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Modernize Maintenance of Production Equipment with CMMS in the Era of the 4th Industrial Revolution
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Modernize Maintenance of Production Equipment with CMMS in the Era of the 4th Industrial Revolution

  • Katarina Knafelj Jakovac

    February 24, 2024

The renowned 4th Industrial Revolution has already extensively penetrated all industrial sectors. The pressure on competitiveness and business efficiency has never been greater, and production-oriented companies must rapidly adapt to market demands if they wish to remain in the market.

One way to improve business is by establishing a quality equipment and machinery management system, using modern technologies and digital tools.

Asset maintenance has great potential to achieve savings by employing various computer systems in combination with machine learning, proactive work planning, and active participation of all involved employees.

Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) lead business processes and consolidate all necessary maintenance data.

For example, using the Metrikon software for maintenance management, we will see how to increase the efficiency of mechanical maintenance and keep pace with the 4th industrial revolution.

Adapting Maintenance to the 4th Industrial Revolution

The 4th Industrial Revolution has brought us the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and mechanical machines, forever changing the way machines collect and interpret data.

Production processes are interconnected to allow machine learning and minimal human involvement, while data exchange occurs in real-time communication between humans and robots.

Machines in production facilities have been and will always be subject to wear and require maintenance.

Traditional corrective maintenance practices involve waiting until the machine stops or breaks down before the diagnostic process detects potentially defective parts and then replaces them.

The question arises: how effective is such a maintenance strategy in the long run considering the consequences for the environment, people, assets, and profit?

Many machine parts are consumable and naturally tend to wear out due to environmental factors.

Therefore, intensive monitoring and recording can predict how long these parts will last and introduce fixed maintenance intervals.

Production heavily relies on delivering products on time, so the main requirement is to minimize machine failures, hence minimizing downtime.

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Image: Characteristics of previous industrial revolutions

At the same time, increased maintenance needs represent increased costs, higher resource engagement, and more production losses. In recent years, the goal has been to introduce maintenance strategies that can predict maintenance needs before a breakdown occurs.

Condition-based maintenance is one such method; it relies on measuring machine operating parameters using advanced technologies, e.g., thermal camera inspections to detect thermal losses or leaks.

Computerized Maintenance Management System CMMS has become a standard tool for planning maintenance work and tracking costs.

One such digital tool is Metrikon. This maintenance management computer system provides robust functionality for managing facility assets, tracking assets, and managing work orders to simplify maintenance performance.

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Metrikon includes the following functionalities:

  • Assets: It consolidates various categories such as machinery and equipment, plant sections, and spaces. Data input methods include integration from ERP systems or via Excel spreadsheets, along with documentation attachment to assets.

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  • Work Orders: Real-time tracking of work order execution, assignment of tasks per work order, real-time notifications about active work orders, items in stock, and maintained assets.

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  • Metrics and Indicators: Total costs of work orders, labor costs on work orders, inventory material costs, total quantity and value of consumed, purchased, or stock basis, total number of successful/unsuccessful work orders, number of downtimes, and asset downtime duration.

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  • Inventory: Movement history of materials and spare parts, ensuring minimum stock and critical parts for installation, multiple warehouse capability, overview of total and average value per item, input/consumption history, addition of supporting documents such as videos, images, certificates, and attestations to items.

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Implementing CMMS in maintenance business processes elevates the existing level of maintenance efficiency as it provides direct insight into the company's maintenance works and guidelines in which areas there is room for optimization of maintenance activities.

Software configuration is fast as it is a cloud-based system accessed via the internet using a computer or mobile device from any location and at any time desired.

Data important for conducting maintenance activities can be automatically imported into the application, eliminating the need for manual transmission during system initialization.

CMMS can be integrated with existing company IT systems such as ERP.

Metrikon is developed on publish-subscribe technology using the MQTT protocol, supporting the establishment of IIoT infrastructure for data exchange among various hardware-software systems.

A classic example of working in IIoT infrastructure conditions would be receiving data on production line PLC errors and automatically creating a work order in Metrikon based on that data.

