Smart maintenance: Responding to today's increasing digital demands

The dawn of the Industrial Internet of Things has forever changed the way in which traditional business models are structured and has had a dramatic impact on the internal processes within companies. For manufacturers across the board, it is of paramount importance that they make their existing production environments highly flexible and versatile so as to ensure the greatest possible utilisation of plant capacity. It is clear that maintenance has a very important role to play when it comes to achieving this. This report will touch upon the unique challenges faced by the industry.

Smart maintenance: Predicting what was previously unpredictable

Smart maintenance combines machine learning with predictive maintenance. As the name suggests, the objectives of smart maintenance are indeed "smart". Ideally, maintenance work is carried out before failure even occurs. This avoids downtime and the resulting costs and consequences. Ultimately, the aim is to have a comprehensive solution that optimises the operation of production facilities. It goes without saying that economic efficiency, performance orientation, and qualified staff all have a vital role to play. They will also have to adapt to this smart environment. Maintenance staff, for example, will need to have a well-defined and clear strategy so that they are able to predict when maintenance action will be required and immediately anticipate costs. In addition, inventories need to be adapted according to demand. By implementing all of this, a company can reduce time and effort spent on maintenance and thereby lower their costs.

What challenges does smart maintenance pose?

Digitalisation brings with it large volumes of data that can be used to improve maintenance processes. Of course, this data has to be both stored and analysed. Experts predict that, in the future, there will be thousands of individual cyber-physical systems embedded in production. These cyber-physical systems will help to simplify and automate the control of production processes.

IIoT and the important role of maintenance personnel

It is clear that both these new components and their connections will need to be acquired! This in turn results in new requirements for maintenance personnel, in terms of their qualifications and skill-sets. In other words, contrary to popular belief, the Industrial Internet of Things will not lead to the disappearance of this line of work. On the contrary, maintenance personnel have an integral role to play when it comes to the implementation of smart maintenance. The aim is therefore to remain capable of effective action, and, as a direct result of increased production efficiency and operational reliability of the plant, to strengthen production and ensure its future sustainability. In addition to this, today's maintenance staff also need to cultivate an overarching understanding of all processes.

Start IIoT quick check

Inventory analysis in the automotive sector

Dr.-Ing.Michael Wächter carried out a study at a German automobile manufacturer. The study, entitled Digitalisierung und Industrie 4.0 - Wie verändert sich unsere Arbeitswelt?, showed that maintenance personnel often lose a lot of time performing unnecessary tasks while carrying out maintenance processes. This is often due to operating consoles and controls placed in impractical locations, imprecise error descriptions, missing information, and out-of-date documentation.

The solution? Better tools, better networks

Those interviewed were all in agreement that they would be able to carry out their work with greater efficiency if (1) communication were to require less time and effort, (2) maintenance work were well planned and (3) a resource-efficient means of monitoring were guaranteed. Furthermore, they were also in agreement that remote analysis, remote maintenance and on-site maintenance have to work better together. The participants wanted automated and detailed error notifications, that would inform them, among other things, about what kind of malfunction had taken place, and that would also include machine plans, instructions, inventory handling, change history (for all machines, components, and actions taken), and a prioritisation of all actions to be carried out. According to the participants, the systems would have to be both accessible and flexible so that they could be incorporated into the new digital network; at the same time, however, they would have to be secured from cybersecurity threats. That's quite a lot of requirements!

The good news is that more and more tools are becoming available on the market that can assist manufacturers in the various tasks that they need to carry out, and, more importantly, have interfaces that are compatible with those of other tools. The best tools are the ones that are both manufacturer-independent and that support a wide range of different systems. The data management and version control software system versiondog is one such example of a software that is optimised for automation systems regardless of manufacturer.

The Industrial Internet of Things places great demands on technology, infrastructure and the ability of today's maintenance departments! Is your company prepared for these challenges? Make our Industrial Internet of Things quick check and find out!

Start IIoT quick check