Is your PdM program as good as it could be?

Surveyed readers speak truthfully about predictive maintenance in their plants.

By Alexis Gajewski, Digital Editor

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Predictive maintenance is an ever-evolving maintenance strategy, with new technologies and integration tools continually finding their way into the PdM mix. Plant Services recently conducted a new survey on this topic, asking readers how they expect their current PdM practices to change, especially given the increasing acceptance and integration of control systems into the average plant. (See our November 2014 issue for results from the first PdM survey.)

Among the most notable new findings: Seven in 10 respondents said their plant has some form of PdM program in place, although their application of PdM tools varies considerably. In addition, 40% of those who said their plant uses predictive maintenance said their PdM program “needs some improvement.” Perhaps most surprising, 17% of respondents said their plant doesn’t currently have plans to incorporate PdM tools.

“PdM programs work with the right leadership, and there are well-established precedents for success, including compelling ROI, safety, financial, and operating benefits,” says Burt Hurlock, CEO of Azima DLI. “These precedents are well-established and explain long-standing commitments by many Fortune 500 companies as well as branches of the armed services to PdM.”

Getting to know you

To get a better understanding of our readers and their PdM needs, we asked our survey responders some baseline questions. A plurality, 24 percent, identified their primary role as maintenance manager; plant engineer and plant manager, respectively, were the roles with the next-strongest responses. Less than 1 percent of readers identified themselves as IT professionals.

Most respondents said their maintenance staff numbers 50 or fewer workers. Around one-quarter (26%) said their maintenance staff consists of 11–50 people; similar shares reported a maintenance staff of 5–10 people (25%) or 2–4 people (24.5%). These rather small maintenance departments could be linked to the total number of plants that our readers’ organizations manage. Nearly 36% of readers are only managing one plant, with 29% spreading their resources across two to five plants.

Asset management and you

Who’s calling the PdM shots at plants? More than half of readers (57%) said maintenance managers are involved in PdM decisions; 48% said plant managers are involved. Only 21% said corporate executives are PdM decision-makers, possibly suggesting disengagement from what is happening on a daily basis on the plant floor or from the data generated through a PdM program.

When we asked readers which specific predictive maintenance technologies they have deployed at their plants, infrared, oil analysis, and vibration analysis topped the list. This isn’t surprising, given the attention these technologies have received in recent years and the high ROIs they offer.

Predictive modeling software is on readers’ radar; one-fourth of readers plan to implement it at their plants within the next three years. Acoustic technologies for predictive maintenance have a long way to go toward widespread adoption: 55% of respondents don’t plan to implement them anytime soon.

Advanced PdM features such as troubleshooting decision trees and human-machine interface (HMI) with color-coded alerts (readers’ two most widely deployed advanced features) can help plants optimize use of the data they collect, aiding them in prioritizing maintenance and repair tasks and tactics. And looking at emerging technologies, remote monitoring and analysis and analytics software generated the highest interest among readers.

In considering the motivations for implementing PdM technologies, top factors for readers included improving uptime, reducing operational costs, and reducing maintenance costs. Less-popular as drivers of PdM investments were knowledge transfer and energy management.

The current implementation of PdM programs in 70% of plants might seem like a high rate of adoption, but not everyone agrees with that assessment. “When I began in the field of condition monitoring 30 years ago, it was sometimes difficult to convince people about the need for condition monitoring,” says Jason Tranter, managing director of Mobius Institute. “But the concept of condition monitoring was not new even way back then. Therefore, I still find it a little surprising that only 70% of those surveyed are using predictive maintenance tools today. It is even more surprising that 17% have no plans to use predictive maintenance tools.”

Getting the right data

The success of a PdM program depends in large part on gathering the right data. Plant Services readers report using a variety of data-collection methods with their PdM systems. Despite the rise of automated information-gathering programs, paper-based data-collection systems so far remain the most prevalent.

This does not mean that plant professionals are uninterested in an interconnected plant. As plants strive for a more-connected environment, integration of higher-level PdM systems is becoming a growing priority. Historian systems and EAM/CMMS systems topped the list of higher-level PdM solutions that plants are implementing, with many respondents planning to integrate reliability solutions within the next three years.

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