Prove the value of predictive maintenance (PdM) to senior management: Part 2

Proof of predictive maintenance benefits can have an astronomical effect.

By Russ Kratowicz, P.E., CMRP, executive editor

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Part 1 of "Prove the value of predictive maintenance (PdM) to senior management" discusses appropriate PdM technologies for the situation, the degree to which they should be applied, presenting your case for enhanced Pdm and getting executive-level buy-in.

The constellations of the zodiac appear along the path of the sun, in what’s called the ecliptic. More than 2,000 years ago, skywatchers studied these star patterns and predicted how the movement of the planets “through” them affected civilization on Earth.

Many individuals still cling to the promise of these predictions, or horoscopes, based on astrologers’ interpretations of star patterns in the ecliptic, even though most astronomers dismiss it as a bunch of silly cosmic mumbo jumbo.

Plant and maintenance managers might sometimes feel similarly pressed to defend the merits of predictive maintenance (PdM) techniques. A PdM program requires the use of technologies that help industrial personnel to make better decisions on when to performance maintenance. And these technologies cost money.

Plant floor partisans

It’s also helpful to have the backing of the plant-floor personnel who must use the PdM technology. After all, they will be bringing the grand plan to fruition and achieving the predicted financial results. The last thing you need now is subtle sabotage.

“Our plant,” says Therma-Tru’s Neubauer, “uses a two-pronged approach. We include operations or maintenance in the decision process, and we provide the end user with as much of a turn-key product as possible. This means that if you sell them on the use of a process and then require them to finish the tasks, the buy-in goes away quickly.”

Demonstrating how PdM will improve their jobs will save time, recommends Applied Facility Solutions’ Wallace. “Foster a sense of ownership in the program by making them active participants in every phase of PdM implementation,” says Wallace. “Communicate successes and needs for improvement. Reward and thank the technicians and operators who are key members of the team.”

Ideally, adds Machinery Management’s Taylor, those technicians and operators should be the ones to initiate the project. “If you can’t orchestrate that, get a couple of the thought leaders on board early,” he suggests. “Publicize the downside, from their point of view, of the current situation. Then start building a desire for change in the workforce.”

With any initiative, says Allied’s Trulli, the best way to ensure buy-in is to ensure the individuals involved have a good understanding of the program and the benefits they’ll experience. “This understanding is best accomplished through education, communication and involvement,” he says. “Ensure that, wherever appropriate, plant floor personnel have an opportunity to participate in maintenance and reliability initiatives. Personnel participation adds additional resources and provides insights that might otherwise be overlooked, as well as build buy-in, support and ownership. Much like your safety initiatives, good maintenance and reliability programs require a significant amount of culture change. Without full buy-in and support, the full return on your program investments won’t be realized.”

Sans cable

An up-and-coming approach to industrial maintenance involves wireless communication between and among the various elements of the maintenance team — the CMMS, schedulers, technicians, upper management and other relevant stakeholders, and it has its advantages and its shortcomings.

“It’s not always user-friendly to take PdM on-condition readings,” warns Therma-Tru’s Neubauer, “because of a safety issue or because it requires disassembly to get to the reading point so using either remote devices or remote data logging units make real sense.”

However, on-the-go CMMS technology makes operational maintenance more streamlined and thus effective, argues Smartware’s Lachance. “Better, faster data entry ensures that the information needed for PdM is more accurate and faster to analyze,” he says.

Machinery Management’s Taylor agrees. “Wireless should be considered strongly,” he says. “Wireless makes it much easer to use installed monitoring because you eliminate much of the cabling. The savings in manpower for walk-around monitoring, reduced mistakes and improved data will repay the higher up-front cost quickly. You’ll also get a shorter delay in notification if something goes wrong.”

A comprehensive technology procedure intended to foster a best-practice operation drives effective, high-quality results.

– John Trulli, director of mechanical services at Allied Reliability

Wireless technologies, while not widely deployed yet, are emerging quickly as a cost-effective way to monitor machines more efficiently, adds Allied’s Kilbey. “In the typical walk-around data-collection program, once-per-month data is collected and then analyzed,” he explains. “Wireless systems allow data collection at variable intervals as short as every minute or less. An experienced analyst can spend more time analyzing them, rather than walking around collecting data. In addition, startup and installation costs of wireless might be one-quarter to one-half the cost of wired systems.”

The installation of permanently mounted transducers and online monitoring systems can be cost-prohibitive for standard asset applications, warns Allied’s Trulli. “Traditionally, these applications were reserved for expensive or process-critical equipment that presented access problems or significant consequence of failure,” he says. “With ever-evolving technologies and costs associated with wireless systems becoming more attractive, this opens the door for future wireless systems. Wireless systems offer the opportunity for quick implementations with reduced installation costs as well as tie-ins to existing process monitoring systems. In addition wireless options offer enhanced online continuous monitoring solutions, as well as effective remote analysis capabilities. Keep an eye out for continuous developments; developers are probably already working on the Apple and Android apps for this.”

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