What if the time has come to rethink all these specific silos and strategies around which we build manufacturing software solutions?

The time has come to rethink all the departmental silos manufacturing executives constructed over the years with vendors targeting their applications to fit. This era of the Internet of Things (IoT), sensor-driven real-time data, innovative unstructured databases, powerful analytics engines, and visualization provide us with new ways of thinking about organizing manufacturing.

A suite of manufacturing solutions that typically link shop floor equipment and operations with enterprise solutions has evolved from Manufacturing Resources Planning (MRP, what I did in the late 1970s) to MES (originally Manufacturing Execution Systems which the trade organization MESA has called Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions) to now what we can call Real-time Operational Intelligence (RtOI) solutions. I was digitizing manufacturing operations in 1978 in a crude way. Now it is much more sophisticated, yet in many ways, easier. Each of these steps has taken us deeper into increasing digitization, vast amounts of data, and increasing connectivity. Not just name changes, these solutions reflect the growing ability to provide managers of all levels the kind of information needed for better, faster decision making.

Focus on Maintenance Management

I have worked with a number of maintenance and reliability media companies. They have all been embroiled in discussions of the comparative value of maintenance strategies: Reactive (run-to-failure), Preventive, Predictive, Reliability-centered. These are presented as a continuum progressing from the Stone Age to Star Wars. Discussions about which is best proliferate within trade media.

The IT companies I have worked with fixated on predictive maintenance. They had powerful predictive analytics to combine with their database and compute capabilities and saw that as the Next Big Thing. They were wrong.

I was taught early in my career that Preventive maintenance consisted solely as scheduled maintenance. Management sends technicians out on rounds on a regular basis with clipboards, lube equipment, and meters to check out, lubricate and adjust. As often as not, these adjustments would disturb the Force and something would break down.

What if? What if we use all the sensor data from equipment sent to the cloud to a powerful database? What if we use that data to intelligently dispatch technicians to the  necessary equipment with the appropriate tools to fix before breaking and at an appropriate collaborative time?

A company called Matics recently was introduced to me via a long-time marketing contact. They wanted to talk about the second definition of preventive maintenance. Not just unscheduled rounds but using sensor-driven data, or IoT, to feed its Central Data Repository with the goal of providing Real-time Operational Intelligence (RtOI) to its customers.

According to Matics, its RtOI system has provided customers with:

  • 25% increased machine availability
  • 30% decrease in rejects
  • 10% reduction in energy consumption

Smarter preventive maintenance leverages continuous condition monitoring targeting as-needed maintenance resulting in fewer unnecessary checks and less machine stoppage for repair.

I am not trying to write a marketing piece for Matics, although the company does compensate me for some content development including this post. But their software provides me a way to riff into a new way of thinking.

Usually product engineers and marketing people will show me a new product. I’ll become enthused. “Wow, this is cool. Now if you could just do this and this…” I drive product people crazy in those meetings. I think the same here. I like the approach. Now, if customers can take the ball and run with it thinking about manufacturing in a a new way, that would be cool—and beneficial and profitable. I think innovative managers and engineers could find new ways to bring engineering, production, and maintenance together in a more collaborative way around real-time information.

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