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Deriving more value through more responsive maintenance

Kieran Le Peron
April 22, 2021
6 min. read

Digitisation, big data and the internet of things (IoT) are driving transformation in how equipment, machinery, devices and other assets are maintained.
The global predictive maintenance market is projected to reach $18.5m by 2026, developing at a compound annual growth rate of 29.8% during the forecast period, 2019-2026, while a report from Allied Market Research predicts this market is set to grow from $4.3m in 2019 to $31.96m by 2027, at a CAGR of 28.8% (2020-2027).

Maintenance trends

Erik Hupjé, a consultant and expert in all things maintenance-related, provides an excellent overview of the changing trends in maintenance. Pre-World War II, maintenance consisted of fixing things when they broke. The war created new demand for many, diverse products, while supply of industrial labour fell, making productivity a focus, with human labour being replaced by increasing mechanisation. With increasing dependence on machines, reducing downtime became a key focus. Time-based preventive maintenance, typified by fixed interval overhauls or replacing parts once they reached a certain stage in their lifetime became more popular.
Neither corrective or routine, or planned, maintenance approaches are smart. The risk of corrective maintenance and serious interventions goes up without some degree of preventive maintenance approach, yet carrying out time-based checks and overhauls may incur unnecessary cost.
The most effective maintenance programmes, according to Hupjé, are dynamic ones that may change and improve continuously with the aim of becoming more effective at preventing failures that matter to the business.
He advises focusing on the maintenance jobs that have greater leverage or benefit. This means eliminating unnecessary maintenance tasks, which reduces in terms of labour and materials saved as well as time and effort involved in planning, scheduling, managing and reporting on unnecessary maintenance.
He also advises replacing time-based overhauls with condition monitoring to assess how much life a component has left, rather than replacing too early, as well as extending task intervals by using data analysis, operation and maintenance insights.

How IoT and big data are changing how maintenance is done

More dynamic and responsive maintenance programmes rely on IoT, big data and cloud computing. The backbone of IoT infrastructure can consist of the built-in sensors in manufactured equipment that feeds real-time information to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, building management systems (BMS) or programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
According to IBM deploying and connecting sensors has become far less costly nowadays, while asset management and analytics software can make sense of large volumes of data.
Monitoring asset health and taking action on data from assets support more responsive maintenance programmes, enabling businesses to extract more value from their preventive maintenance efforts so that resources can be better used or redeployed in other areas. Maintenance programmes can be further enhanced when other relevant data can also be leveraged, for example the asset’s age, service history, failure history, as well as other data points through its lifecycle.
This information is typically stored in an enterprise asset management system, software that can provide a complete picture of asset health, by analysing current and historical sensor data, against each asset’s unique history. The combined use of sensors and also data analysis can reveal patterns in equipment condition and performance, and accurately predict when a failure might occur, eliminating unplanned downtime and enhancing productivity.

Using FSM software to help deliver targeted and responsive maintenance plans

Field service management (FSM) of FSM scheduling software was originally developed to enable organisations to better manage their teams of engineers, technicians or other personnel working on multiple assets and equipment. FSM is an industry-agnostic software, used by a diverse mix of companies supplying, installing and maintaining equipment, machinery and other assets, such as broadband infrastructure, electronic security systems, medical diagnostic imaging machines, smart meters and HVAC systems.

Digitising service and maintenance activities yields data for better maintenance

By collating information from different sources, including calendar schedules, addresses and GPS information, field service software coordinates logical schedules for each field team member, reducing overall travel time and mileage. Productivity of field service teams is further optimised since an FSM solution is able to store information that can enable field service engineers or other types of field service teams to carry out their jobs more efficiently. This information can be service history of the asset, images, service manuals and other documentation.
Through digitising lots of different types of information and record-keeping, such as work orders, service job completion forms, FSM functions as a repository for key data about an asset that can be analysed and acted upon to deliver more responsive and dynamic maintenance programmes.

Enable remote diagnostics wherever possible

FSM software can support remote-based diagnostics by providing back office teams with comprehensive information about the service history of an asset. A customer may report that an asset has a fault or issue, which the maintenance team can log and then decide on appropriate action. This can be done by reviewing the service history, which may allow for a remote fix by talking the customer through steps they can take, or even administering a remote, temporary fix, instead of immediately dispatching an engineer to site, saving on labour and other costs, like fuel.

Ensure maintenance-specific KPIs are met

Maintenance-specific key performance indicators (KPIs) can help an organisation meet a strategic, overall goal, such as cutting costs, for example. Targets for maintenance-specific KPIs, such as around asset performance, downtime, work order or inventory management can be used to help deliver strategic KPIs. Because FSM software digitises every aspect of maintenance activity from productivity of field service team members, to recording service jobs and history, this data can be used to enable more responsive maintenance plans and programmes that help deliver on maintenance-specific KPIs or targets.

Designed for software and IT systems integration

FSM solutions have been designed to integrate simply with different types of software and web services that organisations use, such as API and SOAP-based web services that can be easily connected to existing information systems, as well as leading enterprise management (ERP), enterprise asset management software or preventative maintenance software.
Many companies initially install FSM solutions to increase productivity of their field service teams, but this is the tip of the iceberg. This is sophisticated software that provides complete visibility into service and maintenance operations, collating and pulling together information that can be used to enhance maintenance programmes to be more responsive and predictive, helping reduce overall operations expenditure.