When advanced manufacturing technology handles diagnostic work, you can free up technicians’ time to focus on undertakings with a greater impact on the business at large.
The Next Challenge for Predictive Maintenance: Evolving Your Team’s Skill Set
Artem Kroupenev, VP Strategy | Augury
Machine maintenance is undergoing a tech-driven transformation. Connected sensors installed directly onto equipment elevate predictive maintenance from a route-based approach to a real-time strategy. By monitoring key machine health metrics like temperature, speed, and vibration, this manufacturing technology can anticipate when something will break and preemptively alert technicians to initiate maintenance.
Now, we’re moving beyond that into a new era of prescriptive maintenance — where automated diagnostics tell technicians when something is about to break and exactly what actions are required to fix it.
Predictive maintenance reduces unnecessary maintenance tasks and catastrophic failures. Prescriptive maintenance takes things one step further by expediting labor-intensive machine diagnostics and time to complete repairs. Advanced manufacturing technology can notify technicians which tools, skills, and specific adjustments a machine needs, then dispatch a technician who knows precisely what to do. Prescriptive maintenance minimizes the time and cost associated with machine optimization while helping ensure that downtime doesn’t compromise manufacturing efficiency.
Also significant but less obvious is how prescriptive maintenance reshapes the role of technicians. With technology doing the bulk of the basic diagnostic work — and helping with planning — technicians save tremendous amounts of time that they can redeploy elsewhere. For instance, they could work on more advanced diagnostics, complicated repairs, or long-term equipment planning — in-depth undertakings technicians couldn’t accommodate before when they were swamped with routine maintenance and repairs.
But first, technicians will need additional training to upgrade their skill set. Take full advantage of advanced manufacturing technology by evolving your technicians’ skills in the following areas:
1. Precision Maintenance
In factories with a culture of precision maintenance, every technician completes a particular repair in exactly the same way. Less a tool or technique than a culture, precision maintenance strives to make machine health systematic, so individual preferences or abilities among technicians don’t lead to inconsistent repairs with unpredictable outcomes.
To build a culture of precision maintenance, start by making that intention clear. Some technicians pride themselves on their subjective approach to maintenance — the opposite of what precision maintenance aims to do. The right tools are also important. If technicians don’t have the same equipment for diagnostics and repairs, it’s unreasonable to think they will work identically. Finally and perhaps most importantly, precision maintenance requires extensive documentation. Technicians need to know exactly what to do — step by step — if they’re going to precisely replicate repairs across machines and facilities.
Getting everyone on the same page is an ambitious undertaking. Fortunately, prescriptive maintenance is half the battle because it details specific fixes rather than leaving repairs up to the discretion of the technician. Have senior maintenance workers test and document ideal settings for machine optimization in a simplified process; then, distribute those settings/instructions within the facility and to other sites to replicate these best practices across the organization.
Advanced manufacturing technology can also enable machine optimization skills to expand beyond senior maintenance workers and give everyone the knowledge they need to keep things running at peak performance. Technicians with a generalist understanding of machines and production lines might not have the skills or knowledge to recognize when and how machines can be tweaked for optimal performance, but with the help of remote collaboration tools, they could.
Remote collaboration tools allow technicians to call upon experts for support from anywhere in the world with ease. Rather than wasting time on a trial-and-error approach, technicians can find out immediately what to do and how to do it to optimize machines. Over time, the growing sum of their knowledge will enhance their skills to better optimize machines in the future.
3. Inventory Management
In the past, maintenance teams kept a mountain of spare parts on hand to prepare for any conceivable breakdown. Reactive maintenance made this a necessity. With prescriptive maintenance in place, however, technicians know in advance what parts or tools they may need and can often order them early enough to prevent any production delays. Prolonged downtime and the disruptions it creates in the supply chain become far less common because technicians always have the resources they require instead of relying on the intricacies of manufacturing inventory management to keep them on-site at all times.
Think of this as a process of unlearning. Maintenance veterans are used to hoarding parts and preparing for all scenarios. Prescriptive maintenance makes most of that work unnecessary, but it takes time to accept change and trust technology. Training and documentation can expedite this by showing technicians how prescriptive insights can (and do) lower risk while eliminating the burden of inventory management.
The right manufacturing technology paired with a thoughtful training effort produces what all manufacturers want: world-class maintenance teams built from the staff they already have.
About Artem Kroupenev
Artem Kroupenev is VP Strategy at Augury, where he oversees Augury’s AI-based machine health, performance, and digital transformation solutions. He has over a decade of experience in building products and ecosystems and bringing technological innovation to market in the U.S., Israel, and Africa.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow
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