Using software in predictive maintenance, part 2: Mobile’s role in maintenance, case studies

Michael Hardy and Ed Garibian cover mobile’s role in maintenance management and examine case studies on how companies overcame challenges.

By Plant Engineering November 15, 2023

Predictive and preventive maintenance insights

  • Mobile technology is crucial for proactive maintenance management, providing technicians with instant access to critical information, reducing time and effort.
  • Consider form factor and specifications when implementing a mobile strategy, tailored to the environment and technicians’ needs for optimal effectiveness.
  • Successful maintenance strategies require cross-departmental collaboration, involving engineering, IT, purchasing, and operations teams, emphasizing continuous improvement for enhanced outcomes.

Michael Hardy, vice president of asset management at Bureau Veritas and Ed Garibian, CEO of Llumin, go over mobile’s role in maintenance management and provide an overview on several case studies from the Oct. 17, 2023, webcast: “Using software in predictive maintenance.” This has been edited for clarity.

Michael Hardy: One of my favorite topics in maintenance management is really understanding the mobile technology’s role in any proactive strategy. I don’t really go many places these days where I’m not seeing technicians equipped with mobile devices because if you combine a mobile device with the CMMS, it’s a very powerful tool for organizations that are looking to adopt a proactive approach to maintenance management. And by levering the technology, anticipate and address maintenance needs before they become costly problems. That speaks a lot to the communications aspects of it. And I think most of us understand we can push out work orders and that sort of thing.

However, as we consider mobile devices, we first understand that the mobile device is not magic. It is not a replacement for making any of the important decisions that Ed just talked about in the last section, determining how you’re going to do your work. It really is just a tool, but it’s a tool that can save a technician, a lot of time, wasted effort, and just general headaches. It’s powerful to have the information that they need at their fingertips. And depending on how the system is set up, it can include a lot. Basically become a library of warranty information, maintenance manual, SOPs for preventive maintenance and other schematics, other kinds of information that they wouldn’t normally carry around with them but can help them get in the field. Using the mobile device, they can also push data to the system so they can collect data on what they’re seeing, update the work that’s needed and update the asset information as well. You’ve got a positive cycle that is reinforcing good practice and good data.

The other piece really is to consider the form factor and device specifications when you’re putting together a mobile strategy. So what should you consider, depends a lot on your device. For many technicians and general-purpose environment, a cell phone is really all they need. It has all the features they want to have, it’s big enough, they’re used to using it. That’s all in the plus column.

On the other hand, you could be in an environment where you require tough devices or hardened equipment that can withstand being abused, working in high vibration, high temperature environments, those sorts of things. You also have to understand how the technicians themselves are kitted out. So, does the work require them to wear gloves? Will a touchscreen work or do they need a stylus? Are they in very hot or very cold environments? How’s that going to affect things? Maybe they need a larger device like a tablet device.

Connectivity is the other thing. Can they rely on a Wi-Fi connection back to the CMMS or do they need the ability to be able to work offline to work on cellular only and those sort of things. I think the biggest thing to consider as some of us are not as young as we used to be, the workforce is aging. And as newer, younger people are coming into the workforce and taking some of these many positions that are open, they have an expectation that technology, especially mobile technology, will be part of the package as they do their work. It’s an important topic and deserves some attention in how you cover it. So finally, Ed’s going to tell us a few case studies where folks have implemented some technology and these processes.

Predictive maintenance case studies

Ed Garibian: Here’s the actual gas or gas gathering plant, out in the west. And their issue, obviously the size of all the equipment, extended about 900 miles including sensors and pipelines and wells and all that. So this organization is highly automated. And so really, it’s not so much adding automation in their world. Their world was using, it’s so many data points that needed to monitor that represented the health of their operations that that became a challenge, figuring out a way to use all that data remotely because they had to do that. And then coming up with a process that give them much more proactive and predictive outcomes.

The organization was able to implement a CMMS that integrated to both, its control systems and in those remote locations, IoT sensors, and they’re able to monitor remotely based on their predictive and preventive maintenance practices, mostly focused on temperatures and pressure as we talked about earlier, depending on the asset type, any parameter or any condition might be important. In this case, they were really focused on temperatures and pressures, and this allowed them to literally run their entire asset management strategy around these parameters remotely. These are some of the outputs or outcomes they achieve. As I said, practically measuring the condition of equipment using both historical and condition-based rules, and then setting up actions, preset rules that once an out spec occurrence occurred or was indicated, then actions were delivered to the CMMS for the technicians to go out and address.

Another opportunity was with, this is a European company, hydro power plants, and actually it’s a European company that deployed the plants in Asia. And when I say Asia, I mean you’re talking some really remote locations. Some of the equipment was automated, in other words, it had control systems around it to monitor data, but a lot of it was completely disconnected, all in the same plant. That presented some sort of a challenge. Like I said, the geography of these plants are crazy remote. And so the resources that they have to do work and all that are mixed. Some are contractors, some are internal, that sort of thing.

