By Saar Yoskovitz
Maintaining a facility can feel like fixing a car while it’s driving down the road. There are times when you can address certain problems, but a “good” time rarely presents itself. You’re responsible for making things better without inconveniencing anyone or interrupting the workflow.
This makes adopting new routines – even if they will eventually make things better – not only risky business, but risky for your business. The hard truth is that there are few rewards for getting it right, but plenty of blame for creating problems or just not preventing them. That’s where predictive maintenance (PdM) comes in.
Adopting Predictive Maintenance
You’ve probably heard the term: PdM is the practice of measuring a machine’s actual condition to determine maintenance schedules rather than waiting and hoping things will be okay until the next scheduled maintenance. Maybe you’ve even adopted some of the practices, like infrared thermography to test for hot spots, or oil analysis. But to call what you have a “program” would likely be a stretch. A real, integrated program of predictive maintenance takes planning and foresight.
Moving from preventive to predictive maintenance requires careful consideration. While many upsides exist, there are headaches waiting out there as well.
Here are five factors to take into account before making the leap.
- Cost. Always the first concern, it is also tied to all the others. Until recently, the initial investment required for traditional predictive maintenance, especially higher-end methods like vibration analysis, have been cost prohibitive for all but the largest facilities. Luckily, this is changing. The tech revolution has arrived and has not only improved data analysis software but has also made hardware cheaper and more effective. Some companies even offer a pay-as-you-go model.
- New Technology. Much of the predictive maintenance technology you’re familiar with is likely the outdated, oversized tech of yesteryear — so-called “mobile” devices the size of small suitcases and dangling wires to connect the pieces. Like smartphones and computers, today’s predictive maintenance technology has become compact and versatile and relatively inexpensive. Technicians get real-time feedback about existing and potential problems right on their mobile device. To top it off, the software learns more with each piece of data it analyzes so it gets better and better at its job over time.
- Education. As with so many things, the data you get is only as effective as the person looking at it. Technicians have to know how to interpret the data they receive from predictive maintenance methods. It may be normal, for example, for one motor to be hotter than another. Techs have to know the most effective use of those oil analysis results. Misinterpretation can drive costs up rather than down because it leads to needless replacements. Only education and experience can help you avoid the “everything looks like a problem” syndrome that can make PdM seem unwieldy and expensive.
- Integration. Failing to catch a malfunction due to the rigidity of a preventive maintenance schedule can scuttle the effectiveness of your facilities management overall. To reap the full benefits, you will need a point person who can champion the process and help find new, creative and time-saving ways to apply new technologies to existing processes. But they also need enough know-how to see when PdM is unnecessary. PdM has to add value to your workflow or it will become just another investment that gets scrapped in the end.
- Being Green. Whether you are an eco-warrior or a skeptic, the hard data demonstrates an undeniable truth: efficient use of resources saves money. Nowadays, being green means more than just solar panels and recycling. It is about reducing waste and prolonging the longevity of machine parts and components. As with other aspects, you have to weigh the costs against the benefits. The added benefit here is that people have growing concerns about the environment. When they ask what you are doing about it, PdM demonstrates forward thinking and ongoing effort— all while saving you money.
Worth the Effort
The cost-benefit analysis differs for each facility, but overall the numbers are often in the black. A single failure prevention can make the whole investment pay for itself. Instead of being mostly invisible because a problem occurs, your team will be mostly invisible because there are fewer problems to resolve. There is never a good time to have an unplanned outage. As you work to maintain your facility, predictive maintenance can give you the edge you need.
Saar Yoskovitz founded Augury Systems in 2011 and currently serves as CEO. An avid entrepreneur, Saar has extensive experience in machine learning, signal processing algorithms, and system architecture. Prior to founding Augury, Saar worked as an analog architect at Intel. He holds bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and physics from Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology.