Editorial Board Spotlight – Dennis Swanepoel
1. How did you start your career in the condition monitoring industry?
I started as a performance and testing technician on a power utility and was involved in pump efficiency testing as well as heat rate and boiler efficiency testing. At that time a contractor was doing the condition monitoring on site. I managed to get a old SKF Microlog in the storeroom and managed to take my first readings on them to find out what capabilities they have. That is when my interest in vibration was born. The contractor at that time however thought I would be a risk to their contract and offered me permanent employment and I never looked back at that opportunity.
2. What lessons did you learn during the early stages of your career that you still find valuable?
Look at the amplitude scale, do not underestimate the value of maintenance personnel input and process data, never think you know the solution before taking one measurement and testing the results against the theory, and you never have enough data.
3. Fast forward to today, can you share more with me about your role and responsibilities?
I am currently managing the Mobius training for our company in SA and also manage various power utility contracts where we have onsite personnel covering all areas of condition monitoring. My involvement in CBM Connect is a fun part, but also teaches me a lot. Combining the theory and practical parts continuously keeps me on my toes and helps to keep my job interesting at all times. I never work; I play with ODS, then a bit of thermography, then I need to teach someone about a waveform setup, analyze a ghost frequency, etc.
4. What are some of the needs in your department or industry and why?
Adaptation. We constantly need to be willing and able to adapt to new technologies and also embrace them. With every upgrade on hardware and software there are new tools that can benefit your diagnosis and we need to learn and implement them.
Be open minded. Do not run down a new technology or idea before testing it; learn from others.
5. What condition monitoring technology are you most excited about, and why? What difference does it make it your area?
Online vibration analysis systems: Online systems have become less expensive and also more versatile with the incorporation of wireless technologies. Currently it has not impacted my area as much as I hoped it would; in SA the historic way of doing vibration on the monthly surveys is still considered the most cost-effective way of performing condition monitoring.
6. What are some of the industry trends that you are noticing these days?
Wireless is the one technology that is being pushed a lot, and there are advantages in using it, but a lot of companies are not being up front about the limitations, just the advantages
7. What is the craziest thing that you’ve ever witnessed or heard about in your industry (can be scary, educational, REAL)?
I was called an “Impimpi” on a site, roughly translated as someone who secretly gives information about another person to the police or other authorities; an informer.
The reason for the naming was that I reported defects and exposed bad workmanship and the plant maintenance persons did not care about improving reliability as they got so used to the overtime pay, so they saw me as a unnecessary form of reporting that only increased work and then calling them out on sub-standard work rather than a tool that can be used to increase reliability.
After 18 years in the field it is scary to see that the problems that were there at the beginning of my journey: lubrication issues, bad alignment, coupling defects and sub-standard work practices are still the main contributors that affect our machine reliability.
Well-educated clients are worth more to you than any fancy tool that you use or report that you can generate.