They deployed an asset management software solution with integration of the control system for the assets that had intelligence and then also used mobile. And as Michael said, these guys actually did use a combination of disconnected mobile and connected at the plant level, but then outside of the plants, because of the obviously remoteness, a lot of times they had no Wi-Fi and certainly no cell. They were able to take advantage of disconnected mobile data collection to constantly gather data points to then historize and trigger off of, as well as in some cases connected mobile.

Let’s see, yes, and then they did sort of criticality ratings and all that. And in their case, because so many of the employees were multilingual and all that, even though the software supported multilingual, there was complications in the fact that at each site, there wasn’t consistency in language. They used a lot of images and graphics to depict assets. So asset statuses, which the technicians knew based on color codes, sort of where to go, that sort of thing.

We talked about the graphical UI already, but they had very elaborate asset structures and hierarchies, parent, child, grandchild, great grandchild and all that. And the way that I guess these power plants work, I mean they had multiple utilization points on the same asset structure that would trigger different types of recurring work, some calibration centric, some actually PM centric. So, all-in-one asset hierarchy they had to manage or monitor multiple utilization levels and separate those out for different recurring work schedules.

The last one here is completely different. This is a corrugated manufacturing organization, heavily processed of course, continuous process, and very high-speed corrugated production and the process, and many you guys probably are familiar with this, I mean the machine itself is like a football field of length. It’s quite a piece of equipment. And so, their solution was in their case, since it is a 24/7 type operation, it was vitally important to not only integrate the maintenance management solution to the control system, but also parts and tooling and spares and all that is vitally important to them. They also integrated with their ERP and they’re very mobile as well. I think most of this is connected mobile, but in some parts they need a disconnected as well.

This is an example of where the different products, different thicknesses of corrugated board running in the same machine changed the periodicity of how many feet were run before maintenance trigger was enacted, so kind of little different tack there. Like I said earlier, making sure that the parts were there on time and the correct parts and all that is vitally important. That was part of what drove the ERP integration and a very large facility. The mobile tablets and phones or whatever they ended up using was really important for making sure that the technicians were able to get the information they need at the point of work and all that kind of stuff. So speed of MTTR basically.

What I want to just talk about is part of what we talked about today was also understanding where maintenance is only one part of the story. Once you get to a certain level of maintenance strategy, it really becomes an organizational issue. So I want to just spend a few minutes talking about cross-departmental communication and the need for that in order to achieve some of these goals. And obviously, and Michael talked about this on recurring maintenance, but overall in order to really elevate your processes ongoing continuous improvement is important, as well.

Obviously front and center, the maintenance and asset management teams are really the corner piece or the centerpiece of all of what we’re talking about today. Honestly, successful outcomes are only going to be achieved when it’s recognized that this is a top-down initiative and it’s an organization-wide initiative because all the maintenance techniques we talked about today, all the different opportunities for elevating maintenance is impacted or can’t be successful without collaboration.

Michael talked about how to optimize or ways of optimizing recurring maintenance. Well, obviously for the assets that you choose to do utilization-based maintenance triggers off of, you’re going to need engineering support. You’re going to need IT support because nothing can be done without making sure that it’s secure.

Even though that recurring maintenance ostensibly is a planned action, we always want to drive down the time to repair, right? We won’t just want to drive down MTTR levels. Having the right tools, the right vendors, the right suppliers engaged and the purchasing department, all that is also an illustration of the collaboration needed in order to do this really well.

We also talked about TPM and autonomous maintenance. Well, as you saw, it’s blatant, doing autonomous maintenance heavily involves maintenance and probably engineering team with production and operations. So that’s a collaboration that has to happen.

And then we looked at predictive maintenance and they get here again, obviously determining what conditions matter, what conditions represent a true picture of health on an asset. And then collecting that data and using it for predictive outcomes involves engineering, it involves It of course, on the security side, and the controls guys and all of that.

And then finally, mobile. So whether the mobile workforce demands like disconnected and offline apps or connected apps either way, and whether you’re going to use cellular for field applications, or Wi-Fi, It has to be involved and making sure that that goes well and security is maintained.

In terms of continuous improvement, Michael talked about this when speaking about optimizing recurring maintenance schedules and strategies, but all of this is dependent on understanding based on experiences, root cause analysis, understanding that we want to constantly, constantly be applying what we’ve learned and always looking for ways to suggest improvements, whether it’s parts replacements, parts upgrades, vendor changes, procedure changes and maybe even changing the frequency of recurring work. Anything and everything that we can do to constantly improve on the output and the outcomes of our maintenance teams and our maintenance actions, I think has got to be built into the DNA of all of this.

When you do that, your maintenance and operations flywheel will accelerate and that we are hoping that today you guys learn some stuff that can, in fact, help you with your internal maintenance and operations flywheel and help you predict, prevent, and be more prepared as you embark on a next level maintenance and asset performance management chart.