The asset management computer system provides the possibility of comprehensive planning, tracking, and optimization of asset maintenance activities, resulting in improved efficiency, cost reduction, and minimized asset downtime.

Reducing maintenance costs is achieved by saving time in conducting maintenance activities by speeding up communication among all employees, automatically collecting necessary data for maintenance analysis, and making all maintenance information and service documentation available in one place.

Business improvement using CMMS is realized through organizing preventive maintenance by predefining material and labor costs and making corrections for cost optimization.

In addition to this, cost reduction can be achieved by effectively managing spare parts inventory to avoid stockouts and excessive quantities of spare parts that should not be in stock in large quantities.

Predictive maintenance is based on predicting failures by analyzing collected data and applying predictive models.

The use of new technologies now gives precedence to equipment condition monitoring as it continuously monitors the condition of consumable parts such as belts or bearings.

Condition monitoring is the process of monitoring machine operating parameters (vibration, temperature, pressure, etc.) to identify significant changes that can be interpreted as signs of the initial stage of failure.

By combining condition monitoring and CMMS, we enable the computer to receive a larger amount of data to create a more accurate maintenance plan.

One of the new concepts introduced by the 4th Industrial Revolution is Cyber-Physical Maintenance Systems.

It serves the same purpose as CMMS (maintenance work planning) but is simultaneously cybernetically connected to machines to collect data using sensors during production and sense the need for maintenance and plan maintenance activities.

Despite justified reasons for proactive maintenance, maintenance works are often postponed depending on the accuracy of data reflecting the condition of parts of the production machine.

With numerous technological advancements, the factory of the future will require an update to the maintenance concept.

A large amount of data collected through sensors without prior sorting depends on importance or usefulness.

An example is a processing plant that collects data every second to control the production process and generates around 31,536,000 data points from just one sensor throughout the year.

Observing each data point individually will not create a basis for initiating maintenance activities; however, data analysis can identify patterns and trends used to improve maintenance works, make decisions, or create capital projects.

Production systems already continuously collect data from production machines and feedback control production processes.

These data can be used in real-time and then archived. By mining data and applying analytical methods for analysis, these data can be accessed and used to develop maintenance software or provide quality feedback to maintenance and production employees.

The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) and access to a larger amount of data from production systems provide an opportunity for quality maintenance work planning in combination with scrap-free production, thereby increasing competitiveness and productivity.

What habits do companies practice for efficient maintenance of mechanical equipment?

Every manufacturing company, regardless of its size and production capacity, has the need for equipment maintenance and physical asset management.

Efficient mechanical maintenance contributes to the company's productivity with constant effort to be completed within deadlines, with optimally allocated resources, and with the lowest possible costs.

Now let's consider what habits in equipment maintenance management are practiced by world-leading companies – leaders in mechanical maintenance – to remain competitive and advance in the market.

I must preface that none of the habits mentioned are absolute and 100% applicable in all industries. Instead, they serve as a set of guidelines and ideas in which areas we have the opportunity to improve daily production equipment maintenance.

Let's go through them:

Proactive maintenance of machines is the first habit practiced by successful companies, involving predefining which maintenance works will be carried out and within what timeframe. It encompasses resource, material, and work schedule planning.

Reactive maintenance, like a fire brigade, responds urgently when a certain machine breaks down, especially if it's critical.

Conversely, proactive companies have established preventive maintenance programs and plan work based on continuous equipment condition monitoring, thereby increasing the reliability of machines and consequently, the entire production process.

When reliability-centered maintenance programs are consistently applied, companies manage the equipment's condition, as opposed to reactive maintenance where the equipment dictates maintenance methods to the company.

Successful companies have realized they must move towards reducing or completely eliminating breakdowns by applying predictive maintenance in combination with consistent planning and scheduling of work.

Maintenance departments have planned works and consistently follow them.

According to a survey by the European Federation of National Maintenance Societies, 76% of respondents believe their companies continuously strive to invest in and improve maintenance, 19% of respondents believe quite the opposite, while 5% of respondents have no opinion on the state of equipment and the use of advanced maintenance techniques.

Companies that advance in competitiveness through maintenance improvement understand that they must change and proactively invest in maintenance development to progress and increase market profits.

