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Industry experts sound off on PdM survey results

Six leaders share their thoughts on program spending, technologies, and satisfaction.

As part of our 2016 predictive maintenance survey, Plant Services engaged with six industry leaders to get their thoughts on whether the trends identified from 2014 to 2016 were fair predictors of the future, as well as what new insights the data were turning up. Their comments focused on two key areas of the survey: explaining the trend of increased PdM investment yet reduced program satisfaction and the impact that technology innovation (especially the Industrial Internet of Things) is having on PdM adoption. Read on for a cross-section of responses from the experts.

PdM program investment and satisfaction

These conversations started with a question that to us was the most difficult to answer, at least on the surface: Why would PdM spending be up over the past 18 months but program satisfaction be down? The responses received go a long way toward demystifying this trend, making it seem nearly inevitable.

“When we see great programs implemented, they’re never coming from the plant,” says Burt Hurlock, CEO of Azima DLI. “They are coming from managers who understand the potential of the technology and who have a broad vision of what they are trying to accomplish across the enterprise.”

Hurlock noted that a large proportion of survey respondents were plant managers and their maintenance and reliability team members, “as opposed to operations managers, or what I think of as mid- to high-level executive managers, and that’s where we see the best of leadership and direction coming from when it comes to successful PdM programs.”

This shift in respondent job function also caught the attention of Shon Isenhour, CMRP and founding partner at Eruditio LLC. “The participation by plant managers, plant engineers, and maintenance technicians was notably lower in the 2016 survey,” says Isenhour, “and the participation by maintenance managers and reliability engineers has increased.”

Specifically, says Isenhour, this influx of maintenance managers and reliability engineers into the survey would help explain the noticeable dissatisfaction with the performance of existing PdM programs. “These two roles would understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the PdM tools and will always see more opportunities for application than plant managers and possibly plant engineers, who made up a larger portion of the 2014 participants. The increased presence of the reliability engineers could lead to the dissatisfaction we saw with their existing program and a desire to budget more for upgrades and improvements.”

“Typically, we find that plant managers are being held to a very tight budget and trying to accomplish a great deal with too little, and that means that they may not have the time to think about what it is they are trying to get out of their PdM program,” adds Hurlock. “It makes sense to me that they are being told to implement a PdM program, but they are not being asked to define what they are trying to accomplish with it. So they are doing what they are told, but they may not be getting the direction and leadership that they probably need from their bosses.

Greg Folts, CMRP and president of Marshall Institute, sees two factors at play with the data. “First, many organizations do not use PdM tools as part of a strategy for managing the consequence of failures at the plant,” he says. “Instead, they are often just testing out tools. PdM must be incorporated as a prime tool for managing failure if we are to be satisfied with the results.”

Second, says Folts, “I believe that when the manufacturing plants struggle with sales, the PdM programs will struggle as well.” He points to the ISM manufacturing index as a useful tool for understanding the broader economic context; that index indicates that manufacturing was climbing in 2013-’14, fell off in 2015, and is starting to climb in 2016. “The highest obstacle limiting the success of PdM in the 2014 survey was reported to be budget constraint, a factor that was significantly reduced as an obstacle in 2016 (42.2% in 2014 vs. 33.7% in 2016).”

Joe Anderson, CRL, CMRP, agrees with several of these points, noting that there seems to be a disconnect or lack of communication between what is being executed on the shop floor and what others in the organization know.

“The managers in charge of these programs do not understand the business side of maintenance and how to sell the value,” he says, “which is why I spend so much time trying to teach others how to sell the value of maintenance and reliability.” He adds: “Also, defects are being identified, but the identified work is not being fixed. Many other variables, like lack of training or wrong people on the job, may be the issue as well.”

“I think it’s important at every level of the organization to engage in both a tactical discussion and a financial discussion about why it is you’re spending this money,” states Hurlock. “And I’m guessing that the first is not happening but the second is – that could easily explain the disconnect between those responsible for executing and those that are authorizing the capital to pursue the programs.”

“If there’s one thing that maintenance and reliability personnel can do better, it’s creating a business case and ‘selling’ the benefits of their program to upper management and other departments such as operations,” says Adrian Messer, CMRP and manager of U.S. operations at UE Systems. “I would suggest documenting PdM findings, and include the cost of downtime avoidance” when reporting PdM-related cost savings, he says.

The bottom line, says Anderson, is that “more people are investing in the technologies but are not reaping the benefits. Many people want to say they are using the technologies, so they acquire them. It looks good on paper to say that they are using them, when in reality the knowledge, support, and discipline needed to bring it to fruition does not exist.”

