The Future of Maintenance: MRO Magazine Q&A with Jeremy Wright

ATS Director of Product Management and world-renowned lubrication and reliability expert Jeremy Wright was recently interviewed by MRO Magazine regarding his presentation at the Reliable Plant Conference – where Wright reflected on the findings of the 2019 State of Industrial Maintenance Report. Editor Mario Cywinski asked Wright to give a summary of his presentation and to touch on his predictions for the future of industrial maintenance. Here is what he had to say:


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MRO Magazine Q&A with Jeremy Wright

MRO: Can you briefly summarize your presentation at Reliable Plant?

WRIGHT: I presented data from the Industrial Maintenance 2019 Study. The respondents were asked over 40 questions about the past, present, and future of maintenance and operations at their facilities. After a brief history of maintenance, the key study results were highlighted and how they would best relate to the interests of the conference attendees.

MRO: What are some factors that will affect maintenance in the future?

WRIGHT: I feel that automation, staffing, AI, big data, budgets, and culture shifts will be the key drivers in the evolution of maintenance.

MRO: What impact will automation and AI have on maintenance?

WRIGHT: The real impact from these two will be on the technical skill level and culture at the sites: smaller teams on-site with greater skill level, and perhaps a central dispatch with specialty skills that travel site to site. Maintenance may even adopt an Uber-like culture where the technicians are all self-employed contractors.

MRO: How will big data affect maintenance?

WRIGHT: The ultimate goal of big data is to aid in making better decisions. It is already being done today and will continue to be refined and improved. The biggest gap currently is many manufacturers collect the data but don’t have established processes to analyze it and then implement real-time and longer-term improvements on the plant floor.

MRO: Sensor technology is of upmost importance to maintenance. How is this area changing, and what should we look for?

WRIGHT: Cheaper prices, more vendors and manufacturers, wireless, and non-contact. Sensors are heading toward being the least intrusive while increasing accuracy. Recently, I heard of machine vibration readings using only a Wi-Fi signal.

Results from the 2019 State of Industrial Maintenance Report

MRO: What are some of the strategies that companies can implement to make sure they’re not falling behind the curve?

WRIGHT: Fortunately for them, the curve has always been very slow, but this may not be the case in the future. It has been quite a while since there was a major disruptor in the maintenance realm and we are due for that to happen.

MRO: What will be the biggest disruptor for maintenance in the future?

WRIGHT: I believe staffing/skills will make some major changes in the near future. The traditional model of hiring skilled labor on a payroll may not fully go away, but I can easily see a future where the role of a maintenance manager becomes one that manages individual contractors with specialty skill sets.

For more on the future of industrial maintenance and summary of the 2019 State of Industrial Maintenance Report, access the full article in the November edition of MRO Magazine.

Jeremy Wright is the Director of Product Management at Advanced Technology Services and is a recognized expert in the field of industrial machinery lubrication management and reliability. He is a proven technical educator and consultant leading the development of consulting programs and methodologies for many of the world’s top manufacturing sites. Jeremy is also active in numerous professional organizations, including standards organizations, with the purpose of driving reliability to the forefront of many industries.