Industry experts sound off on PdM survey results

Six leaders share their thoughts on program spending, technologies, and satisfaction.

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As part of our 2016 predictive maintenance survey, Plant Services engaged with six industry leaders to get their thoughts on whether the trends identified from 2014 to 2016 were fair predictors of the future, as well as what new insights the data were turning up. Their comments focused on two key areas of the survey: explaining the trend of increased PdM investment yet reduced program satisfaction and the impact that technology innovation (especially the Industrial Internet of Things) is having on PdM adoption. Read on for a cross-section of responses from the experts.

PdM program investment and satisfaction

These conversations started with a question that to us was the most difficult to answer, at least on the surface: Why would PdM spending be up over the past 18 months but program satisfaction be down? The responses received go a long way toward demystifying this trend, making it seem nearly inevitable.

“When we see great programs implemented, they’re never coming from the plant,” says Burt Hurlock, CEO of Azima DLI. “They are coming from managers who understand the potential of the technology and who have a broad vision of what they are trying to accomplish across the enterprise.”

Hurlock noted that a large proportion of survey respondents were plant managers and their maintenance and reliability team members, “as opposed to operations managers, or what I think of as mid- to high-level executive managers, and that’s where we see the best of leadership and direction coming from when it comes to successful PdM programs.”

This shift in respondent job function also caught the attention of Shon Isenhour, CMRP and founding partner at Eruditio LLC. “The participation by plant managers, plant engineers, and maintenance technicians was notably lower in the 2016 survey,” says Isenhour, “and the participation by maintenance managers and reliability engineers has increased.”

Specifically, says Isenhour, this influx of maintenance managers and reliability engineers into the survey would help explain the noticeable dissatisfaction with the performance of existing PdM programs. “These two roles would understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the PdM tools and will always see more opportunities for application than plant managers and possibly plant engineers, who made up a larger portion of the 2014 participants. The increased presence of the reliability engineers could lead to the dissatisfaction we saw with their existing program and a desire to budget more for upgrades and improvements.”

“Typically, we find that plant managers are being held to a very tight budget and trying to accomplish a great deal with too little, and that means that they may not have the time to think about what it is they are trying to get out of their PdM program,” adds Hurlock. “It makes sense to me that they are being told to implement a PdM program, but they are not being asked to define what they are trying to accomplish with it. So they are doing what they are told, but they may not be getting the direction and leadership that they probably need from their bosses.

Greg Folts, CMRP and president of Marshall Institute, sees two factors at play with the data. “First, many organizations do not use PdM tools as part of a strategy for managing the consequence of failures at the plant,” he says. “Instead, they are often just testing out tools. PdM must be incorporated as a prime tool for managing failure if we are to be satisfied with the results.”

Second, says Folts, “I believe that when the manufacturing plants struggle with sales, the PdM programs will struggle as well.” He points to the ISM manufacturing index as a useful tool for understanding the broader economic context; that index indicates that manufacturing was climbing in 2013-’14, fell off in 2015, and is starting to climb in 2016. “The highest obstacle limiting the success of PdM in the 2014 survey was reported to be budget constraint, a factor that was significantly reduced as an obstacle in 2016 (42.2% in 2014 vs. 33.7% in 2016).”

Joe Anderson, CRL, CMRP, agrees with several of these points, noting that there seems to be a disconnect or lack of communication between what is being executed on the shop floor and what others in the organization know.

“The managers in charge of these programs do not understand the business side of maintenance and how to sell the value,” he says, “which is why I spend so much time trying to teach others how to sell the value of maintenance and reliability.” He adds: “Also, defects are being identified, but the identified work is not being fixed. Many other variables, like lack of training or wrong people on the job, may be the issue as well.”

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