Unlock your plant's predictive maintenance potential

How data sharing and collaboration bring predictive maintenance to life.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

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Predictive maintenance is not only reshaping maintenance processes and priorities – it's also redefining maintenance roles and how teams communicate. Human observation and interaction is more valuable than ever.

Early iterations of PdM were stand-alone, built to serve a specific purpose, but new opportunities for data sharing and collaboration support more-robust performance. They meet the need to reach beyond organizational confines for new points of view.

“One of the most common challenges to incorporating world-class best practice is the ability to incorporate all parties in the solution: operators, maintenance technicians, reliability engineers, design engineers, industrial engineers, and even original equipment manufacturers and contractors,” says Kevin Price, enterprise asset management product director at Infor.

Thankfully, continuing advancements in PdM are improving information sharing, collaboration, and ultimately plants' bottom line. By working toward this last common goal, vendors and their customers are embracing the potential of organizational change and delivering reliability gains that were not previously possible.

Leaders in the field

Food and beverage manufacturing and power generation are among the most heavily regulated industries. The necessities of operating within that regulatory environment are among the reasons The J.M. Smucker Company and Duke Energy are ahead of the curve when it comes to PdM. "In every industry, there are leaders and laggards," remarks Mary Bunzel, portfolio manager for IoT, EAM and analytics at IBM. "The leaders are already experimenting and have the support of management to explore and learn."

The reliability team at Smucker’s has a weekly meeting with the operations team to plan out the next four weeks of scheduling; this plan gets adjusted based on the findings of the PdM technologies and defects identified by operators during their clean, inspect, and lubricate (CIL) rounds.

"We have begun to share our findings within the organization," says Joe Anderson, PM and reliability leader at The J.M. Smucker Company. "Data sharing is huge when trying to justify the need for scheduled line time to fix machine defects and also to develop credibility within the organization as experts on your assets. Everyone wins when everyone understands the importance of early failure detection and defect elimination."

"Once we were able to prove that life can be better, we made significant gains towards plant stability," he says. "Anytime you can drive defects out of your system, you will see improvements in safety, quality, environmental sustainability, throughputs, and plant stability."

Duke Energy's SmartGen project for advanced condition monitoring feeds vibration, temperature, and process data into Duke’s main Monitoring & Diagnostics (M&D) Center, and oil analysis is performed by a central lab or on-site at the larger sites. "We haven't gone with the cloud yet," says Russell Flagg, engineering technologist and CBM program owner at Duke Energy's Smith Energy Complex. "It’s a matter of security, being the largest utility in country, and our IT people are not there yet."

But, he continues: "I'll receive email notifications so I can handle issues from the plant side, and I can log in to see other plants' data if they need help with a diagnosis. Our vibration or rotating equipment experts can also access the data from anywhere in the fleet." Flagg adds: "We can call OEM rotating equipment engineers and send them data if we have a specific issue, and they have their own monitoring systems so they will send me a notification when something goes out of spec. I can also see and advise on oil analysis data."

The diagnosis is quicker and probably more accurate when you bring all that experience to bear, he explains. "I embrace it all," Flagg says. "For me, it cuts down on the time I spend monitoring acceptable running equipment."

Innovations in data sharing

A combination of modern user interface tools and integration with "smart" assets and buildings enhances users' ability to work with PdM programs, says Paul Lachance, president and CTO at Smartware Group. "There has been the ability to gather this data electronically for some time, but it was slow, expensive, and difficult."

Centralizing data makes data easier to share. At Azima DLI, "We host data centrally and serve diagnostic results to customers over a Web-browser-accessible portal," says company CEO Burt Hurlock. "The portal integrates the results of multiple PdM technologies so technicians and engineers have a single point of access for machine health diagnostics."

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