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How predictive maintenance prevents pump downtime

AiSight’s predictive maintenance solution protects pumps and preserves the flow of production. Find out how predictive maintenance works with pumps, and how using AiSight's solution prevents breakdowns and reduces downtime.

Pumps are critical equipment in every industrial operation. Pumps move liquids like beverages, dyes, and chemicals around production lines. They're also part of ancillary systems like hydraulics, lubrication, machine cooling, HVAC, and wastewater—all necessary to keep machines working, plant environments safe, and temperatures steady. Whatever pumps are doing, we want to keep them healthy!

A strong maintenance regime—ideally with advanced warning of faults and detailed information provided by a predictive maintenance solution—keeps production pumping. This article looks at how to improve pump maintenance by detecting critical issues for pumps before they cause damage and unplanned production shutdowns.

Predictive maintenance is also valuable for improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) for pumps. Pump downtime is expensive, both in terms of repair costs and lost productivity. Furthermore, according to Polaris research, pumps are responsible for 30 percent of the total energy consumption of the average industrial facility—and about 90 percent of the world's pumps operate inefficiently, wasting millions in energy costs every year.

Let's see how predictive maintenance can improve pump uptime and increase OEE for pump

How pumps work—how pumps break down

All pumps move fluids by creating areas of low pressure, into which higher-pressure fluids naturally flow. There are two general types of pumps: dynamic and positive displacement pumps. The first class includes centrifugal pumps, which use centrifugal forces to move fluids to the outside of impellers, creating low-pressure areas at the center. Positive displacement pumps themselves come in two varieties: reciprocating pumps using a piston-like plunger to create a vacuum, and rotary pumps using lobes, gears, screws, or vanes to operate at higher speeds.

Whatever the type of pump—and whether or not it uses a rotating part to move water—all pumps include rotating components such as motors and bearings. Each of these components is subject to faults such as imbalances, looseness, bearing defects, rubbing and misalignments. And all pumps experience cavitation.

Learn more about reducing lifecycle cost of a centrifugal pump.

What faults cause pump failures?

Cavitation is the pump killer. This fault occurs when there is insufficient fluid at the pump inlet to fill the cavities the pump makes available. There are two types of cavitation: vaporous and gaseous. Each has a number of causes, none of them good, and all of them preventable with proper maintenance.

Vaporous cavitation—also called vacuum cavitation or starving the pump—is indicative of several potential faults. It may be caused by clogged inlets, dirty strainers, and overly viscous fluids. It may also be caused by poor plumbing design and construction, including over-large suction heads and plumbing runs, or improper settings in suction lines. Finally, cavitation may be caused by wear in pumps themselves.

Why is cavitation so damaging to pumps?

Remember: a pump moves fluids by creating an area of low pressure within a sealed system. But what happens when there's inadequate fluid to move into the low-pressure area? The pressure of the fluid drops. Cavitation occurs when fluid pressure drops below its vaporization rate—the fluid turns into a gas, like it's boiling. As the "boiling” fluid moves through the pump, the cavities of gas implode with surprising speed, capable of stripping bits of pump material away. The resulting damage is called pitting, and it ruins pumps.

Gaseous cavitation, also called aeration, occurs when air dissolves in liquids. This is a problem in hydraulics caused by leaks in lines and failing seals. It doesn't have the same destructive effect as vaporous cavitation, but it does reduce efficiency and lead to overheating and wear.

What happens when a pump fails?

Pumps are key machines. When you need a pump, nothing else will do.

Replacing pumps is seldom a simple task. Pumps are part of systems holding fluids. Accessing them requires purging these lines. Even with this accomplished, large pumps are heavy—replacing a pump is a big job that requires ample time and space. Taking the time and space to perform reactive maintenance on a pump can require shutting down other equipment. In all, a pump failure will lead to significant unplanned downtime and lost productivity.

Pumps are often part of time-sensitive processes, such as food processing, dyeing, cooling, lubrication and cleaning. Pump failures during these processes can lead to damaged goods and equipment, including spoiled food, destroyed textiles, and damaged machines. Even inefficient pump function can lead to excessive wear and inadequate machine performance.

