Predictive Maintenance: Trends in People, Processes and Technology
Senior Director Jim Freaner gives insight into how people, processes, and technology are changing the predictive maintenance landscape. (via Executive Platforms) Read the full Q&A below.
What are some of the common themes and trends you are seeing in Predictive Maintenance at this event?
Great question. Some of the themes we’re seeing in predictive maintenance today (and this event is no exception)… a lot of the technology has just gotten cheaper, better, and faster. It’s gotten lower cost in terms of hardware point of entry. The quality of the hardware that’s out there in the marketplace today is probably as good as it’s ever been. And the speed at which you can deploy the technology has been great. What we find is the challenge that a lot of manufacturers have is getting the right talent trained within their own maintenance and reliability organizations to deploy the technology and get the biggest bang for the buck. And that’s where we come in.
How is the Industrial Internet of Things changing how predictive, proactive maintenance works?
The industrial internet of things is a monster—everybody’s talking about it these days. I would say it hasn’t quite made its way to predictive and preventive maintenance practices, although it’s certainly on the radar. One of the things that everybody is working on is getting real-time information into the hands of people that can make good decisions and affect change. And as we see that future developing at ATS, we see the enablement of machine technology; getting real-time data right off of the machine; sensing technology (even the predictive technology that we talked about earlier)… Getting that right off the machine real-time and into the hands of people that may or may not necessarily be right there at the plant or right next to the machine. So the potential is huge.
What should manufacturing executives be thinking about when they are envisioning the Factory of the Future?
I think when executives are envisioning the Factory of the Future, I think one of the things that should be top of mind is making sure they’ve got the right talent. There is so much out in the market today in terms of technology and equipment (there’s a lot of focus on capital equipment) and obviously lean manufacturing, but I think one of the things that should be top of mind is the development of the people that are in the plant. Specifically, in our world, it is the technical folks that support the complex machinery, technology and equipment that makes the plant run. So I would say top of mind [is] development of the people [and] development of the leaders that support the plant.
How does the “People Part” fit into the equation when you are discussing these trends?
Maintenance and reliability is really about three things: it’s about People, Process, and Technology. And the people piece is absolutely crucial. It’s one of those areas where I think manufacturers today spend a lot of time talking about development of people in engineering roles; they spend a lot of time and energy focusing on “How do I develop operational leaders?” But I think today there’s a bit of a gap in terms of how companies are developing their technical workforce of the future—the people that are out there supporting their manufacturing assets today. The technology is better than it’s ever been; the processes have to be there; so you’ve got to have all three. And the people side today I’d say is one area that’s an opportunity for improvement for most manufacturers. And that’s where they learn to work with companies like us, who really do maintenance as a core competency.
How does the next generation entering into the workforce fit into these trends?
The next generation coming into manufacturing, and into maintenance and reliability fields, specifically, is a challenge today. I think what we have to do as an organization and what we have to do as an industry is make these job roles more appealing to millennials, and there’s been a lot of discussion and research on that in the last year or so. I would say that [there is opportunity in] making the millennial generation know that manufacturing jobs are fun, that manufacturing jobs are high-tech, and that manufacturing jobs have a pretty specific purpose and mission, and it’s not just working for a big faceless organization.
How can manufacturing executives stay current with how predictive maintenance and asset reliability strategies are changing?
I think the best way for executives to stay current with maintenance and reliability is to have a champion on their team. A lot of organizations, I think, struggle with understanding the impact or the value that a well-defined, well-led maintenance and reliability organization can have on the business. And I think many times it gets a backseat or doesn’t get a seat at the table. So I would encourage manufacturing executives to identify that person. And what’s nice today, probably more than ever, [is] there are a lot of options. That person doesn’t necessarily have to be a member of the executive staff. It could be a partner like us—a supply partner that has people, that has that talent within our organization, who is continuing to find new ways to drive reliability. Partners typically, when it’s their core business, will invest more heavily, and will do things that are a little more leading edge than what maybe a manufacturer would, given that maintenance and reliability typically isn’t their core.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I guess the thing that I would add to the whole discussion about maintenance and reliability in manufacturing plants is, there doesn’t need to be a certain amount of focus on it. We as manufacturers care about delivery, quality, cost and safety in the plants—that’s the big four for just about every manufacturer. But reliability and the ability to maintain (and how you maintain) those assets impacts all four of those things. So taking your eye off that maintenance and reliability ball can be tempting from a cost perspective in the short-term; but in the long-term, not a good strategy. We’re proponents—we believe that a good maintenance and reliability organization adds a lot of value to how a manufacturing plant runs.