Managing and maintaining assets is crucial for all organisations that are active in the manufacturing industry. This has always been the case of course, but it became even clearer for many companies in recent years. Outside influences, such as rising energy costs and the Covid-19 pandemic, have increased the pressure to manufacture faster, cheaper but also more sustainable products, while at the same time maintaining the quality. This has made it even more important to reduce the risk of failures and for assets to keep performing. Preferably, you would like to know beforehand which assets require maintenance and what parts you have to replace. Or, even better, your assets alerting you they require maintenance and exactly which parts have to be replaced.
The biggest challenge for many organisations to achieve this is to combine information from separate systems and machines. The different departments involved in asset management and maintenance often operate separately. They each have their own systems and data, which means it takes a lot of time and effort to prevent or solve failures. This slows down the process and prevents you from acting quickly. But you create the most value if you combine the data of different departments.
But what is a smart way to go about this? With smart asset management. This allows you to create an integrated overview of your assets and their performances with the purpose of extending their life span, lowering maintenance costs and improving collaboration between departments. In this blog post, we show you step by step how you can get more insight into the assets you manage and maintain.
1. Register data from your organisation in a central location and structure your data
The first step is getting insight into the location and current status of each asset so you can determine quicker what exactly it is that needs maintenance or repairs. You can achieve this by registering all relevant information from different systems in one central location. That way you can manage detailed information about equipment, locations, brands, models, serial numbers, relations with other equipment and the maintenance history, and you always have a good overview of all assets in your organisation. This gives you better insight into the performances and maintenance history of machines and equipment. You have all the up-to-date information you need to send the right mechanic with the correct parts for failures and planned maintenance.
2. Map the behaviour and performance of assets
The machines and equipment in your production lines have troves of valuable information. The codes and data they use are mainly used to operate all parts. An example of machine data are the error codes on the display (HMI) of a machine. In many cases it is possible to retrieve and collect these codes and other forms of data. Not to operate assets, but to get an accurate idea of the behaviour and performance of equipment and their individual parts. Basically, you make a log per asset to see which failures have occurred. This allows you to review the data over a specific period to see in which machines failures occur often and to find out why. And the assets that use little to no data can be equipped with sensors to measure the temperature, electricity consumption, vibrations and other values.
3. Work integrally and break down data silos
A known issue in failures is a lack of communication between operation, maintenance and planning. If service engineers have no insight into production lines and where assets are located exactly, they have to depend on the operator’s description of the failure. But to what extent can you trust the operator to give a description of the failure that is clear enough for the engineer to know exactly what to do? That is very difficult. Especially if you have dozens or hundreds of assets in a factory. How do you know they are describing the correct machine?
What you need are clear agreements about reporting failures and other communication about assets. You want to set up the process in a way that allows operators to give the correct error description and/or failure code. You can do this by giving every asset a unique Id. This eliminates the need for operators to describe which assets need maintenance; all they have to do is state the Id number. You can also categorise the failure reports and make agreements about using them. This makes it easier for maintenance to understand what the problem is and helps them act quicker. Think of categories such as:
- Full downtime or reduced performance
- Ongoing failure or intermittent failure
- New failure or same failure occurred before
4. Let your assets report the failures
The next step is working towards the principle of Just-In-Time Maintenance: you are going to determine the exact time of maintenance. So no longer too early and especially not too late. This can significantly reduce downtime and is a sustainable approach because you’re not unnecessarily replacing parts. A good first step is to make assets observe wear and tear or deviations and send a report immediately if certain values are exceeded. This can be an e-mail, text message or a notification in an app. A big advantage is that you always know exactly which assets, and maybe even which parts, are concerned.
5. Optimise automated processes (like work orders)
Reporting failures is only one aspect organisations can automate. Many manual and time-consuming actions in the asset management and maintenance process are currently still done with separate tools and spreadsheets This runs you the risk of linking incorrect information to an order so that maintenance does not have the right parts at their disposal for timely maintenance. You can prevent these issues by, for example, creating automatic work orders on the basis of the notifications from the assets (see item 4). The notifications are read into a planning tool and contain information about the location, the type of asset and the type of maintenance required. A work order is then created on the basis of that information and assigned to an available technician. It is even possible to automatically order or prepare spare parts for an engineer.
6. Find patterns in the behaviour of your assets
The five steps described above are the foundation for smarter asset maintenance. But it also makes a valuable source of information available that helps you better understand how your assets perform and when failures occur frequently. This can be due to temperature, vibrations or the strain on certain parts, but also external factors such as the humidity in a factory. By collecting data, you can start to recognise patterns in the behaviour of your assets. The more information you have about your production lines, resources, stocks, maintenance, environmental factors and more, the faster and more accurately you can discover those patterns. With smart technology, you can start to predict the behaviour of assets on the basis of this information, even when failures start to occur or assets wear down faster than expected. It helps you more accurately determine when you have to carry out maintenance to reduce downtime and breakdowns.
Much more than smarter maintenance
By combining data from your systems, assets and other sources, you can give more up-to-date context to the historical information you already have. That then helps you shift from maintenance based on interpretation and intuition to maintenance based on facts and figures. You will be amazed at how much of an impact that can have. By better understanding how your assets perform, and which factors contribute to that, you can also change your operation accordingly, change your recipe and improve the quality of your production process. Step by step, you can use data to optimise more and more processes in the factory. The options are there, the limit is up to you!