2016 PdM survey results - Part 1: Plant consolidation and the rise of the reliability engineer

Readers willing to invest more in PdM than 18 months ago, but appear less satisfied with program performance.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

Are you as happy as you could be with your organization's predictive maintenance program?

According to a significant majority of respondents to the 2016 Plant Services PdM survey, the answer is a resounding "no," despite the fact that respondents' planned investments are growing, especially in the areas of control systems, predictive analytics, and mobility.

This year's Plant Services PdM survey is our third such effort, designed to assess the state of (and market for) predictive maintenance technologies and solutions. It was conducted in January and February, and the vast majority of questions were kept identical from year to year to year in order to help benchmark key industry trends.

Data from the first two questions of the survey – what is your job function and how large is your team – immediately demonstrated that the PdM portrait drawn in 2016 would not be a repeat of 2014.

A plurality of 2016 respondents (31.4%) identified as maintenance managers, with reliability engineers as the next largest category (16.8%). However, the anecdotal stories about people going to sleep one day as a maintenance worker and waking up the next as a reliability engineer are backed by the wider set of data. Respondent categories that fell from 2014 to 2016 include plant manager (12.8% to 5.8%), plant engineer (15.2% to 8.8%), maintenance technician (7.1% to 3.7%), and reliability technician (7.1% to 5.1%).

These losses were counterbalanced by increases among maintenance managers (24.2% to 31.4%), reliability engineers (9.0% to 16.8%), and controls engineers (5.2% to 7.3%). Furthermore, when asked who in the plant makes decisions on asset monitoring tools and configurations, these same three functional groups – maintenance managers, reliability engineers, and controls engineers – each grew by double-digit percentages, and the number of plant managers with decision-making authority in this area dropped by more than 10%. Also, reliability engineers are being consulted much more often, as their indicated level of engagement with PdM data increased across all levels (weekly, monthly, and quarterly) from 2014 to 2016, and the share who responded “never” dropped from 31.9% to 16.9%.

The next question, about the size of plant maintenance/reliability staff, offers further context within which to read these results, as the responses indicate a trend toward plant consolidation (and with it, a likely reduction in the number of plant manager positions). The number of plants with 10 or fewer M&R staffers dropped from 56.6% in 2014 to 44.6% in 2016, with the most sizable reduction taking place among plants with just 1–5 team members (31.6% to 21.2%). The share of respondents working at plants with more than 100 M&R team members jumped from 7.6% in 2014 to 13.1% in 2016; a similar increase was seen in plants with 11–50 team members (from 26.4% to 33.6%).

These data on the size of teams were reinforced by responses to a separate question on how many total plants were managed by the respondents’ organization: 43.4% of 2016 respondents indicated that their organization managed six or more plants, an increase of 8.5% over 2014. The biggest hit was felt among single-plant operations, which decreased from 35.9% in 2014 to 29.4% currently.

As far as which PdM technologies are being deployed, fewer people are reporting that they have no PdM plans at all, and the level of current engagement has increased dramatically in several categories (Figure 1). Vibration, ultrasound, oil analysis, and predictive modeling all have experienced a double-digit percent increase in the number of people using them now, with oil analysis and ultrasound pulling ahead of infrared, the former top technology choice (and one that has retained a high and stable share of respondent users). Looking ahead, the technology categories of acoustic, corrosion, and electric motor testing seem to be areas that M&R professionals have their eye on expanding into over the next three years, perhaps if their current programs generate sufficiently positive results.

The types of assets that readers tell us they are managing via PdM did not change significantly from 2014 to 2016 (see Figure 2). In general, respondents consider their electrical systems as well as their automation, control system, and production assets the top priorities and did not have plans to extend PdM to distribution pipelines, fleet vehicles, or HVAC/R systems.

Read Part 2 and Part 3 of the story

2016 PdM survey results - Part 2: Program investment and satisfaction

2016 PdM survey results - Part 3: Data collection and management

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