The way forward

Published:  17 September, 2009

At a time when economic uncertainty is plaguing the operations of many businesses, Mark McCormick of Siemens Industry Automation and Drive Technologies, offers an explanation as to why it may be the time for plant engineers to reassess their maintenance strategies and for companies to consider adopting a predictive approach to ongoing maintenance, that should improve efficiency and reduce costs.

2009 has been a difficult year for industry. With the UK in the midst of recession, companies are finding that customers have less money to spend and business levels have dropped. Manufacturers at present tend to fall into two categories in their approach to the situation. Some are looking for new business opportunities that can be few and far between. Others are not only doing this, but also assessing ways in which they can optimise their operations, making them stronger when the upturn arrives. 

Maintaining for optimised performance

One area in which a manufacturing company may find that its operations can be optimised is in its current maintenance strategy. Plant engineers are often used to a method of ‘fire fighting’ when it comes to maintenance. Rather than calculating when it is likely to be needed and then planning for this appropriately, a factory will continue operating until something goes wrong and production is forced to come to a halt. Such unexpected breakdowns can wreak havoc on production schedules and can undermine the relationship between the company and the end customer.

Alternatively, manufacturers go to the expense of scheduling routine maintenance, where by the plant will be shut down and maintenance will be carried out on the factory as a whole. Regardless of whether all the equipment needs maintenance to be carried out, the work will be done.

More recently process instrumentation manufacturers have developed systems, which allow companies to operate a more efficient maintenance routine. These systems are known as predictive maintenance strategies. Information is gathered on the ‘health’ of the equipment in the plant, allowing operators to make a judgement on whether an individual piece of equipment needs to have maintenance work carried out on it.

An industrial PC or a PLC will be installed out in the field, in the plant or factory. This has the job of gathering data from the various field devices situated around the site. For example, the process instrumentation equipment can be set up to send data back to the industrial PC or PLC using a communications system such as HART or Profibus. The data tells the plant operator when a particular piece of field instrumentation requires maintenance, typically using a traffic light system, where by green means the equipment is healthy and no maintenance is required, amber acts as a warning that action should be taken to maintain the equipment, and red indicates that maintenance should be carried out immediately. This information is then displayed for the plant operators to see, so that they know when maintenance needs to be carried out urgently. Furthermore, with advances in technology and a desire for equipment that offers ease of use and flexibility, it is expected that increasingly, companies will opt for wireless technologies such as wirelessHART. The equipment provides an early warning sign to operators of any potential failings, allowing them to schedule in maintenance as and when it is needed. Not only does this minimise the disruption to every day operations as it reduces the risk of something unexpected going wrong, but it also limits the deterioration of equipment that occurs through continued use beyond the time when maintenance is required, which can often lead to something more critical going wrong. Furthermore, the use of a predictive maintenance strategy has positive financial implications as the cost of maintaining the equipment in the plant when it is in amber stage, will be far less than the costs incurred if the equipment were to fail all together or reach red stage. This could not only result in expensive repair costs, but also loss of production.  Additionally, if the company had previously opted for a routine, scheduled maintenance strategy then costs will be saved. With a predictive maintenance strategy only the equipment which requires maintenance is worked on, not the equipment which is in a good state of health.Through the use of a predictive maintenance strategy, further cost savings are likely to be made due to the energy savings which occur. When equipment has not received the necessary maintenance, it will become less energy efficient. A predictive strategy will mean that the necessary maintenance is likely to be carried out sooner rather than later, allowing the equipment to be restored to its more energy efficient state. Whilst energy costs remain high, this is something which is of paramount importance and can yield welcome savings. At a time when industry in the UK is suffering from the effects of the economic decline, companies must work ten times harder stay afloat. Those who are likely to succeed and come out the other side of the recession the strongest are those who look forward and search for ways in which they can improve their operational efficiency. Assessing current maintenance strategies and implementing a more efficient one, is just one positive change that a company can make to help them succeed. The question has to be asked, is it one that they can afford not to make?For further information please visit: www.siemens.co.uk/automationThrough the use of a predictive maintenance strategy, further cost savings are likely to be made due to the energy savings which occur. When equipment has not received the necessary maintenance, it will become less energy efficient. A predictive strategy will mean that the necessary maintenance is likely to be carried out sooner rather than later, allowing the equipment to be restored to its more energy efficient state. Whilst energy costs remain high, this is something which is of paramount importance and can yield welcome savings. At a time when industry in the UK is suffering from the effects of the economic decline, companies must work ten times harder stay afloat. Those who are likely to succeed and come out the other side of the recession the strongest are those who look forward and search for ways in which they can improve their operational efficiency. Assessing current maintenance strategies and implementing a more efficient one, is just one positive change that a company can make to help them succeed. The question has to be asked, is it one that they can afford not to make?For further information please visit: www.siemens.co.uk/automation

The equipment provides an early warning sign to operators of any potential failings, allowing them to schedule in maintenance as and when it is needed. Not only does this minimise the disruption to every day operations as it reduces the risk of something unexpected going wrong, but it also limits the deterioration of equipment that occurs through continued use beyond the time when maintenance is required, which can often lead to something more critical going wrong.

Furthermore, the use of a predictive maintenance strategy has positive financial implications as the cost of maintaining the equipment in the plant when it is in amber stage, will be far less than the costs incurred if the equipment were to fail all together or reach red stage. This could not only result in expensive repair costs, but also loss of production.  Additionally, if the company had previously opted for a routine, scheduled maintenance strategy then costs will be saved. With a predictive maintenance strategy only the equipment which requires maintenance is worked on, not the equipment which is in a good state of health.Through the use of a predictive maintenance strategy, further cost savings are likely to be made due to the energy savings which occur. When equipment has not received the necessary maintenance, it will become less energy efficient. A predictive strategy will mean that the necessary maintenance is likely to be carried out sooner rather than later, allowing the equipment to be restored to its more energy efficient state. Whilst energy costs remain high, this is something which is of paramount importance and can yield welcome savings. At a time when industry in the UK is suffering from the effects of the economic decline, companies must work ten times harder stay afloat. Those who are likely to succeed and come out the other side of the recession the strongest are those who look forward and search for ways in which they can improve their operational efficiency. Assessing current maintenance strategies and implementing a more efficient one, is just one positive change that a company can make to help them succeed. The question has to be asked, is it one that they can afford not to make?For further information please visit: www.siemens.co.uk/automation

Through the use of a predictive maintenance strategy, further cost savings are likely to be made due to the energy savings which occur. When equipment has not received the necessary maintenance, it will become less energy efficient. A predictive strategy will mean that the necessary maintenance is likely to be carried out sooner rather than later, allowing the equipment to be restored to its more energy efficient state. Whilst energy costs remain high, this is something which is of paramount importance and can yield welcome savings.

At a time when industry in the UK is suffering from the effects of the economic decline, companies must work ten times harder stay afloat. Those who are likely to succeed and come out the other side of the recession the strongest are those who look forward and search for ways in which they can improve their operational efficiency. Assessing current maintenance strategies and implementing a more efficient one, is just one positive change that a company can make to help them succeed. The question has to be asked, is it one that they can afford not to make?

For further information please visit: www.siemens.co.uk/automation

 

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