Data-driven MRO30 April 2018

Maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) items are used in production and plant maintenance, and include maintenance supplies, spare parts and consumables used in the production process. But, as Mark Venables explains, in the drive towards the smart factory these are often overlooked in the race to increase productivity

With the onset of Industry 4.0, manufacturers are moving towards a more proactive approach to maintenance. The sector has been particularly receptive to automated and smart technologies, because of their ability to reduce downtime and improve productivity.

“A traditional reactive approach to maintenance revolves around waiting for equipment to fail before performing maintenance,” explains Jonathan Wilkins (below, left), marketing director at obsolete industrial parts supplier, EU Automation. “The obvious downside to this is that the company is not prepared for unplanned stoppages, which can lead to downtime and the waste of raw materials. For example, if batch production is halted on a food manufacturing line, it can lead to the fouling of ingredients and, in some cases, damage to the system.”
Wilkins stresses that the risk of downtime means that maintenance engineers need to make sure equipment is kept functional.

As factories have become smarter, so, too, has maintenance. “By using data from sensors on the factory floor, maintenance engineers can plan a schedule and use predictive maintenance to tackle any equipment problems before it causes downtime,” he continues.

“A proactive maintenance schedule also allows for uncomplicated obsolescence management.

“Managing obsolescence takes hard work, planning and practice, and requires resource planning. Preparing for obsolescence can save companies from resorting to unnecessary and costly system upgrades. Plant managers should decide if it would be beneficial to the company to hire a dedicated obsolescence manager to organise the plan. Plant managers should also rely on a reliable automation spares supplier. Knowing who to call when a part breaks down could be the difference between a day of downtime or a week.”

The increasing number of connected sensors in manufacturing facilities means that maintenance is now performed with a data-based approach. Condition monitoring equipment that uses techniques such as vibration analysis and infrared imaging allows the maintenance engineer to perform preventative action.

An expensive inconvenience

The cost of production downtime varies significantly from one industry sector to another, but, without a doubt, when it occurs, downtime is a troublesome and expensive inconvenience for all manufacturers. More often than not, halts in production could be avoided.

“To minimise downtime caused by unplanned maintenance, manufacturers have always sought to predict issues with condition monitoring and preventative maintenance initiatives,” states Martyn Williams (above, centre), managing director of COPA-DATA UK. “The advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) enables companies to look for ways to exploit increasingly available production data and change the way they operate.

“Smart data from IoT-enabled equipment can be employed to forecast the degradation of industrial machinery. Predictive analytics enable trend analysis, reviewing the operational data of equipment to uncover if and when a machine is likely to break down. In addition, pattern recognition can decode the relations between certain processes and product failures, enabling fast identification of the cause of equipment breakdown – priceless insight that industrial machine builders can offer their customers.”

Using predictive analytics, machine builders can provide an entirely new service, in the form of an ongoing, predictive maintenance plan supported and updated by the industrial machinery itself. Derived from sensor data and predictive analytics, preventative maintenance plans offer manufacturers a sure-fire way to avoid unexpected production downtime.

“For manufacturers, taking advantage of this technology does not necessarily require a complete overhaul of the factory’s machinery,” Williams explains. “To avoid this costly expenditure, manufacturers could retrofit their current machinery and install independent, IIoT-enabled SCADA software, on top.

“Machine builders could also take predictive analytics one step further. Industrial connectivity and remote access enable machine builders to explore machine-as-a-service (MaaS) business models. Whether it’s for quality improvement, sales forecasts or preventative maintenance, predictive analytics gives machine builders an edge over their competitors and the opportunity to create entirely new revenue streams.”

Meeting customer needs
Servitisation is the process by which manufacturers find new ways to identify and respond to their customers’ needs. By doing so, manufacturers can then create new revenue streams, and increase margin and profitability by adding value, so that they retain their customers and boost market share.

However, the Barclays 2016 Annual Manufacturing Report found that only 30% of manufacturing businesses are implementing servitisation.
Time will tell if servitisation is the future for manufacturing businesses; it’s obvious that manufacturing businesses would like the benefits that servitisation can offer, but, as of yet, most are not in a position to develop to make sure they realise those benefits.

“Servitisation is as young as the morning, but as old as the sea,” Nick Boughton (below, centre), sales manager at Boulting Technology, explains. “It’s one of the most exciting aspects of Industry 4.0, but it’s also a model that’s been in use for decades. Its age is demonstrated by an SKF condition monitoring offer from 2001, in which the company gave you the bearings for free and charged you a percentage of the financial improvement the condition monitoring process delivered.”

In contrast, companies such as Siemens use servitisation as part of their Industry 4.0 offering, drawing data into a cloud platform, which the end user subscribes to as part of a software service model. There are models in which the industrial business receives equipment, say a motor, for free and is charged when its used – as the ‘owner’ monitors the unit remotely and makes sure it runs as efficiently
as possible.

“An interesting question is how this ties into the potential for the so called ‘robot tax’, like the one South Korea introduced last year, and commentators such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have called for,” Boughton adds. “If a government introduces a robot tax to recoup the national insurance contributions it believes it might lose to automation, there would be some complex maths to be done, if the capital equipment is owned by a third party.

“It’s a theoretical question, which is a long way from our reality of integrating automation into industrial and utility scale applications. It also ignores the reality, which is that automation creates jobs.”

