The production equipment is down – unplanned. The task now is to act quickly so that production can be resumed, and delivery deadlines can be met. But who carries out the maintenance? The operator on site? Are the skills, tools and experience at their disposal sufficient to repair the machine? Or is support needed here – possibly even from an external service provider? What does their deployment cost and how quickly can they be on site? And with all the necessary urgency: Are safety for personnel, equipment and product ensured at all times and are all regulations observed? The situation is stressful for everyone involved, whether they are the plant operator, the operator or part of the maintenance staff. And yet it is part of everyday life in modern production plants.

Necessity recognized – but often insufficient implementation

If you want to keep a cool head and make rational decisions here, you need the greatest possible transparency about the options available, optimum cooperation between all departments and those involved, and ultimately cost control. Because only if the costs of the repair are in reasonable proportion to the shortest possible downtime is the economic viability of the measure assured. The same applies to the management of planned maintenance so that, in the best case, unplanned downtime does not occur in the first place. Knowledge of these priorities is generally present in companies: For example, in the study cited above, they indicated that across all sectors, uptime (about 34 percent), efficiency (about 30 percent) and cost control (about 20 percent) are the most important key performance indicators for asset managers. All too often, however, the targeted implementation of appropriate measures fails.

Biggest challenge: Data silos and cost control

Communication gaps and data silos that prevent efficient sharing and use of data, knowledge and experience are repeatedly cited as reasons for this. It is hardly surprising that companies see great potential here for improving their internal processes.

Very often, maintenance tasks, repairs, and asset condition data are stored in Excel lists, on paper, or even just in the heads of those involved. This makes it nearly impossible to share information across all departments, let alone provide a holistic view of all assets, activities, and associated costs in a piece of equipment or organization. If operators want to make well-founded maintenance and repair decisions as well as economic decisions, they must have all the facts and figures at their disposal in a transparent manner. This is the only way to efficiently reduce downtime to a minimum and implement measures in a cost-efficient manner.

More efficient processes with EAM solutions

The remedy here is the digitization of all relevant data, processes and know-how, for example, with the IFS Ultimo Enterprise Asset Management system. It is specifically designed to collect, share and analyze this information in a central place for all stakeholders in an organization so that the best possible results can be found, and informed decisions can be made based on it. This gives companies a comprehensive overview of their equipment and assets, enabling them to reduce downtime and optimize the efficiency of their maintenance. Extensive tools for cost control also ensure the cost-effectiveness of the measures.

Modern, cloud-based EAM software such as IFS Ultimo makes the data available accordingly to any authorized user, whether they access it with a PC, tablet or smartphone. This also enables, for example, direct access while at the machine – from querying historical maintenance data to maintenance by an operator, supported and guided by a maintenance expert remotely connected to the equipment. Task planning, checklists and documentation within the EAM system ensure that all tasks are performed consistently, regardless of the operator or maintenance staff. In this way, knowledge and best practice are used efficiently and secured and passed on within the company.

Autonomous Maintenance: shared responsibility ensures best possible maintenance

IFS Ultimo’s functionality around equipment and machinery goes much further than this, enabling a whole new level of effectiveness and efficiency in maintenance through decentralized distributed responsibility. This gives the operator a shared responsibility for the condition of the equipment and the continuous improvement of productivity. They are closest to the machine, know its condition and can see an impending failure far in advance. In addition, the operator can react immediately and carry out a necessary action. Often, this is also much more cost-effective than hiring a technician right away. A necessary prerequisite for this is that the observations of the operators are documented, and they are integrated into the maintenance management. For this purpose, IFS Ultimo provides modules for Downtime Registration, Shift Handover and Autonomous Maintenance in the Operations Suite. Here, operators document downtime and keep a log of anomalies that are available to subsequent operators at shift change. In this way, knowledge remains with the machine and in the company and is not lost through a lack of communication.

Value operators – and involve them in maintenance

The module for Autonomous Maintenance enables the transfer of maintenance tasks such as cleaning, inspection and lubrication including documentation of the measures to the operators of a machine and equipment. On the one hand, this makes them responsible for the condition, but on the other hand, it also gives them an appreciation for the knowledge gained from daily practice in handling their work equipment. At the same time, this also requires continuous training of employees. This is exactly what maintenance staff will have time for when they do not have to continuously deal with the condition of a machine and perform all pending tasks themselves. They can also use their spare capacity for strategic maintenance management, preventive maintenance/predictive maintenance, and comprehensive maintenance that requires their technical expertise. All in all, Autonomous Maintenance improves the use of available resources, raises collaboration between operators and maintenance staff to a new level, and increases the productivity and cost-effectiveness of production.

Occupational safety and health management integrated

With all maintenance measures and despite the high pressure to be able to resume production quickly, especially in the event of unplanned downtimes, the safety and health of the people who work with the machine and corresponding occupational health and safety specifications must also be observed at all times. The same applies to the admissibility of the measures carried out and compliance with maintenance requirements and the assurance of product quality. Standards, regulations and laws for quality, health, safety and the environment – summarized internationally as QHSE – must be strictly observed. This applies to the chemical and food industries in particular when hazardous substances are used, or food is produced under high hygienic standards. But it applies just as much to mechanical engineering, the automotive industry and all other sectors. In any case, the health of employees is of the highest interest of any responsible operator.

Maintenance work is a major source of risk related to QHSE. The IFS Ultimo Enterprise Asset Management system provides its modules for the correct execution of maintenance, integrating QHSE management and thus significantly simplifying compliance. The software is designed in such a way that maintenance measures can only be carried out if the registered safety measures have been taken. This step-by-step function makes maintenance safe and easy – another advantage when handing over tasks to the operator. At the same time, all steps are documented, avoiding duplication of effort and extra work.

Perfect balance of low costs, short downtime events and compliance with regulations

Companies have recognized how intelligent software solutions can increase efficiency, productivity and profitability: Around half of the companies surveyed in the IFS Ultimo study state that their first priority is to invest in IT and IoT solutions. A central tool for this is the IFS Ultimo EAM solution. It makes it possible to collect and evaluate all the necessary data to implement well-founded and cost-efficient measures, even when an acute failure of a piece of equipment must be remedied as quickly as possible. Those who maintain an overview and control, who can rely on the perfect cooperation of plant operators and maintenance personnel when carrying out measures, and who ensure compliance with all regulations and standards with optimal processes – act economically and wisely. And they avoid stress and ambiguity for themselves and all involved.

Other blogs written by Roy van Huffelen

Happy to help you at any time
Jeremiah Woodford VP Sales Americas