Embracing IIoT's potential for maintenance

Companies can and should embrace and apply critical aspects of IIoT, including machine learning, analytics, and mobility.


Companies can and should embrace and apply critical aspects of IIoT, including machine learning, analytics, and mobility. Courtesy: EmersonThe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the concept of IIoT for Maintenance are popular buzzwords in the maintenance world today. But what do they mean, and how can these concepts benefit maintenance professionals attempting to meet production demands, increase productivity and boost the bottom line?

The IIoT story has evolved far beyond what it was when it was first introduced to me 15 years ago. In the early days, there was reluctance from upper management to embrace IIoT. Today, leveraging cloud technology is becoming a requirement. Cloud-based systems and IIoT enable companies to buy the best-of-breed solutions without turning the information technology department upside down. Companies today can embrace and apply critical aspects of IIoT, including machine learning, analytics, and mobility.

Machine learning

Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn patterns and trends without specific programming. Machine learning focuses on the development of programs that change when exposed to new data. For maintenance professionals, these programs can mean changes in preventive (PM) or predictive (PdM) maintenance schedules based on equipment condition.

It is not critical how information is imported into a system such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). My experiences with the evolution of CMMS and mobility have shown that even with manual methods, machine learning can result in establishing procedures to address planning pitfalls, better inventory control, stronger PM practices and maintenance discipline.


Information on all assets, labor, and work management is readily available with the ability to connect CMMS and tools. More specifically, through advanced analytics, maintenance professionals can interpret data from multiple sources (including structured and unstructured data) into a wide variety of operational and asset management systems. This analysis provides a deep and wide perspective, exposing conditions not normally evaluated.

An example would be to understand the environmental status of an asset when it begins to fail, and then when it does fail. This deeper and wider view may shed light on contributing factors not previously considered. With this data, it is easier to make predictions on what may happen. Companies are analyzing the performance of equipment yesterday and today to predict what will happen tomorrow. With the power of IIoT analytics:

  • Manufacturers can prevent vehicle breakdowns and notify drivers, or predict outages in the assembly line process
  • Oil and gas companies can develop optimized maintenance schedules for critical assets
  • Facilities can predict outages in power generation equipment.

Companies can and should embrace and apply critical aspects of IIoT, including machine learning, analytics, and mobility. Courtesy: EmersonMobility

In today's industrial world, smartphones and laptops are more prevalent than desktops. Mobility is tied to most things in our world, and can help provide a cost-effective method to leverage IIoT. The power of mobile technology can turn machine learning and analytics into action by feeding the data directly from a piece of equipment to a handheld device.

Smartphones and tablets help make a wealth of data available, including asset history for critical equipment to influence future decisions.

By correlating historical trends and current conditions as they occur, companies can detect faults and increase equipment uptime. Standard operating procedures for equipment repair can also be accessed on a smartphone, reducing the rate of failure due to manual error.

For maintenance professionals, this means that where your company is today might not be so far away from where you can be tomorrow. The tools for getting started integrating IIoT are available today.

Kevin Clark is director of global service and alliances for Fluke Corp.

ONLINE extra

See additional stories from the Plant Engineering May 2017 cover story below.

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
August 2018
Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
September 2018
Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me