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Intelligent Maintenance - a journey towards eliminating breakdown

"No Breakdowns" - this has been and should be an ambitious goal of every maintenance business operation of an organization. Since the start of Industrial revolution, the approach towards the maintenance of any asset has evolved from breakdown to corrective to preventive to predictive. This evolution has proven the ultra-goal of every organization effort to 'to reduce asset down time due to breakdown and to improve uptime'. However due to operational challenges, there has been always a significant percentage of breakdown encountered by the assets and it is the ground reality widely accepted. There were many articles written on achieving 'No breakdowns' by implementing emerging concepts of Preventive and Predictive maintenance, however there were gaps. Some of the reasons for such gaps are - 

 • Lack of insights in the health of assets and their spare parts
 • Responding to monitoring alerts based on conditional deviations
 • Rigid maintenance programs without consideration to varying operational conditions
 • Missing link of redesign of assets by OEMs based on the feedback on operational parameters.
 • Difference in ownership on asset performance between Operation and Maintenance

As we move into an era of digitization - Fourth industrial revolution, we could see that assets are becoming more and more intelligent. It is eminent that there is a transformation happening where our maintenance is becoming more intelligent to bridge the gap on reaching our ultimate goal of eliminating breakdown completely. Here let us see some insights on Intelligent assets and salient points of intelligent maintenance.

Intelligent Assets:

Fourth Industrial Revolution which is being fueled by digital transformation and internet of things has emerged to be the buzz word now days across the industries. Assets are becoming 'smart' enough to sense, analyze, react and respond to the situations. These assets are well connected to communicate between each other efficiently. They have the inbuilt capabilities to monitor the condition of the numerous subcomponents and take appropriate decisions to modify the circumstances, send notifications on their locations (GIS coordinates), production capacity and availability which can be easily monitored and interpreted even from remote control rooms. The number of connected devices is expected to grow from a current figure of 10 billion to 25-50 billion by 2020. Hence, its time to move on to intelligent maintenance.

Intelligent Maintenance:

Intelligent Maintenance systems are taking the front run with the capabilities to bring in prognostics and machine learning to enhance the maintenance capabilities. They provide the real time health monitoring and predictions on failures, based on algorithms aiding in prevention of breakdowns. EAM applications are also redesigning themselves to help the organizations to implement intelligent maintenance aspects.
Intelligence gets imbibed into our maintenance with the intrusion of technological advancements and below are few examples:

a) Maintenance geared with Asset Insights

Wireless connectivity has enabled a virtual connected industrial facility in asset intensive industries like manufacturing. Highly automated machines have started connecting to each other to adjust their performance and output based on the signals received from the other assets in the material flow. Similarly, maintenance of these assets based on the established connectivity with maintenance software and tools helps in remote real time tracking and adjust / update maintenance programs / schedules based on the asset performance. EAM applications which are handling planning and schedule functions are tweaked to respond to these signals resulting in optimized maintenance schedules.
Machine Learning - the data analysis technique based on algorithms coupled with prognostics (often called as Prognostic Health Management) for future predictions on asset performance will eventually result in avoiding breakdowns. It also helps the organizations to take action on improving the processes, environment and replacement decisions.

Another topic of interest in similar lines is Asset Performance Management. I have written in detail about the APM( for further reference. APM is another area  adding value to the wellbeing of Assets with the help of IoT.
b) Real time Re-engineering:

Maintainability is one of the challenge OEMs were trying to enhance on every new release. IoT has helped in a concept called 'Closed loop life cycle design' where real time asset performance and maintenance parameters are directly captured by OEMs from the operator facilities which gives valuable insights on re-engineering the asset design to improve availability and maintainability. Automotive Powertrain systems design from Siemens PLM software is one such example. Fuel consumption data, emissions data from real time usage are interpreted to arrive at re-engineering the product to meet the regulatory / business demands.

c) Performance based Asset Contracts:

Power by hour concept was coined by Rolls-Royce 3 decades ago for their aircraft engines. This concept is based on customer paying the OEM as per the hours of usage. There were lot of risks involved when at that time this concept was introduced, as the real time performance of the assets where not so clearly visible to the OEMs but the ownership of ensuring uptime of the components was on their shoulders. With the dawn of an era which provides a window to insightful assets, the risk though not eliminated has been addressed prompting many OEMs to move toward Performance based contracts. Since they have a better real time visibility in terms of asset performance data, it helps them to reengineer and improve the efficiency of the assets to further ensure near no breakdown.

d) Self-Maintenance:

One of the challenge we mentioned earlier to achieve no Breakdown is the lack of information on condition of assets and their sub components in real time. In cases of geographically distributed assets in utilities (wind mills, solar systems, etc.), transformers and circuit breakers, Oil drills, excavators, etc., it becomes crucial to avoid breakdown in smarter ways. In aircrafts, there are equipment with Build in Test capabilities. We can test the condition of the equipment from far places and check the results. Similarly, IoT has enabled the possibility of assets taking self-correction and maintenance steps like self-lubrication, reduce operation speeds, bypass to alternative standby systems to potentially avoid breakdowns.
Another interesting concept is the Self-healing materials which are capable of avoiding disruption in distributions system such as gas, oil, water and sewage. This can now be effectively utilized to avoid breakdown by coupling this with IoT capabilities.

On a concluding note, the intelligent assets should be aided with intelligent maintenance capabilities to make the distant goal of 'No Breakdown' a true reality!!!

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