Digitalization of asset management must be linked to operational activities

A digital system alone will not maximize savings. Once the decision to go digital has been made, we get down to the nitty-gritty.

Production facilities need practical help for day-to-day operations, maintenance and production managers. However, different roles, from the maintenance manager to production manager, need different kinds of information to support them. So how do existing metrics support the different functions?

At their best, digital systems can provide clear and reliable observations for experts to analyze. The simplest actions can be automated on a rule-based basis and, as the system evolves, machine learning can be increased, making maintenance work more efficiently. This will reduce routine maintenance tasks and allow work to be focused on maintaining reliability.

Making use of data already collected by automation systems is usually the first step. Extending data collection to intelligent devices increases the quality and coverage of the data that can be exploited. However, the best results and added value are achieved by integrating the analytical capabilities developed by the device manufacturers into the overall system. The addition of sensing and virtual measurements can further complement the information available on devices and in processes. In this way, the unambiguous information provided by the system can be directly automated, for example as a maintenance work order, and improve operational efficiency. Of course, experts will still be needed to analyze more complex situations.

A service provider helps to improve maintenance and process efficiency

When things get busy, it becomes a challenge to find enough time to use the system properly and plan what to do. The alternative is to rely on a service contract with a system and process supplier. At its best, the service provider is a good sparring partner, providing assistance in planning maintenance and day-to-day operations. They know the equipment and are therefore best placed to identify areas where failure has already started but has not yet had time to critically affect the device.

That’s why it pays off to involve a service provider in regular maintenance. Moving away from tedious and lengthy reports to a clear task list with responsible persons will enable concrete results. To start with, it is a good idea to review the maintenance and failure history over a longer period and learn from what has already happened. This allows us, and other suppliers, to tailor and develop the system and learn more quickly the operations and challenges of the customer’s plant. Let’s move together from calendar-based to demand-based maintenance.

In a digital transformation, it is worth starting by defining operational challenges and objectives and identifying what information is available in the systems. Service providers, in turn, help to develop operating methods. Clear data-driven changes made in partnership with customers will improve the results gained from operational indicators.

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About the author

Juha Alamäki

Juha Alamäki is Collaborative Operations Center Manager at ABB in Finland. He is working with digitalization projects regarding maintenance and process efficiency, from defining customer needs to delivering systems and services. He joined ABB in 1995 and has since been working in the service business in various roles from sales to product development. Toimin ABB:llä Helsingissä etäpalvelukeskuksen päällikkönä. Olen mukana kunnossapidon ja prosessitehokkuuden digitalisaatioprojekteissa aina asiakastarpeen määrittelystä järjestelmien sekä palveluiden toimittamiseen. Aloitin ABB:llä vuonna 1995 taajuusmuuttajien huoltoinsinöörinä ja olen koko ABB-urani ajan toiminut palveluliiketoiminnassa erilaisissa tehtävissä myynnistä tuotekehitykseen.
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