From the editor's desk: Maintenance is the new cool

Technews Industry Guide: Maintenance, Reliability & Asset Optimisation 2020 News

An interesting spin-off of digitalisation in today’s manufacturing plants is how it has elevated the maintenance department from obscurity to the status of primary organisational profit driver. Preventative maintenance has been replaced by more elegant predictive techniques, and the artisan’s toolbox, while still in evidence, is now complemented by a host of augmented and virtual reality assistants, running on mobile devices, or even a pair of ‘Google-style’ safety goggles.

Over the last few years, the scope and vision of the old maintenance department has expanded from retroactive equipment repair to proactive enterprise asset management (EAM). The trend in EAM is to deploy equipment-based sensors that send machine data to edge or cloud-based analytical programs and artificial intelligence algorithms. The underlying principle is early warning of deteriorating equipment performance, which may not be detectable using traditional inspection-based methods. But, since all plants are different, their EAM requirements will likely also be different. To provide readers with a reference point in the often confusing landscape of equipment monitoring and predictive maintenance strategy, the SA Instrumentation & Control team has put together this industry guide which we hope will serve you well.

The IIoT makes it all doable

The objective is to keep the plant running at maximum efficiency, but now secure in the knowledge that a breakdown is not about to catch you unawares. The enablers are the methods of continuous data harvesting, followed by factual analysis performed against a known ‘healthy’ digital signature of that equipment. Any significant difference triggers an early warning of deterioration, leaving ample time to switch over to a standby – fan for arguments sake – while the primary is taken out of service for repair.

The profitability of asset-intensive manufacturing companies hinges to a large degree on maximum plant availability with minimal (zero) unplanned downtime. Even though the ideas of equipment condition monitoring have been around for years, they were always limited by the need for plant-based specialists to analyse the data and detect the warning signs. Now, thanks to affordable smart sensors and cloud-based analytical software packages, seamlessly connected via the Industrial Internet of Things, equipment analysis has become easier with many suppliers offering to monitor their machinery remotely as a service. Some even offer to monitor overall plant performance providing regular reports and recommendations, along with guarantees of maximised productivity and reduced operating expenses.

Whatever the unique requirements of your plant, we trust the extensive list of suppliers and service providers included at the back of this publication will help you to identify the right partner for an EAM strategy that moves your organisation closer to optimum performance and the benefits that accrue to those at the top of the pile. (Eskom please take note.)

Most encouraging of all though is that maintenance just got a digital makeover that is bound to lift its profile and attract some of those app-hungry engineers of the smartphone generation. The tools are simply too cool to ignore.

Steven Meyer

Editor: SA Instrumentation & Control


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