PdM: Plant by numbers

These decisions will affect your prospects for success as you expand your PdM program.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

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Are you sold on the value of predictive maintenance (PdM) and ready to take it further? Case studies abound of vibration analysis, infrared (IR) thermography, ultrasound, and oil analysis helping to predict asset failure and prevent it via well-timed maintenance. It’s no wonder that PdM applications are surging.

There are many ways to go about scaling up a PdM program, starting with choosing which PdM tools to add and where, whether to rent or buy them, whether to staff or outsource services, and how to ensure management support and a budget.

Read on for scaling trends and best practices from three points of view: a reliability solutions provider, an automation solutions provider, and a management consultancy.

Common drivers, shared goals

Reasons to scale vary greatly. The most common are rolling out existing PdM technology to additional equipment or sites or adding additional PdM technologies to an existing PdM program.

“I’d say 70 to 75% of our business historically has been brownfield sites that were either highly reactive or very strong in PM and needed help on the journey to becoming more effective in leveraging PdM technologies,” says John Schultz, founding partner and executive vice president at Allied Reliability Group. Greenfield sites and corporate expansion sites also are candidates for scaling.

Allied Reliability works to baseline the health of assets before companies make an acquisition and help newly merged companies move production lines from one facility to another. In the latter case, Allied baselines the assets before they are taken apart, identifies defects that need to be eliminated before reinstallation, and then checks to make sure the assets were put in properly. “Any change in leadership can lead to the scaling or descaling of a PdM program, depending on the new management’s level of understanding and commitment to the program,” notes Schultz.

Today, scaling often takes place in tandem with leveraging emerging technologies and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) as well as employing newer practices such as prescriptive maintenance. “It’s more about how to add additional sensors and machine-learning algorithms, how many failure modes are covered, and whether the process is connected with ERP and historian data,” Schultz explains.

Chris Coleman and Ed Deuel, both specialist leaders at Deloitte Consulting, observe that scaling PdM allows for the realization of a true “smart factory,” which can then be connected to a wider digital supply network (DSN) for ecosystem-wide benefits. “Early detection of imminent component failures that can be automatically communicated through the DSN will allow companies to greatly reduce their on-hand spares inventories and move toward a just-in-time replenishment strategy,” says Coleman. Through vast network connectivity, the DSN will get smarter more quickly by analyzing component performance trends, adds Deuel.

Prior demonstrable success of PdM tools is a key factor in program expansion, says Bruce Hawkins, director of reliability excellence at Emerson. A track record of successful implementations, bolstered by early and frequent communication of these successes, especially is crucial, he says.

Making choices

Rent or own diagnostic tools, insource or outsource analysis and maintenance services, conduct route-based or continuous monitoring – these are some of the considerations when scaling a PdM program.

Allied Reliability Group’s Schultz sees very little renting of tools. “Most companies are purchasing the tools or asking their service provider to bundle the cost of the tools into either their hourly or per-component rate,” says Schultz. He refers to options such as Flir mounting an IR camera on an iPhone or android device and GTI Spindle enabling iPads to collect good-quality condition monitoring data as examples of how prices have come down significantly and user interfaces have been simplified.

Whether to outsource or internalize is a cultural decision, he believes. “Some of our customers say outsourcing works perfectly well in their environment, so we’ll embed people in their plants to handle the program,” Schultz says. “Other customers say outsourcing doesn’t fit their culture, so we’ll teach and mentor their employees to be able to do what we do,” remarks Schultz. “We also have a talent acquisition business that fills gaps in a customer’s workforce until they are ready to build out their own internal team.”

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