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Maintenance optimization in times of Industry 4.0

Author articles – Anton Krotyuk.

In this article I would like to share the view and general approach regarding how we as TeraWatt Group and our partner ALD Engineering & Consulting company understand the way optimization of maintenance process could bring tangible benefits and profit.

The standard approach looks rather obvious and logical – if some organization does the maintenance properly and on time, they could expect that it minimizes the risk of machine failures and related downtime. The organization might also expect that it prolongs the equipment lifetime thereof. Thus, excluding downtime and reducing OPEX costs (shifting and/or reducing repairment charges) organization has clear benefits and profit.

On the other hand – maintenance is not cheap. Organization is supposed to have maintenance engineers and pay for their working hours, tools, trainings. The time, preserved for maintenance works, potentially could reduce manufacturing time. Altogether it means tangible costs.

So, in the end it is a question of defining proper balance in doing as much of maintenance works as it really makes sense. But how to define this balance? Which tools could be used in order to calculate that precisely? Of course, it depends on location, industry, availability of proper maintenance staff, etc. We have talked to our partners and customers trying to answer these questions and our conclusion is that there is definitely not any solution “one size fits all”. Nevertheless, we see that it makes sense to consider some steps and/or general strategy, which may be useful for any enterprise.

First step is to define the equipment for which it makes sense to do maintenance at all from two perspectives: economical and the impact it may cause on the process uptime. I will give you a good example. One of our customers has a lot of pumps on site. Almost all of them are working in pairs – one is always in operation and another is in standby. Thus, in case anything happens to one pump, the process goes further using standby pump. Then, according to the calculation of the customer, it is cheaper to run the pump to death and then simply change it than to do maintenance. Of course, this rule is valid for pumps up to certain size.

Which information could be used within this step? We suggest using process designer / manufacturer’s recommendations as well as own statistics as a key in order to define the right list of equipment to take care of.

The second step is flexible scheduling of maintenance works. The key point here is to plan and update regularly the schedule according to the real state of equipment. The main goal is to do maintenance exactly for the equipment which might bring the maximal risk of downtime. We suggest using Sakura software by ALD Engineering and Consulting as a very appropriate tool for automatic maintenance scheduling and control.

Regarding proper automatic updating the schedule using current equipment status, we consider the following approaches as aligned with this concept.

1. To use information about the equipment, which is already available in the existing control system(s).

2. To consider linking schedule to motor-hours instead of monthly/weekly/etc. basis where it makes sense.

3. To use condition monitoring instrumentation and analytics in order to link maintenance scheduling to the exact state of equipment.

4. To use predictive maintenance tools in order to furthermore minimize risks of downtime and adjust maintenance scheduling accordingly.

It may happen, that mentioned tools might be too expensive in case we consider stationary condition monitoring solutions. We may suggest that in some cases having mobile tools and right methodology of checking the equipment may be more beneficial. Very important thing here is to update the general schedule with the information of such checks.

So to summarize all the mentioned above, we believe that having well balanced system, which automatically creates and updates maintenance schedule using real-time data about current equipment status and condition, could optimize the maintenance process, minimize the related costs and improve whole user experience.

Please find below the link to the presentation with more technical details of how we technically approach mentioned strategy.

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