Home > Mill reliability enhanced and production safeguarded as FAG vibration monitoring saves big money in bearing replacement

Mill reliability enhanced and production safeguarded as FAG vibration monitoring saves big money in bearing replacement

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article image The Sunstate tube mill on which FAG SmartCheck was installed

Cost-efficient and easily installed vibration monitoring technology that can predict and avoid costly breakdowns and maintenance shutdowns of mills widely used in mineral processing has demonstrated its worth in a major Australian application.

The compact, robust and easily installed FAG SmartCheck online measuring system from Schaeffler Australia Pty Ltd was deployed by Sunstate Cement Ltd in a short-term condition monitoring initiative on a tube mill that ultimately avoided the need to replace a trunnion end drive bearing costing more than $300,000 to buy new and install.

Use of the SmartCheck monitoring technology – and the wider use of its complementary sophisticated FAG ProCheck monitoring technology – has facilitated ongoing optimum reliability of tube mills used by Sunstate, which is one of Australia’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of high quality cement products to commercial businesses throughout Queensland and Northern New South Wales. With a capacity to produce over 1.5 million tonnes of cement per year, Sunstate Cement Ltd has a long history as a major contributor to Queensland’s largest and most impressive infrastructure projects for over 25 years.

Sunshine State’s three tube mills have a production capacity of 60-100 t/h of products such as fly ash blend and GP cement, production which is safeguarded against disruption by FAG condition monitoring.

Similar reliability gains and avoidance of breakdowns as achieved by Sunstate are available for a wide variety of mineral processing and production machinery using in industries such as mining, energy, oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, food and beverage machinery processing, metalworking, materials handling, conveying, primary processing material, including paper, sugar, dairy and meat processing machinery and conveyors, process engineering, steel, water and waste water

FAG vibration monitoring technology deployed by Sunshine State includes the innovative, modular online SmartCheck measuring system for continuous monitoring on a decentralised basis to optimise productivity and overall process management. SmartCheck can be used on assemblies where such monitoring was previously cost prohibitive, while ProCheck provides a longer-term and more comprehensive solution, says Schaeffler Australia Pty Ltd Industrial Sector and Product Manager Mr Martin Grosvenor.

Challenge for Schaeffler

Sunstate Cement Ltd had performed visual inspection of the Tube Mill No1 trunnion drive end bearing. During this inspection, they found the bearing was in a reasonable condition after 28 years of service and decided to extend the service life by rotating the outer ring by 180°, which is a common practice for this type of application.

After this rotation, Schaeffler technicians were asked to provide condition monitoring of the bearing, in order to provide Sunstate Cement Ltd with assurance the bearing was fit for purpose. Due to the unpredictable operating times - and despite the slow speed of the mill - the customer was considering the collection of vibration data.

Schaeffler Solution

Schaeffler recommended a temporary solution, consisting of two FAG SmartCheck online systems (one axial, one radial) and a remote wireless network system for communication monitoring and diagnostics from the Schaeffler Online Centre in Sydney.

Operating parameters monitors via high-resolution piezo sensors and the remote wireless network system included:

  • Bearing temperature
  • Bearing vibration
  • Fixed speed
  • Bearing components

Diagnostic methods included:

  • Time signal
  • Envelope curve
  • Speed and frequency monitoring
  • Spectrum and trend analysis

The FAG SmartCheck units were configured to suit slow- speed bearings and set up to only collect data when the mill was operating, ensuring only relevant data was retained. This temporary solution proposed by Schaeffler was accepted by the customer for a period of one month. After this period, a machine condition report was provided by Schaeffler technicians confirming the trunnion bearing was fit for service.

By implementing the temporary FAG SmartCheck monitoring solution, Schaeffler was able to supply promptly a cost-effective monitoring system to assess the condition of the trunnion drive end bearing for continued service.

The FAG SmartCheck provided high quality vibration data at slow speeds. Subsequently, Schaeffler condition monitoring technicians further analysed the data and made recommendations to the customer for continuation of service for the trunnion bearing. The benefit and value to Sunstate Cement Ltd was obtaining assurance that the bearing was suited for further operation, which meant a considerably more cost-intensive exchange could be avoided.

Cost savings exceed $300,000

The cost of a new trunnion drive end bearing exceeded $A150,000, while average downtime cost between $A2250-$A5,000 an hour. The average downtime for a bearing replacement was 3-5 days, a minimum of 72 hours. Cost savings for every avoided bearing replacement exceeded $A300,000.

