Online Condition Monitoring



Port Otago is a major deep water port located in Port Chalmers, on the South Island of New Zealand. Located a great distance from suppliers and vendors, the port depends on online condition monitoring of critical mechanical drive components to maintain reliable operations. Port Otago utilizes two large ship-to-shore cranes for its daily operations. Each crane is capable of double-lifting two 20-foot containers or single-lifting one 40-foot container at once. The distance and cost present challenges to storing and sourcing the large drive components that comprise the cranes, such as main hoist gearboxes and motors. In addition, the crane operating cycle presents a challenging window of opportunity to capture data. Boom operation can occur at any time, and the hoist and cross slide are only in operation for a limited time.


Port Otago turned to GE to develop and deploy a condition monitoring program using the Commtest vbOnline system and Ascent condition monitoring software. The GE team recognized that measurement recordings controlled by dynamic criteria were needed to take measurements from the cranes, given their intermittent operation. These criteria-based recordings monitor speed and direction prior to capturing data, which allows analyzing and trending capabilities to be recorded during the exact same operating conditions of the cranes.Every hour the vbOnline system records velocity, acceleration and demodulation. It initially checks that the crane is in operation and then monitors its predetermined collection criteria. If these conditions are not met, the system waits to capture data until the parameters fall within the desired range. GE’s Ascent software facilitates analysis of bearings and gear mesh frequencies, potential misalignment, and unbalance of the drives and associated components.


GE’s innovative condition monitoring technology has proved invaluable for the Port Otago team. Maintenance manager Bob Smilie explains: “With a real-time approach to drive performance data, we have sufficient warning time of changes to the drive parameters. In conjunction with sound maintenance strategies based on real-time condition monitoring data, outages can be a planned activity within managed timeframes. The vbOnline system identifies trends and changes in drive condition and component behavior over time. It also has the ability to notify key personnel via email and text message, providing real-time communication that a possible failure event is developing.”


  • Reduced costs. The remote location of the port made sourcing and storing large replacement drive components difficult and costly. The deployment of the condition monitoring program enabled port maintenance staff to develop advanced planning initiatives to schedule repairs with no disruption to the port operation.
  • Increased reliability and less downtime. The condition monitoring program deployed at Port Otago drove optimized asset utilization with maintenance events occurring when crane assets were not required by the operation.
  • Real-time information. Major asset performance and critical component behavioral changes were delivered via email and text, providing easily accessible, real-time communication.
  • Data identifies trends and changes in drive condition over time and unusual spikes from changing failure mode behaviors that are not always known.


The online vibration process is a critical online surveillance system that provides essential real-time data for performing predictive maintenance. Continued critical asset reliability is paramount to the successful operation of the Port. The vbOnline system, in conjunction with a focus on maintenance strategy management, helps deliver a high level of availability."

- Bob Smillie, Otago Port Maintenance Manager

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