The Significance of Vibration Monitoring in Industrial Pumps

Virbation MeasurementThe monitoring of vibration levels is a fundamental reliability practice for assessing the health and availability of industrial pumps. Excessive vibrations not only lead to mechanical fatigue and wear but can also signal potential operational issues, some of which can be catastrophic if left unchecked. Monitoring vibrations promotes the longevity of the equipment, maintains operational efficiency, and protects against unplanned downtimes, leading to higher productivity and cost savings. 

Why Monitoring Vibration Matters:

  1. Early Warning System: Vibration patterns can serve as an early indication of underlying mechanical issues such as imbalance, misalignment, structural and rotating looseness, bearing failure, or flow induced vibrations such as cavitation and recirculation. Early detection allows for preventive maintenance, reducing the risk of catastrophic failures.
  2. Extended Equipment Lifespan: Prolonged exposure to excessive vibrations can accelerate fatigue and wear, leading to premature equipment failure. Monitoring helps in maintaining the machinery within operational norms, thus prolonging its lifespan.
  3. Operational Efficiency: Maintaining equipment within specified vibration limits ensures optimal performance. It reduces energy wasted due to inefficiencies and can result in significant energy savings.
  4. Safety: Excessive vibrations can lead to structural failures, posing safety risks. Monitoring provides a safer operating environment for both the equipment and the personnel.

Ways to Check and Remediate Vibration:

  1. Overall Vibration Meters: These handheld devices can be used to take spot measurements on the pump’s exterior, offering a quick way to assess vibration levels. Tables are published for determining acceptable amplitude levels.  Another simple way to identify abnormal vibration levels would be to compare data collected from similar equipment to establish a baseline threshold.  The data collected using a spot meter can be manually plotted and trended to identify changes in condition or plotted on an equipment drawing to provide a visual vibration profile which can identify the likely source of abnormal vibration energy.
  2. Portable Vibration Analyzer: A portable vibration analyzer can measure and log vibration data over time which provides additional information related to the frequency in which a machine is moving and vibrating. These systems will typically collect a few seconds of data which allows for plotting the vibration during several rotations of the pump shaft. The frequency of vibration motion can help determine the machine component which is the source of the vibration energy.  Also, the raw vibration signal viewed in the time domain can often provide visual patterns and clues that can be used to identify abnormal vibration issues.
  1. Continuous Monitoring Systems: These systems use sensors permanently affixed to critical equipment. They continuously measure and log vibration data, often integrated into a plant’s control system, alerting operators if thresholds are exceeded.
  1. Balancing: An imbalanced impeller or rotor can be a primary source of vibration. Vibration data can identify the need for periodic balancing can most portable analyzers can be used to trim balance and rectify an imbalance issue.
  1. Alignment: Misalignment between the pump and its driver (usually a motor) is a common cause of vibration. Vibration data can detect changes in shaft alignment over time due to structural or thermal changes signaling the need for alignment checks using laser alignment tools correct these issues.
  1. Maintenance Planning: Over time, wear and tear can lead to degraded performance and increased vibration. Vibration data can often identify the need to lubricate between regular PM lubrication inspections. The vibration analyzer can also be used as a tool for identifying loose structural fasteners and can identify worn-out pump parts such as bearings, couplings and impellers.
  1. Operational Practices: Vibration spectral data can identify abnormal random energy surrounding a pumps impeller vanes and can help identify the cause of hydraulic issues which can aid operations in avoiding scenarios that lead to cavitation or running the pump outside its best efficiency point (BEP).

Vibration monitoring in industrial pumps is not just a best practice; it’s essential for operational efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness. The combination of advanced tools and conscientious maintenance practices offers a comprehensive solution to tackle the challenges posed by unwanted vibrations.

Looking for a Sealing Solutions Provider?

SEPCO has sealing solutions for many applications, even those with the strictest standards and the most challenging environments. We have decades of experience in providing solutions across multiple industries. We can help.

About the Author
Chris Tindell, CMRP, is a regional business manager for Sealing Equipment Products Co., Inc. (SEPCO). Chris has more than 20 years of experience in reliability consulting, training and troubleshooting equipment, and has worked in many manufacturing industries, auditing and optimizing PSM maintenance programs and providing training on RCM and lean manufacturing strategies. He can be reached at
Articles & Media Mentions

The Path to Lubrication Reliability
IIoT Among Key Discussions at EASA 2019 Convention
Podcast: Bearing Isolators

Maximizing Maximo: Tracking Mechanical Seal performance with Maximo, MaximoWorld 2019