Predictive maintenance is replacing the plant’s retiring knowledge worker

By Design News

Mar 01, 2018

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The retiring Baby Boomer at the plant may get replaced by predictive maintenance software. Just as robots are stepping up to do the mind-numbing and dangerous repetitive manual labor jobs in manufacturing, we’re now seeing that sensors and artificial intelligence begin to replace the plant’s knowledge workers who can smell a failing motor at 50 yards.

These experienced workers have been doing predictive maintenance on plant equipment by using their five senses. “The retiring knowledge worker has been doing the same job for 20 or 30 years. They can hear things in the equipment,” Tom Craven, VP of product strategy at RRAMAC Connected Systems, told Design News. “What they do gets into operational efficiency, but also, it’s predictive maintenance. They’ll hear a rattle and know what to do about it. Or they can detect a specific smell that can be a motor current problem. They smell the electrical burn and know that something bad is going to happen.”

Those highly knowledgeable workers with 20 to 40 years of experience with pant equipment are retiring in a stream that will soon become a flood. These workers have gained years of expertise ferreting out the weakness of plant equipment, judging its health through sound, vibration, even smell. You can’t hire a new grad to replace this expertise. But you can hire software to do it.

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