The imperatives of maintenance management have always been maximizing the availability, quality, and effectiveness of the equipment. And all of these must be achieved at the lowest possible cost in terms of machine and material.
According to a report, the maintenance of manufactured products costs more than 30% of the operating costs. Over the past few years, asset-intensive industries around the world have been in search of ingenious ways to cost-efficiently manage the moving parts and perform the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) activities.
The search has led them to the forefront of digital technology, mainly predictive maintenance, artificial intelligence, robotics, "Big Data" analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and Digital Twin tools. Despite most of these technologies only emerging during the past decade, early adopters reported measurable benefits.
Today, most of these technologies have matured, and organizations that have implemented them are reaping significant benefits, as they are typically more aware of what can be unlocked with the enhanced technological capabilities to increase the performance of the MRO functions and manage risks. In the new decade, many experts expect to see a steep surge in technology adoption, as the benefits are now proven and widely known. Companies that have not yet embraced these technologies will face the heat of digital disruption.
This is because emerging technologies have crossed the industrial corridors and reached the consumer segment. Once that happens with any technology, disruption occurs, as it alters consumer behavior, which is practically impossible to revert. A similar digital disruption is expected in the maintenance management sector because the end-users of this segment are gradually getting accustomed to on-demand service and access to up-to-date information at their fingertips.
Given this backdrop, these are the four significant trends led by digital disruption, which illustrate the paradigm shift in management and related business models.
Asset and Equipment Data Collection
Asset data collection and processing methods are expected to optimize the allocation of resources for MRO functions and strengthen decision-making processes. Sensors and sensor networks have been improved from both technology and design perspectives, and thus, a large volume of data is being generated by the equipment.
However, not every piece of data is crucial information. Companies need data that supports analysis and evaluation of the decision processes. But in many cases, it is not implemented in practice. This leaves them with a massive amount of data and vast databases that are not always useful. Besides, it makes the data collection process expensive.
IoT technology automates the data collection process, and simplifies data mining, pre-processing, and cleaning processes. When this data is managed in a centralized computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) powered with data analytics capabilities, it helps maintenance professionals access updated information anytime, anywhere. They can identify maintenance requirements in the machine, prioritize tasks, and plan schedules accordingly. Meanwhile, management can make informed decisions related to the allocation of resources or invest in new machines rather than repair.
Remote Maintenance and Related Training
As technology is advancing, the structure and designs of machines are getting more complicated. New variants and configurations of the products are constantly emerging, which further increases the complexity of MRO functions. In order to resolve complex problems in the equipment, companies need maintenance workers with a greater understanding of the machines and the right skills to work on them, which is not possible in every circumstance.
With remote AR (augmented reality) assistance, companies can acquire critical knowledge for the first responders in case of any mishaps. This can also allow experienced maintenance workers to oversee the problem from remote locations and assist on-site workers in fixing the maintenance issue.
AR technology combined with VR (virtual reality) can help asset-intensive companies create an ecosystem of products and service systems wherein the objective is to acquire expertise, enable communication, and exchange information quickly using cloud-based platforms.
Preventive and Predictive Maintenance
In this decade, the maintenance management sector will see the new dawn of preventive and predictive maintenance capabilities. Data captured from the sensors, along with the data from an integrated CMMS, will provide maintenance workers and associated decision-makers with more control over their machines.
Using this data, maintenance professionals can have information about the functioning of the machine, so they can schedule maintenance appropriately. This type of maintenance schedule based on asset condition, known as predictive maintenance, is helpful in reducing labor and maintenance costs.
Preventive maintenance, which is scheduled at regular intervals, becomes easy and accurate with the CMMS system. Leveraging the tool, companies can manage work orders, schedule field service management teams, track their service activities in remote locations, and ensure effective resource planning and route optimization. CMMS tools enable the maintenance management team to make informed decisions associated with asset-related cost and asset-related activity.
Compliance, Audit, and Safety Management
Automation will reshape the entire asset management process. Use of cloud-based platforms will enable companies to automate the end-to-end maintenance management processes and get the visibility essential to make informed decisions.
Cloud-based platforms not only enhance collaboration among maintenance teams while supporting them to identify, analyze, and resolve the disruptions, but also helps ensure compliance and adherence to safety standards. Platforms powered with data analytics capabilities can enable maintenance professionals to use the data to verify regulatory compliance and for audit purposes. Based on the data, companies can identify red flags in the systems and take corrective actions.
Currently, the adoption of digital tools in the maintenance management process is gradual and in bits and pieces, which is good in a way, as the big bang approach is never really recommended in digitization. However, it is necessary that asset-intensive companies begin introducing digital tools in their maintenance management process so that they can ultimately enhance machine and personnel performance to a more desirable level.
–Bhupendra Choudhary is the business head of FieldCircle, a field service management software technology enabler.