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10 Things Your Ultrasound Technician Can Do Today to Improve Reliability

Machine maintenance and reliability can limit your plant’s overhead costs and keep it working efficiently, but if your maintenance plan is lagging behind, there are some things you can do right now to get it on track.

Ultrasound World X recently came to a close. Over the course of the conference, we saw a bevy of great presentations on how to make reliability a priority in industrial facilities, and how to streamline these efforts. Doug Plucknette helped kick off the conference with the 10 things that ultrasound technicians can do today to improve reliability.

Before You Start

Maintenance and reliability plans can dramatically improve the lifespan of a plant’s machines, saving both time and money. However, these strategies are often among the most overlooked in the plant. Unfortunately, this will continue to be the case if you’re an ultrasound technician and do not take matters into your own hands.

Before you can even begin to start improving plant reliability, you need to start putting the wheels in motion, Plucknette explained. This means getting rid of the excuses. Ultimately, change depends on you. By following through on your commitments, garnering support and making your successes known, you can start to make some noise within your plant about the benefits of machine maintenance. Here are 10 things you can do to get your maintenance plan moving.

1. Attain Level 1 Certification

Ultrasound is one of the foremost technologies when it comes to detecting machine faults. However, in order to properly leverage ultrasound’s benefits, you need to make sure you are qualified to use it.

“Learning is power,” Plucknette said, and certification is proof of this knowledge.

When you are certified in ultrasound, you can learn about the various applications and settings in which technology like the Ultraprobe 15,000 can be applied. This also helps you eliminate mistakes. Procedural training is all about eliminating mistakes, so by attaining this certification, you can ensure that you will be able to confidently apply your knowledge.

Once attained, make sure you publish your results and reinforce your success. While you know how valuable this knowledge is, your coworkers and higher ups may not, so you need to show them the value of this certification.

2. Walk Down and Identify

You need to develop routes throughout the plant that thoroughly examines all the components and equipment you plan to inspect. This list is essential, as it provides you with the baseline you need to show progress through your maintenance efforts.

Make sure to follow the ISO 14224 Hierarchy for component levels in order to make for easier and more accurate results reporting. This can also help you match the technology you use to inspect machines with the proper equipment or kinds of failure modes in order to better identify problems.

3. Build the Business Case for PdM

The key to making the decision makers at your plant recognize the value of PdM is building a strong business case, according to Plucknette. While you may think in terms of performance and efficiency, they think in terms of the bottom line. Fortunately, the failure that you can prevent can translate into greater savings for your company.

Air leaks, compressed gas leaks, defective steam traps and other machine failures can cost you plant thousands of dollars. If you can identify, quantify, tag and repair these failures, you not only make plant managers aware of the numerous problems you’ve identified, you show them where they are saving money.

When you do this, as always, make sure to advertise your wins, Plucknette stressed. If plant managers can see where you saved them money, they will build more support for your maintenance efforts.

4. Get On It and Stay On It

Maintenance is an endeavor that never stops. So long as your machines are running, there will be a need for maintenance efforts. Once you’re finished with your route, you should make sure to plan the next time you will start it again. Compressed air and gas surveys are necessary for identifying where you could be wasting air or gas.

Make sure you have a map that leverages the floor, area, process or equipment. This way, you can investigate where within your plant potential failures could occur.

5. Get Into The Lube

Proper lubrication is essential to making sure that your machines are running properly. One of the first things you should do is identify the number of grease under/over lube failures of the last year. This will help you establish a better baseline from which you can track improvement.

Also, train your lube technicians in ultrasound. This will enable them to make sure they are precisely lubricating machines to prevent failures and ensure long term performance. Provide them with the proper equipment to do the job right.

By combining proven technology and adhering to lubrication best practice, you can eliminate these failure modes. This will generate more wins. By showing your progress over the baseline you’ve established, you can help build that business case for PdM.

6. Enlighten Your Electrical Group

Working with high voltage equipment is very dangerous and something that Plucknette is admittedly terrified of. Anyone that is approved to work with this equipment needs to be formally trained in using this equipment.

NFPA 70E Training helps establish safe practices and the required PPE in order to make sure that people are aware of the dangers of high voltage equipment and equipped to prevent them. There is an average of 2 deaths per day because of these issues. By understanding the causes of arc flash and using ultrasound to identify arcing, tracking and corona, you can be better prepared to address electrical issues in your plant.

7. Get Involved with RCM and RCA

PdM Technicians can make the technologies they use better along with the machines they use them on. The more people are aware of the benefits of RCM and its corresponding technologies like ultrasound, the greater number of people who are willing to get involved with RCM.

This also spreads awareness throughout the plant. With more individuals involved in RCM, your business case for using PdM grows because it is becoming a part of the plant’s culture. This can then spread throughout your industry.

8. Discover New Applications

The benefits of ultrasound and other predictive and proactive maintenance technologies is that their applications are not set in stone. Those who are driven to find new applications are the ones who will advance the use of the technology.

While good technicians follow routes and adhere to standards, the great ones are those who will meet best practice, but also play and experiment to find new applications as well, he explained. Great companies are the ones that will allow this sort of experimentation to play out. At the end of the day, the goal is making plants run smoother and more efficiently. By finding new ways to apply maintenance technologies, you can further demonstrate the value of RCM.

9. Achieve Additional Certifications

Ultrasound is not the be-all, end-all when it comes to reliability maintenance technology. By becoming at least level 1 certified in 4 technologies, you can help identify potential failures that you may have missed with just one of them.

You need to be able to assess reports and identify failures modes covered by PdM. By being able to leverage multiple technologies in these efforts, you can build a better business case for PdM as a result.

10. Share the Knowledge

One of the best ways to build support for PdM is by spreading awareness. You may be a curious site for some when you are walking around the plant with an Ultraprobe 15,000. Explain to people how you use it and what it is for to help build a better understanding for predictive maintenance techniques. Write papers and articles about your plant maintenance efforts – these can help contribute to the development of your business case.

Also, make sure to present your successes and share them on LinkedIn. Finally, find a mentor or be a mentor. While individuals work in different plants, by spreading awareness for PdM, plants throughout the industry can become more reliable.


Changing your plant’s approach to PdM starts with you. Plucknette stressed that if you are being told “no” when it comes to your plant maintenance efforts, this is only because your business case is not strong enough or hasn’t been presented effectively.

Success starts with good data and determined people, and these two major policies help drive PdM efforts through. By reinforcing correct behaviors, you create a better culture for RCM and in the process create a greater success rate for PdM wins.