The truth about PdM: How your peers are really using predictive maintenance

Plant Services/ARC Advisory Group joint survey reveals how technologies are being used.

By Alexis Gajewski, Digital Editor

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How is PdM being implemented in the average plant today? In a joint survey conducted by Plant Services and ARC Advisory Group, maintenance and reliability professionals shared their experiences and insights into the day-to-day use of PdM on the plant floor.

Many plants are ahead of the curve and already have some form of predictive maintenance implemented in their facilities. Quite a few are using vibration analysis and infrared imaging, as well as oil analysis and electric motor testing. However, predictive modeling software and acoustic technology were not even on the radar for the 90 survey participants (Figure 1).

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Figure 1. Quite a few plants are using vibration analysis and infrared imaging, as well as oil analysis and electric motor testing. However, predictive modeling software and acoustic technology were barely on the radar.

“We are seeing a slight pickup in how PdM is viewed,” says Andy Page, MS/I-O, SSBB, CMRP, principal consultant, Technical Services Group, at Allied Reliability Group. “Once, it was this electronic trickery and considered less important than the PM program. We are seeing a few more people begin to treat it as important, and sometimes even more so than the PM program.”

PdM efforts

With any plant program, it’s important to take a baseline reading to see how effective it is and where improvements can be made. When asked to rate the performance of their PdM program over the past 12 months, more than half admitted their programs needs some improvement (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. When asked to rate the performance of their PdM program over the past 12 months, more than half admitted their programs needs some improvement.


Andy Page was not surprised by the results. “I see a sizable group of PdM programs that are just getting the basics down and have not yet begun to see the optimization possibilities,” he says. “For some, PdM is a part-time job, and thus they aren’t interested in refinement and optimization. For others, PdM is a job and not a profession, so refinement and improvement really are not in their best interests. By and large, there are fewer PdM professionals out there than we would like to see.”

One possible explanation for this performance rating could be the retiring of the Baby Boomers. “The skills crisis is affecting PdM decisions due to the lack of qualified technicians to set up programs and analyze the data effectively,” says Shon Isenhour, partner at Eruditio. “I believe this can be addressed with more remote monitoring within the facilities. By using wireless and route-based collection of the data with general maintenance technicians and remote analysis, we can reduce the need for high-skill PdM technicians at each site and pull together multiple sites’ data remotely for analysis by a single well-qualified individual. This also provides a position that meets more of the needs of the Generation Y employee, making it a win-win.”

The predictive future

Changing strategies can be difficult to accomplish, especially in a plant where the culture is dominated by a “this is the way we have always done it” mentality. The forces driving the change must be strong enough to overcome the inevitable backlash. When asked which factors were driving their decisions to deploy predictive maintenance solutions, survey participants cited the desire to reduce operation costs and reduce maintenance costs. The factor at the forefront of plant managers’ minds, however, was the need to improve uptime (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. When asked which factors were driving their decisions to deploy predictive maintenance solutions, survey participants cited the desire to reduce operation costs and reduce maintenance costs, but the factor at the forefront of their minds was the need to improve uptime.

“Too many current PdM practitioners aren’t taking the time to continually justify what they are accomplishing in terms of return on investment (ROI) and other PdM-related key performance indicators (KPIs),” says Jack R. Nicholas, Jr., P.E., CMRP, CRL, a Navy veteran and an individual with more than 50 years of experience in maintenance and reliability. “Nor are they educating their superiors on what they are achieving in terms they understand.”

As with any improvement, there are always obstacles to overcome when implementing or improving predictive maintenance. While the survey respondents acknowledged that most of their programs needed improvements, they cited budgetary constraints and lack of executive support as two of the greatest hurdles that need to be overcome (Figure 4).

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Figure 4. Respondents cited budgetary constraints and lack of executive support as two of the greatest hurdles that need to be overcome.

“I see very competent PdM technicians doing impressive work with the technologies with which they have been equipped, but who are hobbled by lack of proper communications, poor links with ERP/CMMS, and ignored by the information technology and operator organizations when they ask for help to improve things,” says Nicholas. “Most PdM programs have no plans, no KPIs, and little appreciation by superiors in the organization for their achievements. They experience scorn by co-workers who believe PdM personnel have easy jobs because some of their work is done in air-conditioned spaces in front of computers. Also, some of the conditions they report are not verifiable with the five senses of repair personnel and they distrust the finds reported because the asset appears to be working perfectly well when the recommendation is made to fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken.”

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