How often are you disrupted by unplanned downtime or excessive maintenance and equipment costs? For most manufacturers, it’s too frequently and that’s exactly why Rockwell Automation is showcasing the latest approach to solving these costly and persistent manufacturing challenges at this year’s LiveWorx.

What matters to industrial companies isn’t the individual technology but the ability to solve their actual challenges. They’re looking for improved asset capacity and health — a solution that can maximize asset utilization and maintenance effectiveness.

The problem is, your operations are already complex. And while these challenges throw an unwelcome wrench into your plans, resolving them sometimes adds another layer of complexity.

To be useful today, an intelligent asset optimization solution should pinpoint and reduce unnecessary costs into asset capacity, performance and health status, whether through real-time monitoring, diagnostics or analytics.

Keep Track of Labor and Parts with the Maintenance Cost Model

In our daily lives, we monitor home and vehicle maintenance to help avoid costly repairs and breakdowns. Most of us go about six months between oil changes. Since we’re not mechanics and we don’t have predictive maintenance telling us what’s coming up with our car’s health, we follow a schedule of tune-ups to keep our vehicles running.

Doesn’t it make sense to do the same in manufacturing? About 70% of manufacturers over-maintain equipment, creating work that keeps people busy without extracting the most value from maintenance dollars.

In these instances, an asset optimization solution can model equipment and processes to achieve the right balance between labor and parts costs. The graph below shows us how labor costs per produced unit decrease as the time between maintenance events increases. And as time between maintenance increases, the likelihood of breakdowns or equipment damage increases, pushing up the costs of replacement parts.

Maintenance Cost per Unit Produced

Delayed visibility into workforce performance results in problems with productivity, quality, compliance and costs. By monitoring labor, maintenance and equipment analytics, you can help reduce unplanned downtime and increase your return on assets.

For average five-billion-dollar manufacturing companies, intelligent asset optimization helps:

  • Reduce unplanned downtime by 15-30%
  • Reduce maintenance cost by 10-40%
  • Improve asset utilization by 3-5%

Set Realistic Expectations for Monitoring

An important part of intelligent asset optimization is real-time asset condition monitoring. Involving technology, like machine learning, companies sometimes expect perfection.

Perfection, however, is expensive.

The more achievable goal is to make continual improvements that move down the blue part of the curve in the graph above. Machine learning looks at the entire set of signals surrounding assets to detect part failures earlier on the parts curve, before you have expensive turnaround maintenance.

In a turbine, compressor or pump for instance, you monitor temperature, vibrations around the shaft and the power put into the motor. As power grows, vibrations will, too, which at a certain point will indicate problems with alignment or connectivity. Machine learning tracks this data to help you identify anomalies and deviations on specific pieces of equipment.

By tracking and collecting data, operators can quickly see where there are urgent problems to fix. This way, the machines can run longer without maintenance, while also catching failures early to avoid expenses.

Remote Expert Guidance and Productivity

Another part of intelligent asset optimization is remote expert guidance. Traditionally, each piece of plant equipment has a notebook with written instructions. When maintenance technicians or operators are faced with tasks and need more information, they usually search for the notebook and scan the text-heavy pages to find the topic in question.

This process can be wholly eliminated with remote expert guidance.

Remote expert guidance comes in handy, whether in the form of training videos, augmented reality (AR) work instructions and experiences, to help save time. These resources are more interactive and supportive, so users can pull up videos or instructions in real-time, right in the field, right when they need them.

AR capabilities also help train operators with expert-captured virtual-work instructions. For example, with an IoT connection, users can take a video recording and capture when operators are doing well, then share these materials with less-experienced workers. This way, the worker who is learning can see the control system signals and measurements at the correct time. As in sports, review best practice and audit yourself for better performance on equally complex maintenance tasks.

Connect IT and OT to Strengthen Systems

Workflow disruptions, such as having to hunt down replacement parts, delay work and hinder productivity, because they create opportunities for more mistakes. Really, any pause in production creates productivity loss and maintenance costs.

Unified IT and OT screens for maintenance and reliability engineers, another part of intelligent asset optimization, help combat turnaround issues. IT data includes parts inventory, parts cost and lead time and OT data includes equipment sensor information and a maintenance management system (work order tracking and scheduling). Merging both sources of data helps technicians know when to ask for parts and create solutions, without causing disruptions to workflow.

With a clear view into part availability and maintenance schedules, workers have more resources and knowledge to optimize their assets.

Importance of Asset Optimization

Asset optimization supports manufacturers as they become quicker, more flexible and scalable. As assets are better utilized, they can better anticipate equipment failures, identify the causes, and reduce unplanned downtime and capital expenses.

Without a broad solution like intelligent asset optimization, manufacturers will continue to have business and facility restrictions, often due to staffing numbers and equipment limitations.

What that means for day-to-day operations is doing more with the people, parts, equipment, technology and budgets they have on hand.

That’s truly transformational — that’s why we’re bringing a new approach to manufacturing’s most frequent challenges.


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