Manufacturers often feel they are in a constant state of “reacting” to various production issues such as unexpected downtimes or equipment failures. Combine this with the ever-present challenge of keeping equipment performing efficiently while adhering to the maintenance budget – and the case for preventative maintenance is clear!
Preventative maintenance assesses the condition of manufacturing equipment in order to identify maintenance issues that may creep up in between scheduled inspections. The purpose is to prevent machinery from breaking down or failing, resulting in unplanned outages.
It should be noted that the terms preventive and predictive often have different meanings depending on who you ask; and are often used interchangeably when it comes to describing maintenance plans. However, there is a distinction: preventative maintenance is generally based on averages and historical data of equipment whereas predictive maintenance is based on the real-time condition of a specific piece of equipment. An example of preventative maintenance is taking an oil sample at a given frequency to assess equipment health. An example of predictive maintenance is the use of real-time sensors to monitor equipment health, such as vibration. A combination of preventative and predictive maintenance methods is often ideal to achieve optimal equipment performance.
Companies, especially within the industrial sector, are becoming increasingly aware of the downtimes and costs resulting from unexpected equipment failures and are adopting preventative maintenance plans to secure a competitive edge. In addition to a plan to manage on-going maintenance of existing equipment through the life cycle, manufacturers are developing multi-year roadmaps to proactively plan equipment retrofits, upgrades, or replacements. The bottom line is to be proactive rather than reactive!
Benefits of Predictive Maintenance
There are several advantages of preventative and predictive maintenance, and below are some of the key benefits.
- Minimize Unplanned Downtimes: unexpected equipment outages or failures are costly as production comes to a halt and manufacturing deadlines are missed! Additionally, it is generally more expensive to make an unexpected repair or replacement as compared to planned maintenance tasks. Fewer unplanned downtimes result in increased profitability and operations efficiency. Additionally, production facilities that operate with more “up” time allow for improved inventory management, further lowering costs. Last, but not least, manufacturers who avoid unexpected outages maintain their solid reputation and elevate customer satisfaction.
- Higher Return on Investment: production equipment is usually a significant capital investment. By improving the care of the equipment with a preventative and predictive maintenance program, the life span and efficiency of the equipment will likely be extended.
- Improved Safety: preventive and predictive maintenance programs help ensure equipment is taken offline in a controlled manner for maintenance and does not shutdown or fail unexpectedly – resulting in a safer work environment.
The Impact of the IIOT on Maintenance
When considering equipment upgrades, it is important to keep in mind that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other technology advances are having significant impacts on how manufacturing facilities operate – so it is crucial to keep a vision for tomorrow’s manufacturing equipment in the forefront when making today’s decisions! Experts predict whole manufacturing floors will be populated by smart machines that are able to monitor themselves, schedule their own maintenance and provide constant monitoring. This future state will allow machines to interoperate and create dramatic efficiencies not possible today. Machines will do this by dynamically adjusting to manufacturing conditions to ensure maximum efficiency. The majority of manufacturers are expected to use a phased approach to slowly migrate equipment to Industry 4.0 requirements over the next decade, since very few companies have the luxury of starting their production strategies from scratch.
Maintenance programs that require manual data entry and tracking are slow and are often too “reactive” in nature – it is key to integrate smart, condition-based monitoring systems into existing manufacturing processes. With so many software solutions available provided as flexible options like SaaS, it is a good time to develop and implement a strategy that takes the guessing out of machine monitoring. Conveniently for users, there are several options available from complete software platforms that monitor everything from CNCs, robots, PLCs and test stands to simple offerings that are designed to provide real-time monitoring per single device. To make matters easier, a lot of these software providers offer their solutions via a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, which reduces the risk of overcommitting and lowers upfront costs.
These maintenance programs provide manufacturers with scheduled maintenance events based on known wear, use or observed conditions; dashboard monitoring and/or reporting available via desktop computer or mobile devices; uptime and throughput reports to monitor trends; intelligent adjustments to optimize operating conditions, and automated alarming provides alerts that will send alert condition messages to supervisory personnel to facilitate an immediate response.
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