Week of 11 March 2019: Maintenance is not popular
Email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org
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I have been railing and writing about maintenance for decades. All of this energy has not turned the tide on the popularity of maintenance. No one likes it and to the uninitiated it is just a cost. It indeed often seems like an intangible cost, for the results of good maintenance are that everything runs just fine, there is no drama, no excitement.
Hence the desire to put it off as long as possible, hopefully until the manager in charge of the budget can get promoted. At least that is the manager's position; employees close to the process always know better because bad maintenance makes their lives miserable.
However, hope and accountability are on the way. Industry 4.0, or Industrial IoT, if you prefer, looks like it will eventually put all processes and equipment in a state of continuous monitoring. When this happens, there will be no escaping the data that tells one the condition of the equipment.
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This has been going on in the airline industry for some time. Most modern engines on passenger planes have continuous monitoring of vital conditions now. This monitoring is an option sold by the engine manufacturers. If they can monitor jet engine health over the Bay of Bengal, anything in your process can be monitored, too.
Maintenance may not become more popular, but it will become inescapable. I foresee companies with fleets of pulp and paper mills sending data not only to the equipment manufacturers but also to their own centrally located bevy of experts who will be able to analyze data and schedule maintenance in a collaborative way with their own specialists and outside resources. Being a maintenance specialist in one of these envisioned centers just may become a prized career path.
Maintenance has always been like expense accounts to some extent. It used to be that taxi receipts were the slush fund account on expense reports where one could stuff that little extra indiscretion on last week's business trip. Similarly, maintenance was where one could cut expenses without anyone checking up on the management of the facility. IoT will force transparency of equipment conditions and demand repairs.
This will serve shareholders and operational employees well. Shareholders will find their dividend checks to be larger and operating employees can quit struggling with poorly performing equipment. Overtime will be reduced, too.
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I have been after maintenance cheat scoundrels for years, finally we have a tool to hold them accountable. I love it.
For safety this week, continuous detailed monitoring will detect things going wrong before the fly apart, sail out of the machine and kill the innocent employee walking down the tending aisle. It's a beautiful thing.
Be safe and we will talk next week.
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