Case Study: From Logbooks to Machine Learning: An End User’s Perspective”

Albie Schoombee, Rotating Equipment Engineer, Sasol


Condition monitoring requires a holistic approach to ensure that asset management is revolutionized in a business which has a 70-year existence, which is in some cases associated with an out-dated machine and data infrastructure. Many technology advances have occurred in the recent decade on most of the condition monitoring techniques such as vibration-, tribology-, acoustics- and ultrasonic-analysis but, the need for performance analysis and the industry’s demand to become predictive, has placed extreme expectations on equipment and systems which were predominantly specified and constructed in the 1950’s and 1980’s.

The ask: use existing sensor data, many of which are ‘absent’ or logbook and plant-gauge-bound, to continuously monitor equipment health and performance, make the correct diagnosis of machine fault and/or damage; then make the call to stop, continue-to-run or re-adjust, and once a defect is defined and decision taken to continue operation, provide the estimate on how good it will run and for how long. Not a big ask right….

This is an account of the journey of such a business with rotating equipment assets to identify the challenges, adapt where possible and re-invent itself on how to get the necessary data at the same place, at the same time, and at the same resolution, to enable data-driven decisions in the expedition towards a predictive and prescriptive maintenance and operations environment.

A case study will be shared on the fault diagnosis of a business-critical machine and how its performance analysis has supplemented the other condition monitoring techniques applied, and provided valuable additional insight, into correctly diagnosing a multifaceted machine anomaly.


He is a mechanical engineer with more than 17 years of petrochemical experience at the Sasol South African Operations. Earlier years were spent on providing engineering plant support to various business units within operations including Gas Production, Gas Processing and the Refinery plants, and the remainder to date spent in the specialist field of rotating equipment providing engineering support on turbo machinery and multistage pumps.

He has dealt with unique equipment and technologies over the span of his career in encountering new as well as ageing plant challenges. He has worked in the capacity of plant support engineer, project manager for renewals of pressure equipment, team leader of a mechanical engineering group in the Refineries and leading a team of specialist engineers providing technical and multi-disciplinary support to the rotating equipment assets, and associated systems, of the company. He is passionate about continuous improvement of asset management and condition monitoring, developing specialist engineering skills and competency, digitalization and data analytics to enable machine prognostics and improve efficiency.