When to integrate control-system data with maintenance data

April 25, 2012
Mike Bacidore says data integration improves business decisions.

Have you ever learned something that would have been very useful to know sooner? It could be something as simple as advance warning that the idiot in the minivan is going to cut you off when you try to merge into the center lane of traffic. Or it could be something major, such as knowing not to park your Boxster next to that maple tree that’s about to be struck by lightning and total your sweet ride.

Knowledge is power, and advance knowledge is invaluable.

If you’re in charge of maintenance and reliability at an industrial manufacturing plant, there’s great information in the control system you could use. You just can’t see it, at least not yet. First, it needs to go to a data historian. And then, if you’re one of the fortunate ones, that information is trended and integrated with the data in the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) software, which offer the analytical tools to determine predictive or reliability-centered maintenance strategies that will keep critical equipment running, as well as optimize the facility’s energy-efficiency strategies and keep electricity costs under control.

See what I mean about needing that data a little earlier? With the speed of analytics that asset management software can provide, there’s a huge opportunity to make better business decisions, especially when integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, so why are so many plants so slow to adopt asset management software that’s fully integrated with its control system network?

Because it’s not actually available yet. Yes, a handful of companies have pushed the needle a little farther by creating a customized integration as part of upgrades costing hundreds of millions of dollars, but how many companies have the cash flow to absorb the payback period on a billion-dollar upgrade?


Not too long ago, we asked you to participate in a survey explaining where you’re at with your process control systems and their integration with maintenance-related systems. The results weren’t surprising, but they confirmed what we all already know — maintenance is a journey. As a matter of methodology, among the 114 participants, the top three job titles responding to the survey were plant manager, maintenance manager and plant engineer, while the top three industries represented were food, chemical, and utilities/power generation.

Less than 40% of the participants said they had standardized on a single process control platform, although almost half (47%) were using a distributed control system (DCS). But more than 86% said they used programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and more than a third reported using programmable automation controllers (PACs) in their operations.

More respondents said “yes” (47%) than “no” (43%), when asked if they were using the control system for monitoring the condition of physical assets. However, 75% of those who said they were using the control system for condition monitoring admitted the data was not integrated with CMMS/EAM software.

The good news is that 25% of those survey participants claim they have control-system data integrated with maintenance data. To whatever extent that may be, it’s a lively step in the right direction. Whether it’s a DCS, PLC, PAC, PC, or some other platform, data integration is always a step in the right direction. And the sooner, the better.

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