Every equipment and its components have its own life cycle and eventually it will fail one day. But the question is when and how frequently? Can appropriate action be taken well in advance? It has a huge cost implication too — a 2015 study by SMRP shows that every 1% increase in mechanical availability can translate into a 10% reduction in maintenance cost.
While predictive and condition-based maintenance techniques have addressed some of these questions of how can you anticipate a failure before it actually happens – the question is, how can it be taken to the next level, such as better utilisation of plant equipment and improved cost management.
Today, there are great deal of promising new innovation trends of IoT (Internet of Things), which can generate real-time actions for better and efficient use of plant assets. Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is one such technology trend, which is finding a lot of tractions. IoT is described as the fourth big industrial revolution after steam, mass production, and the Internet. Is our predictive maintenance ready to take the next quantum leap leveraging IoT? How?
Shift in maintenance strategy over time
Undoubtedly, there has been a lot of advancement in maintenance strategy in last 20 years. The world has moved from reactive to preventive to predictive maintenance, which resulted in the benefits ranging ~25-35% reduction in maintenance cost, ~35-45% reduction in downtime, ~20-25% increase in production – as shown in a study by US department of energy (2010).
So, this is nothing new. An article by Thomas Hoenig mentions that predictive maintenance on spindles, pumps and motors using vibration and ultrasound is a proven method to manually collect and analyse data. But this is usually a periodic review where data recording and analysis will typically take 7 to 10 days. The cost of audit per machine is also high. Hence, considering the big investment, usage of this kind of technologies have only been restricted to high value machines and critical parts of equipment.
What is new?
Machine to machine communication can really make a difference in this space i.e. industrial maintenance, among its many other different applications. In today’s digital world, with hardware costs of sensors, chips, cameras becoming cheaper by the day, data acquisition is much less a challenge than through traditional ERP systems. Data transmission is also simpler and cost-effective through already existing mobile network.
Here are few examples of how M2M can change the way maintenance is done today. Undoubtedly, there can be many more
Real-time action: The true potential of M2M lies in a real-time analysis of machine data and decision automation. It needs to be integrated with the IT systems like ERP, CMMS and it can generate alarms, action recommendations and may be the best repair method also
Remote maintenance: Service visits can be cut down significantly through fixing the problem remotely by simply recalibrating operating parameters. Machines equipped with smart devices might also be able to auto correct itself to avoid failures
Spare parts planning: An integrated spares store with real-time monitoring of machine parts can trigger the ordering of critical parts at the right time, thus, avoiding any major break down. At the same time, it can have a tighter control of spares inventory level
Easier tracking and monitoring of tools: Automotive OEMs could be a great beneficiary from supplier management perspective. M2M can help OEMs to track and monitor tool health at supplier’s end without visiting them
Building smart shop floor: M2M can be a game changer for efficient management of energy and utilities in plants. This concept is already being used in switching street lights on and off automatically, in smart city concepts etc. IBM is using a slew of technologies, including IoT-based solutions, to digitally transform the Rashtrapati Bhavan in India, which includes energy, water and waste management.
There can be a world of opportunities in maintenance through applications of M2M, but this will only occur when the IoT seamlessly interacts with other IT systems such as ERP, CMMS software.
Some business use cases of M2M application follow as:
• John Deere has fitted its tractors sold globally with sensors. This helps the company update the farmer if a moving part of the tractor or the harvester is likely to fail, around one month before the event
• ATI Specialty Materials, a world leader in the production of special alloys and steels for the aerospace, oil & gas, and medical industries, uses the ThingWorx IoT platform from PTC—which provides a real-time layer that connects with their manufacturing, quality, maintenance, and ERP systems and allows them to rapidly create role-based decision support ‘dashboards’ and interactive applications
• Atlas Copco is using Vodafone global M2M communication services to monitor the performance and health of its compressed air products on customer sites around the world – delivering vital new intelligence for both its research & development (R&D) and service support teams
Potential of M2M in Indian context
According to 6Wresearch, India Machine to Machine (M2M) modules market is expected to reach $98.38 million by 2016, with a CAGR of 33.81% from 2011-2016. Cellular M2M modules are expected to grow with relatively highest CAGR of 35.32% for the same period.
Government’s ‘Make in India’ program has given a lot of emphasis on indigenous capabilities of M2M-based innovations and domestic manufacturing of related equipment. To promote manufacturing in M2M domain, a large number of initiatives are being taken by Department of Telecom.
The way forward…
Imagine, a smart shopfloor where machines would correct parameters by itself before a quality defect is likely to occur or would stop the motor before it is about to trip thus avoiding a major breakdown or OEMs would get know the conditions of the tool (use or misuse!) at suppliers’ factory without even asking the supplier!
Life of the shopfloor people would become much simpler if we can reap the benefit of this breakthrough technology called M2M, which is now in a nascent stage but ready to revolutionise the way the plants operate today.
Is it too distant a dream? We don’t think so.