Preventive Maintenance / Predictive Maintenance

The evolution of PdM: Interpreting four years of survey data

Plant professionals are increasingly seeing the benefits of PdM, says Thomas Wilk.

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

Have you ever gone on a trip, taken a picture of a key place or moment, and then returned to that place years later to try to recreate that original shot?

I especially like taking this kind of picture, creating a secondary memory that gives new and meaningful context to the first. Of course, much of the value is in observing the physical changes in the people over time. People get older; families grow and change; friends occasionally pass on. No one stays the same.

Also, it’s expected that the background will stay steady as a rock, the better to showcase the changes in the subjects of the photo. If you took a picture at sunset by the south rim of the Grand Canyon, chances are pretty good that both the south rim and the sun will be there 10 years later in order for you to retake that picture.

These are the kinds of things that run through my mind when thinking through the results of our PdM survey. We’ve been fortunate to run this survey every 12–18 months since 2014, and your donations of time and information have generated a revealing series of snapshots over time. Each survey indicates a few specific trends, with the collective set of data adding up to a greater understanding of our industry’s attitude toward predictive technologies and proactive maintenance.

This year, the two observations that stand out the most to me are (1) the increased movement by plant maintenance and reliability teams toward servitization of PdM, and (2) the general lack of perceived barriers to PdM success. In essence, our respondents seem to have grown over time into an appreciation of the potential benefits of PdM and feel confident that they can overcome any real or perceived barriers to success.

However, that is not the full story. The “background” has changed too, as seen via changes in job function, the number of plants managed per organization, and the size of maintenance and reliability teams. For example, a few years ago, reliability professionals accounted for about 16% of respondents; only four years later, that share has doubled. There has also been a 50% increase in the number of small (1-4 persons) maintenance and reliability teams, which may help explain the increased interest in PdM services revealed in this year’s survey.

Perhaps of most importance, the data indicate that survey respondents are more than just confident in PdM to make a difference; more than 25% of respondents are either currently engaged in prescriptive maintenance or have it in their budget for next year. This result represents more than just a willingness of industry to engage in proactive maintenance. It suggests that you’re ready for the next step into a wider digital transformation of operations, and that’s a big change from four years ago.

The month’s cover story collects 12 tables of data from 2014–2018 for you to review and analyze, and you can download the full set of 2018 PdM survey data at