Uptime is often the simplest primary performance metric in high-volume industrial manufacturing and operations.
A programme or product’s profitability centres around making the part as efficient as possible. As a result, machine downtime negatively impacts overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Engineers recognised the importance of equipment uptime and developed processes, tests, and [both proactive and reactive] repair techniques to maximise OEE. They termed these tasks “industrial maintenance.”
Along with ensuring the productivity rate is as high as possible, these services also protect a plant’s high-value capital to increase asset reliability and performance while extending their lifetimes. It reduces material usage, improving sustainability and the industry’s total cost of equipment ownership.
Like many manufacturing applications, rugged technology is vital in delivering a comprehensive maintenance programme to increase OEE and production efficiency.
Understanding Industrial Maintenance Services
Effective planning starts with a strategy to define and quantify the baseline condition, then map out a plan of initial and ongoing processes to address the limiting process steps. Plans include four types of plant maintenance services: preventative, predictive, corrective, and emergency corrective action.
- Preventative maintenance consists of planned inspections, service, and minor wear-and-tear repair projects that avoid major equipment breakdowns. These processes address known failures with mature, validated solutions. Examples of preventative repair projects and solutions are changing the oil or lubrication at prescribed intervals or replacing tooling known to wear out after a known production quantity before it wears out.
- Predictive maintenance uses a broad range of data and numerical analysis to forecast likely machine or part failure based on measured trends the analysis extrapolates. Examples are components exposed to vibration or thermal cycles that exhibit material fatigue. Equipment that produces multiple component designs may not have a known wear pattern. Engineers can input measurement data on material deflection or deformation and predict how many more cycles or production runs the equipment can withstand.
- While preventative and predictive maintenance happens before a machine goes down, corrective maintenance occurs after a component fails. An example of this type of maintenance is an electrical or mechanical component failure. The objective of corrective maintenance is to return the equipment to service as soon as possible, so a comprehensive maintenance programme with a triage and plan of repair process can help significantly.
- Emergency corrective action is the response to an unexpected failure of variable magnitude. An unexpected failure can range from a bolt falling off to a major equipment malfunction. While the failure’s source may be unclear, the facility or engineering team needs to have a dedicated industrial service process to evaluate and correct the issue.
One challenge engineers face in creating industrial plant maintenance plans is access to sufficient reliable data measured at the asset location as close to real-time as possible. The team also needs to share this data between team members and rapidly distribute it throughout the site (and at other locations, potentially). Rugged technology is uniquely suited to address these challenges to enhance industrial plant maintenance.
Convergence of Industrial Maintenance and Rugged Technology
Engineers designed rugged technology to withstand harsh plant environments, enhancing service plans in several ways.
The first is enhancing field mobility and accessibility. Rugged tablets and laptops put the power of the internet into the field technicians’ hands, substantially reducing the time to address a failure. In addition, these devices shorten the distance between data collection and analysis. Like edge computing, rugged devices can collect and analyse sensor data in the field, improving the impact and quality of predictive and preventative maintenance at a facility.
The second benefit is streamlining communication and collaboration between maintenance team members, aiding in maintaining product quality. Enhanced collaboration removes physical location constraints of distributed teams to allow them to work together and focus on the task at hand. The more effectively and smoothly the team can work, the faster they can address the equipment failure.
Finally, rugged technology can mitigate environmental and operational hazards in plant environments. The technology can withstand extreme temperatures, dust, dirt, vibration, or moisture, providing the team with accurate data and analysis within harsh ambient conditions.
Key Benefits of Incorporating Rugged Technology into Industrial Maintenance Services
Rugged technology’s enhancements to industrial maintenance services provide four key business benefits to manufacturers, customers, and factory owners.
- Increased equipment uptime and asset reliability: Profitability of a manufactured part depends on OEE, and it leverages technology that handles the task in the field is essential to maximising uptime asset reliability.
- Cost-savings opportunities through optimised maintenance schedules: Real-time, local data collection and analysis increase the impact and accuracy of predictive and preventative maintenance. Increasing the fraction of time spent on these activities limits extended downtimes that inflate costs. Engineers can plan preventative repairs around production schedules instead of vice versa.
- Improved safety for maintenance personnel: Rugged devices allow industrial maintenance workers to operate in hazardous environments safely by maintaining data accuracy. Ambient sensors can also monitor the safety conditions to ensure oxygen or temperature levels do not exceed safe levels for humans.
- Enhanced data accuracy and decision-making processes: Data is king in Industry 4.0. Obtaining real-time, accurate data is the best way to arm the team with the best information to make rapid decisions on repairs, prioritise tasks effectively, and leverage supplemental resources while they repair the asset.
Real-world Applications of Rugged Technology in Industrial Maintenance
Two of Getac’s partners use rugged technology to improve their industrial maintenance services.
Dart Technologies (DARTT) used the V110 convertible laptop to enhance the digital pressure testing system in the oil and gas industry. The company realised a 15% faster response than the prior solutions they tried and enjoyed extreme environment durability while combining laptop and tablet functionality to analyse sensor data rapidly. The V110 increased the accuracy, performance, and reliability of their system.
Vaillant also used the V110 fully rugged laptop to improve reliability and ease of use for customer operations in its eco-friendly HVAC and hot water applications. With 200 customer service technicians and 160,000 annual on-site visits, the company uses the rugged device to enhance its products and clients’ industrial maintenance service quality and reliability.
Overcoming Implementation Challenges
Developing an industrial maintenance service comes with challenges to implement. Some of these hurdles include the initial investment in rugged technology. When evaluating the right time to move to rugged tech, clients must consider the risk and estimate efficiency and uptime improvements (boosting throughput) that can impact the payback estimate.
In addition, plant maintenance teams will need to be trained and upskilled in the operation of new technology and the mindset of how they should feel empowered to use the technology to improve productivity. Maximising machine uptime makes everyone’s work easier.
Finally, integrating the new technology with existing maintenance systems and workflows should be seamless to avoid the risk of technology-driven production disruption.
The Future of Rugged Technology and Industrial Maintenance
Rugged technology will continue improving, increasing accuracy and performance in harsh environments. In addition, the rise in advanced technologies like AI-driven manufacturing will combine with industrial maintenance to take rugged tech’s highly accurate measurement and analysis capability and execute some industrial plant maintenance and corrective measures automatically.
While human engineering staff will always need to address more complex and emergency cases, AI and machine learning will improve services from pre-failure maintenance services to the rugged technology advantages.
Industrial maintenance services are a crucial part of production environments, directly impacting OEE and the profitability of a manufactured component. They can define routine maintenance items, predict the next likely failures, or prescribe how the service team should respond to an unplanned or complicated issue.
Rugged technology equips field workers with the tools and capability to address critical events that could shut down a production line while protecting safety. Winning businesses like DARTT and Vaillant have demonstrated how a business can embrace rugged technology for sustainable growth and success in industrial maintenance situations while serving their customers more reliably.