IIoT – Ushering in a New Era of Predictive Maintenance (PdM)

In our previous blog we looked at how the Industrial IoT (IIoT) is transforming the field of Asset Performance Management (APM).  One key aspect of APM is the ability to maintain physical assets like hardware and machinery.  As the IIoT bolsters APM, we can expect it to also impact plant maintenance systems in a positive way.  In fact, experts in the field are suggesting that the IIoT is going to usher in a new era, an era of wide-scale Predictive Maintenance (PdM) for industrial systems.

Until now, there were essentially two approaches to equipment maintenance: run-to-failure, or fix it even if it “ain’t broke.”  These two approaches were necessary because it was often difficult or expensive to figure out when a machine would break down.  Both approaches were costly, though, because they meant either wasting time and materials repairing or replacing parts that still had plenty of life left, or shutting down the plant when something broke―or possibly both.

An Alternative – PdM

The alternative is Predictive Maintenance (PdM), which means regularly monitoring machines, and repairing them just before they break.  Regular testing can be done by having staff periodically walk around the plant and take readings on portable instruments.  This has value, but more effective is continual monitoring―installing sensors directly onto machines to detect changes in vibration, temperature, and sound on the machine, and connecting them by wire to APM software.  Until recently this was prohibitively costly for all but the most expensive machinery.  But the advent of tiny, low-cost, wireless sensors, cloud computing, and new AI (Artificial Intelligence) solutions―in other words, IIoT technologies―have put the cost of efficient PdM within reach of far more companies, to be used on far more equipment, than ever before.

“In today’s competitive industrial world, predictive maintenance (PdM) is no longer a nice-to-have; it has become a necessity,” says Abhinav Khushraj of Petasense. “Traditional PdM methods have several limitations. However advancements in wireless, cloud and AI technology are disrupting the way PdM has been done in recent decades.”

Valuable as this new implementation of PdM may be, it’s possible that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Low-cost, IIoT-based PdM could cause a shift in thinking about preventative maintenance that could affect the whole enterprise, according to Eitan Vesely of Presenso.  He identifies a number of trends, such as PdM becoming more holistic in scope, covering multiple assets, and becoming a source of top-line growth, all thanks to Industrie 4.0 and IIoT.

In a recent blog Vesely said, “With Industry 4.0, executives are starting to consider the impact on top-line revenue from their big-data investments. With the shift from Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0, metrics such as improved uptime and higher-production yield rates are replacing downtime as the driving force for investments in this technology category.”

Infrastructure is Needed

All of these initiatives require infrastructure.  The IIoT data that powers this far-reaching PdM must be transmitted and received securely, robustly, and quickly.  The wide variety of sensors with their multiple data protocols need to connect within the plant and, via gateway or directly, to the cloud.  Analytical engines rely on seamless connections to real-time streaming data.  Every step is needed, every step adds value.  As the new vision of IIoT-powered PdM begins take shape, Skkynet is there, helping to make it happen.