From automated shop floor fixtures to expansive backend systems designed to create visibility in the supply chain, firms in the industrial space have a wealth of options to choose from when modernizing and streamlining their facilities. Of course, these innovations create complications, especially where maintenance is concerned. How can crews effectively support these new devices with existing workflows?
The short answer is, they cannot. Instead, industrial organizations must train personnel and adopt cutting-edge new maintenance processes to match modern production assets.
Many have embraced preventive and predictive maintenance approaches. Why? This strategy has proven effective in reducing instances of unplanned downtime, bolstering productivity and facilitating modernization. How? Predictive maintenance systems leverage supply chain visibility, achieved through sensor technology, to track the performance of key shop floor equipment and provide maintenance teams with the data they need to spot developing mechanical issues that could devolve into stoppage-inducing catastrophes, according to analysts at Deloitte.
Here are two factors firms implementing predictive maintenance systems should consider:
Cutting-edge machine monitoring technologies lie at the heart of most predictive maintenance strategies. With the number of industrial sensor providers navigating the market, implementers have many options to choose from. According to Plant Services, most devices employ one of these three monitoring methods: infrared thermography, ultrasonic inspection or vibration analysis. The first methodology involves using thermal cameras to track the temperatures of shop floor fixtures, making it effective for electrical issues. Devices utilizing the second method leverage ultrasonic tools to listen for air leaks or damaged drains. The final strategy relies on sensors that measure machine vibration patterns and pinpoint misalignments or mechanical issues that could lead to major problems.
Organizations must evaluate the available options and see what technologies not only hold the most potential but also work best in their unique operational environments. Harley-Davidson undertook this very process more than a year ago, eventually choosing to affix vibration analysis sensors to their existing production equipment, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company has since seen great success as a result. Predictive maintenance adopters can achieve similar results by following this blueprint and thoroughly evaluating technological tools.
While top-of-the-line technology and new-and-improved processes can facilitate the transition from reactive to predictive maintenance, these factors alone do not determine overall success – another more traditional variable correlates directly to system efficacy: people. Skilled workers and external contributors carry the most weight in the predictive maintenance equation.
For example, many adopters add data scientists to their staff rosters so they have internal experts who cannot only manage data gathering processes but also interpret sensor-created insights and turn them into actionable maintenance objectives, according to Reliability Web.
Of course, engineering expertise is required to execute on these aims, meaning industrial firms must employ capable shop floor leaders who are comfortable working within advanced systems. Additionally training for in-house maintenance workers is a necessity as well, for these on-the-ground employees power predictive maintenance strategies, turning the levers and tightening the screws in an effort to ensure plant uptime.