Industrial Automation / Condition Monitoring

Why deferring maintenance may not be the best choice for your automation systems or your personal health

Thomas Wilk says be proactive about automation and control-system health.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

It started on a Monday as a slightly hoarse voice and scratchy throat. No problem, I thought, just grab some extra-strength cough drops and ride it out.

On Tuesday the sneezing started. Not a lot, not at first, but reaching gale force by the end of the day. It’s been really dry out, I muttered. A bit of dusting will sort this out. And some more cough drops.

By Wednesday the random muscle aches and pains kicked in. I still was ignoring the signs. After all, I drink a packet of vitamin C every day, right? This is not what it looks like. And I don’t have time to be sick, anyway.

Thursday night was the end of the charade. I got home, ate a few bites of dinner, lay down to rest my eyes, and woke up 15 hours later with the flu.

That Friday afternoon the irony started to sink in. All the signs were showing; all the data were there that I needed to understand what condition my condition was in. And yet, this editor had deliberately and defiantly run to fail.

After a few days in the repair shop (we were out of spares), I came back to find the cover story for this issue ready for editing on the topic of why deferring maintenance on your automation and control systems may not be the best idea in the world. I popped a cough drop and started reading.

This month’s cover story addresses a less-common area of responsibility for maintenance and reliability: the automation systems. On our most recent PdM survey from early 2017, more than 75% of respondents indicated they were using controls equipment (controllers, networks, software) to monitor their assets. In a follow-up question, nearly 40% of respondents added that they were using internet-enabled technologies to monitor the performance of the monitors themselves, the control-system assets.

However, we wondered: What are the best practices in this area? In essence, how do you monitor the monitors?

This month’s cover story contributes to that conversation, charting out some key “dos” and “don’ts” and recommending that maintenance teams not fall into the habit of “setting it and forgetting it.” As this editor now knows, that will just run up your unplanned downtime.

For the rest of this space, I’d like to thank everyone for the very positive response you’ve given to our Influential Women in Manufacturing program, or IWiM. You’ve nominated more than 70 women to date, and a few weeks remain before the nomination period ends.

Through March 31, you can nominate women you see leading the charge for industrial innovation and manufacturing leadership. To be considered for the program, potential candidates should have at least a few years of experience in the manufacturing/industrial production field.

The full nomination form is available at Note that there is no limit on the number of nominations an individual can submit.

We look forward to sharing the full list of honorees with you this summer!