DPSI’s director of sales and professionals services recently participated in a podcast-style interview with Reliability Connect, an informational website that allows users to customize the content they see based on interests. Topics include asset strategy, condition monitoring, continuous improvement, data analytics, defect elimination, implementation strategy, people management, precision skills as wells as work and spares. Naturally, the DPSI team has much to contribute on a wide range of these topics. This particular interview concentrated on manufacturing maintenance impacts, innovations within the industry and how changes have affected CMMS technology.

Check out the Reliability Connect interview to listen to the 12-minute recording now, or read through the interview questions and answers below.

Paige Haddy, on behalf of Reliability Connect: What major factor or shift is impacting manufacturing maintenance today?

Alex Williams, DPSI Director of Sales & Professional Services: Machines have become more advanced over the years, and manufacturers have evolved their processes alongside these advancements. So, it’s now common for robots and other automated equipment to perform many of the tasks that were once completely manual. Old mechanical machines with little to no advanced features have been replaced with sophisticated electro-mechanical machines driven by computer systems and loaded with various sensors. As a CMMS company, we work with a broad range of manufacturers—food and beverage, fabricated metals, packaging and many others. We have witnessed this shift in technology impact manufacturing and its equipment over the last 30 years, and continually make updates to our products as a result of these advancements.

Paige: Exactly how have these technological changes impacted maintenance?

Alex: Today, maintenance technicians require the proper set of skills and knowledge to work on sophisticated machines. Maintenance personnel must now have a strong understanding of digital technology and diagnostic tools in order to effectively troubleshoot machines and ensure proper operation. The tool belt now needs a place to hold a tablet. In the past, a technician would rely on their five senses to diagnose and troubleshoot a piece of equipment.

In the past, CMMS software provided a means to better track maintenance tasks, schedule preventive maintenance activities (mostly on a time-based interval) and store data.  Essentially, when an issue was discovered, it was reported to maintenance and the technician would create a work order in the CMMS and record the activities performed for historical purposes. CMMS also served as a way to remind maintenance of needed preventive maintenance, which were driven by a time-based schedule. The PM activities were then recorded in the CMMS for reference. This process may sound basic, but bear in mind that before CMMS systems, maintenance tracking was done via pen and paper with a PM checklist on clipboards attached to machines. It is very difficult to report and analyze data from a piece of paper.

In today’s technologically advanced world, sophisticated machines produce error codes and indicate potential problems. Diagnostic equipment can identify the problem and determine its location. Instead of waiting for someone to notice a problem and report it, (which, at that point, typically the damage is done) we can now be notified of any potential problems ahead of time. But, even with advancements in manufacturing equipment, the CMMS still required someone to manually enter the work order information into the system. The machine and the CMMS were not connected. There was no sharing of information between the systems.

Paige: How has advanced technology impacted your company, from a CMMS perspective?

Alex: The internet of things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 has enabled manufacturers to connect their software with numerous other critical business systems. Companies have the ability to collect data and rely on machines to warn them when there is an issue. The feedback we heard was, “If the machine can tell us it is having a problem, then why can’t my CMMS automatically create a work request, alert maintenance staff there is an issue and give the technician the information needed to resolve the problem”?  Today, it can. These are the types of features and functionalities that are incorporated into our software as a direct result of technological advancements have emerged over the years.

Long since gone are the days where pen and paper maintenance tracking is effective. Many companies today employ business analysts to review maintenance data to track cost and effectiveness. Reliability engineers are brought in to review maintenance operations, machine history and service intervals in order to make improvements. The data from a CMMS is crucial in their research, and oftentimes leads to useful discoveries. One such example is that time-based preventive maintenance programs often cause over-servicing of machines, which can lead to wasted time and money, or under-servicing of machines, which can lead to costly breakdowns. Maintenance is trying to shift from a preventive maintenance to a predictive maintenance environment. Predictive maintenance requires the analysis of historical activities along with the machine data to determine potential future events. The goals here are to service, repair or replace items before the issue ever occurs, and also to service when needed and not to over or under service.

Having the ability to connect machines to a CMMS allows users to monitor certain conditions and inform maintenance staff of potential issues ahead of time. The CMMS is responsible for housing the trigger points for specific error messages or when certain conditions exist. CMMS software can not only can alert maintenance of an issue, but also deliver specific instructions to the technician. This includes the procedure of how to fix the problem, how long it should take them, what parts they will need along with any supporting information.

When a customer asks their local auto repair shop, “How much to replace the brakes on my car?,” the service writer can give them a quote immediately to include parts and labor. This can be done because of the database the service writer has access to through their computer. CMMS software functions much the same way in this regard—it can house all information needed, including the cost to perform a specific job. When the operating parameters and error codes are set up in the CMMS for a specific piece of equipment, then the CMMS knows what the limits are. When we connect the CMMS to the machine, the machine can send important data to the CMMS—where the information is compared against the limits set for that machine. If a specific code is sent or a certain limit is exceeded, then the CMMS can trigger the work request, send automatic notifications to maintenance staff and include the information necessary to resolve the issue.

We can also effectively drive PMs by meters rather than time-based intervals only. We can collect run time, clicks, counts, etc. from these machines as well. This allows us to drive our PM programs in a more efficient way, rather than just relying on traditional time-based PM processes.

Paige: What are some of the challenges manufacturers may face in accomplishing their goals today?

Alex: We know that connecting business systems and enabling the flow of data from one system to the other can be easily accomplished. The real issue is what manufacturers do with all the data they are collecting. Who will analyze it and create actionable plans to correct problems? Who will create the procedures for each possible condition or error that a machine can provide? Many companies simply lack the resources to accomplish their goals and are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data that is readily available. This is no small task. If a company has just 100 machines that can be connected to a CMMS, then each machine has to be set up in the CMMS. That includes evaluating all the possible errors and scenarios, documenting procedures for each scenario and establishing triggers for specific events. And we haven’t even discussed parts needed and availability for performing these procedures. A substantial investment of time and money is required for a company to make proper use of the data available to them and enhance productivity.

Is it a venture worth pursuing? Absolutely! When we consider the cost of one unplanned equipment outage during a production run—it is well worth the effort. Many of our customers reach out to us needing assistance setting up their CMMS and machines to communicate with one another effectively. When it comes to entering procedures into the CMMS and setting up the alerts, we can’t make recommendations on what the procedures should contain or how best to service their equipment. We can, however, work with maintenance and engineering to help them accomplish their goals within the scope of our expertise.

The project may sound overwhelming, as it does require significant resources. However, it can be accomplished with a good solid plan and realistic approach. Completing the process for one section of a facility at a time could make the task less daunting. It’s not going to happen overnight and there is no magic solution. It requires dedication on the part of a company and its staff, along with support from its stakeholders, such as outside vendors and consultants.

Paige: What does the future hold in regard to manufacturing maintenance?

Alex: There will always be a need for skilled maintenance personnel and for CMMS systems in the foreseeable future. Machines will continue to advance along with condition-monitoring sensors and data collection devices. We will also see continued advancements in AI (Artificial Intelligence) that will be used to help maintenance departments make more informed decisions regarding equipment repairs and replacements. CMMS systems will also need to evolve along the way to leverage data collection and analytics necessary to implement a predictive maintenance strategy.

DPSI enjoyed the opportunity to share our thoughts on manufacturing maintenance impacts with Reliability Connect. For more information on DPSI’s computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) software, such as PMC and iMaint, contact us today. We offer a range of services, including CMMS software training, project planning, data migration, audits and more to ensure our customers are successful.

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