Setting goals and regularly reviewing existing goals is the second habit practiced by successful companies in mechanical maintenance.

An efficient company has developed strategic plans for various departments involving all employees.

Plans exist in digital form and are accessible to everyone.

Plans relate to maintenance strategy — which maintenance approach is a priority?

Which works are pre-planned and scheduled?

Who, when, and based on what criteria determines which machines will be repaired first?

The reliability strategy is checked – are predictive maintenance techniques applied to all equipment installed in the facilities or only to certain machine systems?

Will you use real-time condition monitoring or weekly equipment inspection route-based monitoring?

Do you use the results of preventive maintenance analysis to improve the current situation?

Do you have trained employees for the development and implementation of reliability-centered maintenance methodologies?

Material management strategy – is the warehouse filled with spare parts according to needs or is the warehouse constantly overloaded regardless of actual needs?

What criteria are used to make decisions on the quantity of material in the warehouse?

Do you have defined lists of spare parts in the computerized maintenance management system CMMS? Who enters and monitors data?

Employee training strategy – do you have defined plans for the professional development of employees responsible for machine maintenance?

Do you have a sufficient number of specialized employees, subcontractors, tools, and equipment to implement defined maintenance strategies?

Answers to such and similar questions indicate the maintenance state of the company by identifying successful areas and less successful areas where future work is needed to improve and advance the company's development. This strategy is linked to the habit of continuous competency development of employees.

Efficient companies have recognized the need to invest in knowledge and skills of employees to remain competitive and advance in the market.

When companies proactively educate and train employees, they should do so depending on the ultimate goal they want to achieve, for example, maintenance education towards reliability makes little sense if employees have not yet mastered the basics of preventive maintenance.

First, determine the level of knowledge and skills employees possess depending on the company's development strategy, then determine which training and workshops are needed, for how many employees, and at what level of complexity.

Developing new skills is doubly beneficial, firstly, employees' level of competence increases, and secondly, the company benefits by employing educated workers who contribute to its competitiveness.

Companies that do not have clearly defined goals and dedication to their achievement adopt tools and methods to increase reliability haphazardly and without prior planning and later analysis, without utilizing all the benefits of a quality reliability program.

Haphazard implementation of any maintenance program without basic understanding and analysis is a long-term futile endeavor.

With the ultimate goals in mind, dedication to developing an efficient company, utilizing all the benefits of CMMS, planning and scheduling maintenance work in advance, and regularly conducting analyses of causes and consequences of failures, long-term results are achieved and the investment is returned in the form of reliable plant operation, minimal breakdowns and unplanned downtime, and higher profits.

Paradoxically, the main goal of effective maintenance should be as few maintenance activities as possible with a predictable daily routine.

Goal orientation based on preventive maintenance plans is a habit of professional management.

It is necessary to organize and schedule work in line with predefined goals.

If the goals are paramount (or a mental vision of what we want to achieve with maintenance), then goals in the physical world manifest through organized plan implementation.

Documented maintenance plans allow timely determination of work order priorities.

The steps in successful maintenance plan implementation are determined depending on the assessment of existing maintenance practices and the existing level of equipment reliability (or its lack).

Usually, the best results are achieved when, after a certain period, an independent analysis and assessment are performed.

Steps for improvement resulting from this include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • Business processes (establishing an organizational culture focused on reliability, developing key performance indicators KPIs, developing workflow for all significant tasks),

  • Basic mechanical elements (establishing spare parts lists, equipment priorities based on criticality),

  • Inventory management strategy (standardizing spare parts inventory content, developing spare parts lists, integrating warehouse operations into business processes, optimizing available stock),

  • Reliability (determining basic requirements for predictive maintenance, regular FMEA analyses, root cause and consequence analyses RCMA, application of appropriate predictive maintenance methods, development and optimization of preventive maintenance),

  • Employee training (assessment of existing skills, development of new maintenance skills, training plans according to needs).

Each step in the plan should be monitored, results measured, adjusted as needed, and adhered to in sequence.

When a simultaneous failure of two equally important machines occurs, employees should start repairing based on the criticality of the machine for the production process and according to priority.