In the same plant, two of the three mills operating were already equipped with FAG ProCheck technology with remote monitoring service. The customer subsequently equipped its third mill with a permanent FAG ProCheck monitoring system to effectively continue monitoring the remaining life of its bearing with Schaeffler online monitoring services.

FAG ProCheck is used in general to monitor the vibration behaviour and other process parameters. In this application, it allows in particular the vibration monitoring of the slowly turning trunnion drive end bearing.

What’s special

“Before the final use of FAG ProCheck it was possible to provide a short-term

cost-efficient monitoring solution with FAG SmartCheck. The project shows how Schaeffler adds value to the customer by combining flexible solutions and initiatives with the right products and through the involvement of our service team that takes time to understand the uniqueness of individual plants and particular needs,” says Mr Grosvenor.

“FAG SmartCheck demonstrates that vibration monitoring does not have to be complicated or expensive. As a flexible solution, FAG SmartChecktechnology adjusts readily to user demands and reliably fulfils even complex requirements,” says Mr Grosvenor.

“The technology offers the performance features of expensive systems, but is compact in design, easy to fit and simple to use. The system can be expanded on a modular basis at any time. Where requirements change, retrofitting can also be carried out at any time.”

The intuitively operated and expandable SmartCheck technology – backed with comprehensive service throughout Australia and New Zealand – is suitable for early detection of rolling bearing damage, imbalances, and misalignments, among other faults, on diverse machinery and plant. 

Machinery to which it applies includes electric and geared motors, gearboxes and compressors, vacuum and fluid pumps, ventilators and fans, spindles and machine tools, separators and decanters and vibrating screens.

Features and benefits of FAG SmartCheck include:

  • Comprehensive information on machine condition, taking account of process parameters such as load, pressure and flow rate
  • Condition of machinery shown at a glance in FAG SmartWeb
  • Information available on the long term development of machine condition by means of the integrated data memory
  • Connection to control room or controller by means of interfaces
  • Reliable alarm system by means of alarm threshold adjustment applied for as a patent
  • Direct system access via Ethernet and Web interface
  • Protected data by means of a multistage access concept
  • Free of charge app for smartphones
  • Complete service for rolling bearings and for machinery diagnostics


FAG SmartCheck is ready for immediate use as delivered. As supplied, it already has a set of key data that facilitate general, reliable machinery monitoring. In addition, predefined configuration templates are available for monitoring of items such as fans, pumps and bearings. These can easily be matched to individual requirements, using the integrated bearing database of FAG and INA standard bearings, providing a data configuration which facilitates a more comprehensive and simpler analysis.

As well as the standard parameters of vibration and temperature, it is possible to record other classic operating parameters such as speed, pressure, flow rate etc. All parameters can be correlated with each other and included in the alarm configuration.

The data is recorded and analysed centrally by the system. The current machine condition can be displayed directly on the device or transferred to any control facility as required.

For more precise monitoring, a component template stored in the device can be selected for applications such as fans or pumps. The component template is filled with the component data. The device has an integrated rolling bearing database containing data for FAG and INA standard bearings. The user can add further rolling bearings to the database at any time.

Monitoring using FAG SmartCheck can be carried out in three stages. In the first stage, individual machines are monitored on a decentralised basis. If the user selects the second stage, the device is intelligently integrated in the machine controller. In the third stage, the service is provided from a single source by an external service provider. This can include remote access via an Internet connection as well as advice and other services.


FAG SmartCheck technology is backed by comprehensive service in Australia and New Zealand, with research and bearing application and maintenance training from Schaeffler operations established for more than 35 years Down Under. Schaeffler Australia expertise is focussed on diverse Australasian industries including mining, energy, oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, food and beverage machinery processing, metalworking, materials handling, conveying, agricultural and primary processing including paper, sugar, dairy and meat processing.

Schaeffler offers extensive services in support of FAG SmartCheck, ranging from strategy development through commissioning to remote monitoring.

During commissioning in partnership with users, optimum monitoring strategies are determined, devices are mounted and reference measurements are carried out. Employees are trained in accordance with their prior knowledge and requirements, including handling of the device and use of the software.

Schaeffler Australia offers its experience to complement on-site expertise at any time. For example, company experts can assist in the assessment of measurement results. If the measurement results indicate any damage, they can provide advice on further action.

Remote monitoring is available from Schaeffler Australia where trained employees are not present on site. Where Schaeffler is tasked with remote monitoring, the customer receives regular reports on the machine condition and recommended actions for improving plant availability. If FAG SmartCheck detects incipient damage, the customer is informed immediately. Repair can then be planned and replacement parts sourced so as to avoid downtime and lost production.

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