Living in a demand age
Sourcing production materials to meet heavy demand is not the only thing that can cause problems for manufacturers. Failure of an industrial automation component can lead to costly production downtime, especially if there isn’t a replacement part on hand.

Most operations managers continue to manage production using old models that are ineffective for tracking and controlling MRO supplies. “Instead of measuring equipment in terms of inventory on-site, obsolescence or usage, managers still use Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) principles to estimate the lifespan and maintenance requirements for equipment and machinery,” says Roger Fleury, managing director of Microsoft Dynamics partner, Ardent Solutions. “As a result, there is often risk of unplanned downtime, resulting in underproduction and costly repairs. In some instances, this can mean diverting highly paid engineers from production to conducting emergency maintenance.

“To properly manage a facility’s equipment, planners and operation managers should use Demand-Driven MRP (DDMRP). The core philosophy of DDMRP is to ‘position, protect and pull’, making it easier for businesses to manage factors such as production capacity, the wear on production components and planned maintenance.”

DDMRP systems provides production planners with an interface that allows for effective maintenance management, as managers can plan and manage inventories while considering ownership, market changes, engineering sales and supply. In these systems, the buffer stock levels are dynamically adjusted as inventory changes to provide a real-time overview of replacement part availability.

“This modern approach to the supply chain offers the flexibility needed to keep equipment in production to meet fluctuating market demands,” Fleury concludes.

Box out: Banishing the headaches
As a production manager, you keep busy planning output, ensuring efficiency and striving to grow new business. You understand the importance of reliable, skilled staff, and how good processes are an integral way of improving and optimising production. When customer audits occur, you need them to be successful.

Three of the biggest headaches for production managers are unprofessional impressions for audits, untidy and unorganised workspaces, and bottlenecks on the production line.

Unprofessional impressions for audits
Factories are subject to client evaluation, creating a need for production managers to demonstrate professionalism. Audits can make or break a business, causing a multitude of stresses for production, or health and safety, managers. Impressions of the production space are important, as it reflects the company and its product.

“Poor cleanliness and a lack in processes for wiping and cleaning can result in negative customer feedback and low audit scores,” comments Anders Hellqvist, assortment manager wiping and cleaning for Tork. “Managers must strive to get this right ahead of time. A spotless factory is a clear quality guarantee, as cleanliness is a positive sign of the level of performance a factory can achieve. It inspires confidence - in the company, employees and in the product.”

Implementing suitable cleaning procedures, and equipping workers with quality tools and solutions, will help to relieve the typical stress felt before audits. “It’s best to input these systems now, so good practice becomes habit, reducing the need for quick-fixes and a rush to solve any customer impression problems before audits,” Hellqvist adds. “Professional systems for wiping and cleaning help to reduce overall cleaning time and increase efficiency. This then means managers need less time for preparation before audits, reducing stress and anxiety, and accumulating more confidence in the company and the workforce’s ability. Cleaning can be ticked off the list, and more time and energy can be spent on more valuable tasks.”

Untidy and unorganised workspaces
An untidy and unorganised workplace can have huge implications on production and increase the risk for mistakes and accidents. What is causing the problem? Dirty or cluttered areas, no organisation of wiping and cleaning tools, poor dispensing and disposal, all contribute to a disorderly work environment, causing problems for managers and employees alike.

“Rags are commonly used to clean machinery and the workplace, though, in terms of efficiency and professionalism, they are less than ideal,” Hellqvist continues. “Rags clutter the area, could harbour dangerous chemicals and dusts, and often spreading around grease or oil, rather than absorbing. Solutions, such as industrial cleaning wipes, can simplify operations, increasing efficiency. Wipers work faster, compared to rags, and require less effort to do the same tasks. Cleaning wipes are also readily available in portable holders and smart dispensers, reducing storage space and waste handling. Performance is enhanced through quicker, stronger and more absorbent wipes.”

Bottlenecks on the production line
The quest to do more in less time is a fact of life for production managers who need to get the most out of their highly-skilled technicians and engineers. Engineers have limited time for cleaning and, if products fail them, then their cleaning tasks take too long. This can hold up the entire production line. Machines must be well maintained and kept clean, because it has an impact on its performance – if machines break down, there may be delays in work and additional costs incurred.

“Due to the poor performance of traditionally used rags, engineers face lengthier manual work in cleaning,” Hellqvist says. “Too much time and effort is spent on wiping and cleaning, instead of more value-adding tasks. As a result, services take too long, engineers face additional stress, have less motivation and enthusiasm at work, and quality of service can be compromised. For the production managers, this means a risk of customer complaints and losing business. Better and more reliable performance from wipes helps reduce cleaning time and increase efficiency on the line.

“Employers need to take this issue seriously, and look at new methods that could help to reduce health and safety risks. The solution is simple. Industrial wipes are soft, flexible and excellent for cleaning oil and grease. Using professional cleaning wipes, as opposed to rags, is proven to enhance hygiene and safety, saving more time and requiring less storage space. Individuals can work in a smarter and safer way, increasing worker satisfaction as the maintenance task can be completed more quickly, ultimately improving processes in the workplace.”

Adam Offord

Related Companies
Ardent Solutions Ltd
Boulting Technology
EU Automation Ltd

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