As we strive ever onwards into a world dominated by technology, machinery and real-time data, we are, as a species, finding that it is now possible to only create materials and goods that would never previously have been possible.

However, it is important to note that as technology continues to advance, we are increasingly relying upon AI, computer systems, data and automatic processes. Our home and work lives are dominated by such technology, and we are all guilty of, to some degree, taking it for granted.

However, in the end, everything deteriorates or breaks. No matter the quality of a piece of hardware or equipment, its ability to operate at full capacity will not be indefinite, and repairs will always be necessary at some point.

To that end, predictive maintenance is something that many businesses are adopting, but what exactly is it, and what benefits is it likely to provide?

The rough outline

Predictive maintenance is, quite simply, a system that predicts when a piece of machinery or equipment is liable to stop running efficiently. This is done through the collection of data through clever analytics which contains information about how similar pieces of kit have performed in the past and can, therefore, estimate when working items are likely to deteriorate. They can then be repaired at a time suitable for the business – during a period of planned downtime, for example – to keep disruption to a minimum.

The benefits

Estimates suggest that around half of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is caused by equipment failure. In the past, most companies have simply run their machines into the ground, only contemplating the idea of repairs when they have very clearly broken.

This is, however, incredibly inefficient; it will often necessitate the ordering of specific parts, which means that entire work lines can be down for days – maybe even weeks – while awaiting the part’s arrival. By utilising predictive maintenance, such delays can, in essence, be eradicated.

Increased efficiency over time

One of the most valuable benefits associated with predictive maintenance is that the more you use it, the more efficient and accurate it will become. Predictive maintenance systems are designed to learn from past performance and then create outputs on the back of those results. The sooner you make use of predictive maintenance, the sooner your business will be able to reap financial and productivity rewards.

The idea behind predictive maintenance is to be proactive enough to undertake repairs or diagnostics just in time to prevent extended periods of downtime. The information gleaned from predictive maintenance can also be used to better predict and prevent issues in the future as well as helping to streamline production.

Why your company should incorporate predictive maintenance

When the scheduling of maintenance becomes routine, your company can optimise productivity. A better understanding of the performance of your assets helps to streamline your production and improve on the quality of your output.

Having access to data also gives your company an insight into the health and load capacities of each machine on your production line. This makes it easier to watch for trends and anomalies like breaks or spikes in the information. Understanding how these anomalies relate to the performance of your machine will help you to maximise plant activity at all times.

How forecasting is useful

Historical data helps your company to predict future events. The goal of forecasting from a predictive maintenance perspective is to:

• Highlight which assets are most likely to fail
• Draw up a timeline of when your assets need to be serviced
• Point out the reason for asset failure

A maintenance forecast will help you to co-ordinate field service – automation will allow you to choose the most convenient times for maintenance (such as a night shift or off-peak day where production levels are low). Deployed maintenance personnel will also have access to all relevant information pertaining to faults/issues with your assets.

Optimising your production with predictive maintenance

Sustainable production is reliant on waste reduction during the lifetime of your assets. Predictive maintenance can help to optimise production by identifying underlying causes of downtime, thereby allowing you to avoid them in the future. Ultimately, this leads to a more cost-effective, streamlined and industry 4.0 friendly production process.

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