Plant operators empowered to protect uptime with autonomous maintenance

Published:  11 May, 2022

Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) software provider Ultimo has added an autonomous maintenance feature to its platform to allow plant operators to carry out and track simple maintenance tasks using the same software as the maintenance team. PWE takes a closer look.

Operators can manage recurring tasks, such as lubrication and inspection, independently and log them in Ultimo. This helps optimise uptime, as most issues can be avoided by ensuring that machines are clean and well lubricated. If minor problems occur, the operators don’t need to wait for the maintenance team to action them. It also bridges the communication gap between the departments, ensuring that every maintenance task is managed in the same software to increase asset availability, improve efficiency, and enhance safety.

Chris van den Belt, Team Leader Product Management, Ultimo, commented: “Operators have a lot of knowledge about the equipment they work with, but organisations don’t leverage that resource.” He added: “The operator standing next to the machine might be able to recognise a fault at an early stage and could often identify and fix many issues in a matter of minutes. Having to wait for the maintenance team to arrive to solve minor faults is frustrating for them and inefficient for the business. Maintenance technicians, on the other hand, are frustrated by the fact that most failures are caused by improper operation, dirt and poorly lubricated parts.”

By empowering the operators to look after first-line maintenance tasks, Ultimo says it is helping organisations move away from the siloed approach where one team uses a machine, and another maintains and repairs it towards a culture of shared responsibility and ownership. The operators don’t need to waste time waiting for minor tasks to be actioned, and the maintenance team can spend time on more value-adding activities. Maintenance costs are also reduced when minor tasks are carried out by operators with lower hourly rates than maintenance technicians.

The autonomous maintenance feature, which is fully integrated in the Ultimo Shift Handover module, is designed as a simple, easy-to-use checklist functionality. It allows operators to log their repairs quickly, include pictures, and escalate jobs to the maintenance team, improving collaboration between the departments. A recent survey of asset managers (EAM Trend Report 2021) identified poor communication between teams as the second most significant threat to uptime, only preceded by the risk posed by ageing assets. Autonomous maintenance helps address this issue, ensuring that vital information on asset health and safety is shared between the teams for the benefit of the entire business.

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