harnessing the power of modern innovations and technology is a sure-fire way to manage and improve the fundamentals of your operating environment, and help to ensure that the rules are being applied constantly.

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