Meanwhile, failure of an HVAC or waste pump can compromise plant safety, force a building evacuation, and cause massive downtime and potentially even health issues.

How to prevent pump failures with predictive maintenance

Preventing unplanned downtime due to pump failures requires constant vigilance and a proactive maintenance strategy. AiSight's predictive maintenance solution provides 24/7 monitoring and issues alerts of any problems in the early stages of their development—long before they can lead to a breakdown. This allows you to plan maintenance well in advance and have inventory on hand when you need it, thus preventing unplanned downtime.

How AiSight prevents unplanned downtime due to pump faults

The Aion sensor node provides the foundation of AiSight's predictive maintenance solution. Each Aion provides three sensors: a triaxial vibration sensor, a triaxial magnetic field sensor, and a temperature sensor. These sensors transmit a three-dimensional image of machine health to our algorithms, which detect and analyze faults, passing their finding on to you in the form of easy-to-read visuals and early alerts.

AiSight’s vibration analysis detects cavitation, imbalances, looseness, bearing defects, rubbing and misalignments in pumps. Small changes in vibration patterns are often the first warning of a developing pump fault. At adequate levels, vaporous and gaseous cavitation produce their own distinctive noises, indicating that immediate pump maintenance is advisable. Vibration analysis is capable of detecting the vibrations that cause pump cavitation noises before they're audible and before the problem is severe. This kind of early warning provides precious weeks to prepare and plan for pump maintenance.

Meanwhile, our temperature sensor detects rapidly deteriorating situations as well as non-optimal operating temperature. Applied to pumps, this sensor picks up on colder temperatures causing increased fluid viscosity—a common cause of cavitation. It can also detect changes in temperature indicative of abnormal changes in fluid pressure.

Finally, our magnetic field sensor provides an accurate picture of variable-speed motors running pumps. AiSight's predictive maintenance solution monitors all rotating equipment, including the motors and bearings that pumps need to function.

Read more about how AiSight monitors motors here.

Which industries can use predictive maintenance for pumps?

Pumps are a key piece of rotating equipment in every industry. They play an especially important role in any industry that moves depends on moving fluids, including food and beverages, metals, automotives, chemicals, and oil and gas. Predictive maintenance is effective in monitoring pumps in every industry, allowing for better maintenance practices and reduced unplanned downtime.

Predictive maintenance on pumps in the FMCG industry

This industry produces high-volume, high-turnover goods such as food and beverages. These are often perishable and always require sanitary production conditions. Unplanned downtime due to pump failures can cause spoilage that exacerbates the costs of lost productivity. Predictive maintenance eliminates the threat of unplanned downtime in the FMCG industry due to pump failure.

Predictive maintenance on pumps in the textiles industry

Pumps are a key part of the textiles industry, involved in processes like washing, rinsing, and dyeing. These are resource-intensive processes, requiring large volumes of water, energy and materials—unplanned downtime adds up to significant expenses. Predictive maintenance solutions can monitor the pumps moving fluids around textiles lines, ensuring that everything comes out just the right color, right when you need it.

To learn more about AiSight's predictive maintenance solution in the textiles industry, read our case study on predictive maintenance at Meiser GmbH & Co.KG.

Predictive maintenance on pumps in the metal industry

Washing systems in the metal industry remove debris, paint, oil, metal burrs, and other contaminants from machines and machined parts using pumped solvents. Cutting tools such as CNC spindles may be water cooled, requiring a pump. Lubrication is essential. All waste fluids must be removed with a waste pump. Predictive maintenance keeps pumps in service and the metal industry at work.

This is not a comprehensive look at all industries that use pumps. To learn more about AiSight’s predictive maintenance solution in action in these industries and more, take a look at our industry pages.


AiSight's predictive maintenance solution provides 24/7 monitoring of pumps, early warning of developing pump faults, and root-cause analysis of pump faults.  This information is vital to planning maintenance, optimizing parts inventory, and reducing unplanned downtime. The result: improved productivity and cost savings.

Keep an eye out for our next article in this series. Next time we'll look at fans, and how predictive maintenance modulates machine temperatures and keeps air clean.

To improve OEE and prevent pump downtime in your production facilities, schedule a demo.