For simplification, it is recommended to use the Urgent/Important priority matrix, also known as the Eisenhower matrix.

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In the I quadrant, there are companies that predominantly conduct reactive maintenance, where fixing every new reported breakdown is both urgent and important.

No prioritization is done, there's no critical approach to maintenance, and everything must be fixed as soon as possible.

This approach is not only stressful and exhausting but also does not yield any long-term results, completely neglecting any goals and planning aimed at increasing operational reliability and the company's competitiveness.

In other words, the road to hell is paved with the rush to urgently fix breakdowns.

In the II quadrant, there are important activities that do not require an immediate reaction, such as equipment inspections, predictive maintenance, opening work orders for upcoming tasks, and inputting data into CMMS.

The long-term goal should be transitioning from the I to the II quadrant and a proactive focus on planned tasks, which are ultimately cheaper than reactive repairs.

The more time we spend in the II quadrant, the better results we'll achieve in maintenance.

In the III quadrant, there are unimportant tasks that are given priority over important ones, mainly due to the uncertainty of involved participants and insufficient knowledge of equipment or production processes.

These tasks provide short-term benefits or mental security but come at the expense of planned tasks, disrupting the whole concept of efficient resource allocation, causing interpersonal conflicts, work confusion, and shifting/avoiding responsibilities.

In the IV quadrant, there are unimportant tasks that are not urgent. We are aware that such tasks need to be done at some point during the year, but there's no pressure or strictly defined deadlines, e.g., annual landscaping along roadsides, minor asphalt crack repairs, replacing damaged fences around plant boundaries, etc. Successful companies in seeking maintenance solutions start by asking how a certain activity will affect existing processes?

If it improves one process but harms others, in the long run, it means the proposed activity is not beneficial.

All solutions must improve the situation for all participants involved in the process since we're all part of the same process/company.

Continuous and concrete communication helps in scheduling maintenance work plans within a reasonable time frame and allows for efficient resource utilization.

Also, communication involves active listening to maintenance personnel, production operators, and contractors – understand what is really going on before taking action to develop positive relationships among people.

What does it mean when someone says "NO"?

When someone insists that a machine with a power of over 100 kW must be returned from repair within 12 hours, it may mean expressing certain requirements or expectations, but it may also be impractical or unrealistic, especially when it comes to quality repairs of complex faults that take longer, especially in the case of reactive maintenance due to an unplanned breakdown.

Until we truly understand why the concerned stakeholders are worried, we are unable to find a solution that will be mutually beneficial.

Efficient companies ensure that all stakeholders express their concerns about potential consequences before taking specific actions.

Synergy is a habit of constant mutual cooperation, reminding us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which means that we need to seek and include a common contribution.

To achieve a winning solution for all stakeholders, it is necessary to proactively participate and determine what needs to be achieved by maintaining machines in the production process.

Perhaps a repair of a machine takes longer because it is necessary to manufacture new parts that are currently not available in stock and whose delivery takes several months, or there were no available welders to repair a damaged spiral housing, etc.

This way, information about existing problems, ways to solve them, and the effort invested in finding solutions are clearly and unambiguously conveyed.

Common activities that achieve synergy include reliability-centered maintenance, root cause analysis (RCA), ranking equipment according to criticality for the production process, and analyzing feedback on previously planned work orders and the work performed according to them.

To summarize, the habits of companies that conduct efficient mechanical maintenance are joint action, constant communication, collaboration, setting goals, and focused action to achieve those goals, as well as continuous proactivity.

Katarina Knafelj Jakovac
Katarina Knafelj Jakovac social media icon
February 24, 2024

Katarina Knafelj Jakovac holds Master degree in Mechanical engineering with long term work experience in Oil industry. She is Certified Reliability Leader specialized for mechanical equipment and operational excellence. Author of blog Strojarska Radionica (Mechanical Workshop) where she shares professional knowledge and personal experience in maintaining various rotating machines, machine systems and process equipment. Adores mechanics, thermal engineering and internal combustion engines. She is dedicated to the continuous improvement of machine maintenance and quality management of physical assets.