Talking Industry Live: Maintenance 4.0 and The Future of Asset Management

Published:  27 June, 2022

The occasion of the 2022 Drives and Controls exhibition, and its co-located shows (5 to 7 April), marked the first Talking Industry Live sessions. Here, the online panel discussions which were proven successfully online during the lockdown period, and which have now evolved into a regular monthly online event, morphed into a physical event for the first time. Andy Pye reports on the Maintenance session.

In all, eight events were held across the three days of the show. They covered many aspects of advanced manufacturing, including robotics, additive manufacturing, cyber security and more. The maintenance event was impressively chaired by Prof John Ahmet Erkoyuncu, Head of the Centre for Digital Engineering and Manufacturing, Cranfield University. His panelists were:

Daniel Phillips-Fern, Country Manager, UK & Ireland, IXON UK

Keith Gallant, Reliability Engineer, RMS Reliability

Matt Grogan, Technical Sales Engineer, SPM Instruments UK

Prof Ahmet Erkoyuncu set the scene with an overview of current issues in contemporary maintenance and asset management and how Industry 4.0 plays its part. He emphasised the importance of taking a holistic view on how to accumulate data and how to use it. Digital technologies, he emphasised, should not be considered as targets per se, but we should instead look at how we can apply them to get benefits.

Daniel Fern introduced IXON, and how it works with OEMs, machine builders and system integrators, supplying tools for remote service analytics and maintenance. Controversially, Daniel said that one of the things that they hear a lot in industry is that the cloud is not safe, and that machines shouldn’t be connected to the cloud. “It is true that there is a lot of danger out there with hackers and malware. But we believe that the connected machine is the safest option.”

Fern continued: “If you think back to 2017/2018, when the NHS was attacked, it happened because the XP based machines and systems were not secure. They were neither up to date nor patched. Similarly, if you buy a machine today in 2022, bear in mind that Windows 10 goes out of out of spec in 2025.”

Polling the audience, only one person was on Windows 11. From a machine perspective, the software is going to go out of date quickly. “And if you don’t have a connected machine, who’s updating that software? But what if your OEM can connect to your machine? They can keep it secure, safe and patched. Suddenly in 2025 there are no more updates for Windows 10 (or Linux) and there’s an insecure machine set in your network.

“Many companies are still not making the most of the opportunity to provide insight into machines by monitoring critical components that are subject to wear and tear. How many machine builders know how many strokes that machine has run? What if you get an alert or notification that a part needs to be replaced in 20,000 cycles, eliminating downtime, because you’ve got a planned or planned kind of maintenance cycle.

It’s often thought that you need to plaster your machine with sensors to get any useful information out of it. Actually, a lot of that information, even basic stuff like temperature, vibration, motor speed and health, can all be accessed through the PLC. Definitely there are times when you need to add additional sensors to a machine, depending on what kind of insight you want to get. But basic information is already available on the PLC, so why not use it? Everyone talks about machine learning and AI, but why not just learn from your machines to begin with?”

Matt Grogan introduced SPM Instrument, a company that has been in condition monitoring for 50 years, developing software, instrumentation, sensors, and techniques. The company has fully embraced Industry 4.0 and automation: “On a slightly different tack we tend to start from the standpoint of looking forhigh quality data, first and foremost," Matt explained. “And then taking that high quality data and converting it into smart data, we can determine a machine condition. Again, the emphasis is to use tried and tested systems algorithms that are already developed to give accurate machine information. This can be broken down into numerous things, down to component level. It might be just a simple trend. Our systems are open, which is important to integrate into systems that are moving towards machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

Keith Gallant is from Reliability Maintenance Solutions (RMS), which helps companies to initiate or improve their condition monitoring programmes, including on-site training and support. “We need to know our machines and how to measure them really accurately. We have a real passion for trying to understand the machines, and the modes of failure.”

Gallant explained that this involves how does the machine moves through its modes towards a failure. RMS assesses how to identify these modes as the machine moves towards failure, and what measuring technology is appropriate. “It’s not always the same type or quality of sensor that is needed to get high quality data.”

Gallant also showed a video to illustrate how a low frequency sensor can miss tell-tale signs in the time waveform than can be picked up at higher frequencies. “ From the time waveform, we build the FFT, which gives us the frequency spectrum. And as you can see, on the top one, we’re going up to 5kHz. On the bottom one, you can see the data that we miss by only measuring up to 5kHz, because beyond the up to 10kHz in that measurement, you can see there’s a lot more information about the machine.” In response to a later question, Keith explained the role of harmonics: “It’s not common that the first harmonic will be the highest amplitude, it’s usually the two, three or four order harmonics, where you to start to see the increase in amplitude, so if we’re not measuring up that frequency range, we won’t understand the severity.”

The first question from the audience asked about data ownership. Daniel Fern said that the data is owned by the customer, so every company has their own kind of siloed part of data. “This is really important, because if you’re tied into a contract or something, and someone has got your data held to ransom, it’s not a great situation to be in!”

Grogan added that some companies like to hold data internally, as well as in the cloud. Some, as mentioned earlier, are suspicious of the cloud and opt to keep their data entirely inhouse.

On a wider level, Prof Ahmet Erkoyuncu pointed out the need to define demand for the asset. It the asset only needs to be available for 60% of the time, we could be wasting money trying to deliver 90% availability! Food for thought before spending on Maintenance 4.0!

The discussion then progressed to cover the importance of avoiding downtime, as well as the influence of net-zero issues on maintenance, and protocols. A video of the session can be viewed by visiting the Talking Industry website:

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