An evolutionary challenge faces the maintenance function

It involves a mix of people and technology concerns, each one feeding off the other

By Kevin Parker March 11, 2020

What differentiates this year’s Plant Engineering maintenance study, an annual survey sponsored by Advanced Technology Services, Inc. (ATS), from previous editions of the study? It is a bald-faced recognition of the evolutionary challenge today facing the maintenance function.

As with most challenges today it involves a mix of people and technology concerns, each one feeding off the other.

Courtesy: Plant Engineering/ATS[/caption]

At ATS, an industrial maintenance services provider, this ongoing evolution has led to the introduction of a different kind of solution to meet market demand for highly skilled maintenance technicians.

Looking long term

“Manufacturers are realizing what’s needed is a long-term commitment to maintenance excellence,” said Jim Freaner, senior director, ATS. “Highly qualified individuals are required for the troubleshooting of complex systems, with a mix of electrical and mechanical knowledge, as well as computer skills.”

Courtesy: Plant Engineering/ATS[/caption]

“This complexity means maintenance personnel may be involved in PLC and CNC programming or in troubleshooting robotics. It’s the combination of highly technical skills with being enough of a jack-of-all-trades to be an effective troubleshooter that makes all the difference,” Freaner said.

For this reason, ATS offers a technical workforce solution that can over the long-term ensure the appropriately trained personnel are on-site, keeping factories up and running. This offering is in addition to its comprehensive maintenance solution and supplemental personnel services.

Study highlights

Highlights of the 2020 Plant Engineering industrial maintenance study include the following:

Respondents have worked in plant- or engineering-related positions for an average of 23 years.

Courtesy: Plant Engineering/ATS[/caption]

Respondents are located throughout the U.S., and especially in the south Atlantic, east north central and Pacific regions, and across a wide range of discrete manufacturing and process production industries.

Courtesy: Plant Engineering/ATS[/caption]

41% of respondents say the key challenge to improving maintenance is lack of resources or staff.

38% of respondents indicate they are making some use of handheld/mobile devices for plant maintenance.

Hiring, onboarding and retaining people is the primary challenge to their current maintenance program, according to 48% of respondents.

Courtesy: Plant Engineering/ATS[/caption]

29% of respondents say their managements are planning to implement predictive maintenance programs in the future.

48% of respondents say their companies are planning to or are currently using advanced technologies to capture machine data.

The thing about evolutions is they often eventually result in revolutionary change, like the kind we’ve seen in manufacturing environments in the last 30 years, and likely in the next 30 years as well.

Author Bio: Senior contributing editor, CFE Media