Tools of the trade

Of all the survey responses, those focused on the adoption of Internet-enabled PdM technologies generated the most positive feedback.
“There’s a delightful key takeaway: Predictive maintenance is on the rise, fueled by the IIoT,” says Leah Friberg, global head of content marketing, education, and industry affairs for Fluke Corp. “Plant maintenance professionals are increasing their expectations for what ‘good’ looks like in terms of system and asset reliability.”

Friberg adds that the survey responses also indicate “we’re past thinking and well into doing.” She points out: “A third of the respondents are actively deploying cloud-based data management to sync all of their siloed data streams, connect their teams, utilize mobility, and ditch time-consuming and unreliable data gathering and analysis methods.”

Azima DLI’s Hurlock observes that IIoT technologies “are not as penetrated as they will be.” However, he says: “I think this is a natural reflection of the adoption cycle of heavy industry. But (they) will be ubiquitously adopted for the simple reason that data on pen and paper doesn’t help anybody; the person who can look at that pen and paper is, by definition, not scalable and not distributable. It can’t be configured. It can’t be mined unless it finds its way into a database somewhere that is accessible by the Internet.”

Interestingly, Messer connects the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things with the fact that an increased share of people from 2014 to 2016 responded that their PdM program needs improvement. “The PdM technology landscape is changing rapidly, and there is also an increased need for remote continuous monitoring,” he says. “Because of the rapid growth in these newer methods, some PdM programs may feel that they have fallen behind with newer technology, leading them to believe that their program needs improvement.”

“A best practice for predictive maintenance technology is at least three technologies: It’s a combination of vibration, oil analysis, and infrared,” says Hurlock. “One technology will reveal something that another doesn’t, and taking them together, they may reveal something that’s much more accurate than any one of them could on their own.”

Hurlock also identifies why the use of vibration may have jumped by 20% among survey respondents over the past 18 months. “Of the different technologies that you can use to monitor, vibration turns out to be the most specific when in the right hands,” he asserts. “It takes a certain amount of technical background, so you can’t just flip it on. In experienced hands, it is highly accurate and very effective at anticipating events that you’d rather have not happen in your plant.”

“Vibration and oil analysis were the most-used technologies,” observes Isenhour. “Many respondents have a lot of potential to use more infrared and ultrasound, both of which add a lot of value to the program very quickly once the proper training is provided and the equipment is deployed.”

Messer agrees that a complementary approach to using PdM tools can drive program benefits and notes that the use of ultrasound among survey respondents continued to grow. “With ultrasound’s remote monitoring capabilities, data integration with CMMS systems, and useful apps on the horizon, this trend should continue until the next survey,” he says.

Responses to the 2016 survey indicated that use of mobile devices (both smartphones and tablets) more than doubled over the past 18 months. Friberg sees this trend as part of a wider opportunity to democratize maintenance monitoring.

“IIoT reduces the barrier to entry to having real-time, meaningful data about the performance of critical systems,” she says. “Smartphones and wireless tools require less training, are lower-cost, and come with fewer IT hurdles than enterprise,” she notes, and cloud dashboards increasingly enable maintenance managers to sync data types into one view.

“We are seeing a similar trend in the use of tablets in the educational market as well, especially with emerging technologies like augmented reality,” says Isenhour, with both areas being driven by screen size. “As tablets get larger and lighter, I think this will continue until the transition to computer-driven industrial glasses occurs. The smartphone screen by itself is still just a bit too small for many of the apps that the technicians use regularly and may merge with the glasses. Together, they may become the preferred method to interface with the PdM technologies and the EAM.”

In summary

Overall, says Messer, “It’s encouraging to see that the number of people who responded ‘no plans’ to deploy PdM tools decreased for most all of the technologies.” He continues: “It’s clearly a sign that plants and facilities are realizing that there are many benefits that can be realized from the implementation of a successful PdM program.”

“The definition of using is very important to think about,” adds Hurlock. “Just because you own the device or you turn it on every once in a while and use it, that’s not a predictive maintenance program. A PdM program is a systematic, comprehensive approach to gathering data and using it diagnostically to plan maintenance. It is not waiting for a machine to make a strange noise and then taking a test to confirm that there’s a problem.”

“To be satisfied with our PdM process,” adds Marshall Institute’s Folts, “we must view the tools as an indispensable part of our overall strategy for maintaining and ultimately increasing the capacity of the plant to produce goods.”

“As this survey demonstrates, we’ve been chipping away at reliability performance in automation and controls and critical production assets for a while,” says Friberg. “The opportunity with IIoT is the chance to increase efficiency in electrical, HVAC, and second-tier assets as well. Go forth and measure!”