Reliability in the Cloud: How to Deploy Cloud-based Maintenance Solutions

Eric Whitley, Leading2Lean

Feeling the pressure to meet production goals, understanding the corporate vision and mission, and a constant influx of challenges to meet regulatory maintenance and quality standards all converge on a daily basis in today’s manufacturing environment to create the modern-day factory. A number of initiatives have been introduced over the past decades that attempt to help manufacturing leadership, operations and support organizations cope with the ever-increasing demand placed upon them to perform and improve the business.

Now comes Industry 4.0 with grand designs of fully automated machinery constantly communicating back to data-crunching software able to predict the next failure. With terms such as “lights-out manufacturing” and “total integration” as unobtainable goals for plant leadership, these new concepts tied with other initiatives like lean can leave your head spinning.

Manufacturing leaders know that trying to figure out the best way to incorporate these tactics while providing customers with a quality product made in a safe environment and delivering a profit is not debatable. But how do you get there? How do you bring all of these initiatives together and focus on a simpler path forward? Instead of Industry 4.0, consider the Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap. This improvement on Industry 4.0 is designed to focus all of these efforts into an integrated process using the technology of Software as a Service (SaaS).

Today, cloud computing has allowed software to become more flexible, mobile and effective than ever. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), production status boards, document control, preventive maintenance (PM) schedules, spare parts, production dashboards, lean initiative tools and skill matrices can now reside digitally in the same software package, seamlessly sharing data and providing a complete picture of the entire production process.

Because SaaS offers a greater ability to focus all initiatives into a central system, accessible by everyone, the possibilities are endless in its application. Plus, SaaS software is easier to use than other software solutions.

The following information will draw a five-phased Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap on how the implementation of a SaaS solution can bring together all initiatives such as employee involvement, lean tools and principles, integrated machinery, maintenance improvement, and skills and training.

Phase 1 – Assessing the Current Situation

To begin a Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap journey, one critical piece of information is needed first. It’s a simple question: Where am I in my journey?

Phase 1 of the roadmap focuses on what strengths and opportunities are currently in play within the business. Assessing the organization’s strengths will reduce the effort and time needed for implementation by leveraging what is working and what is not.

Some plant initiatives have created great improvements in culture and metrics, so there is no need to reinvent or “rip and replace” systems and initiatives that are already adding value by reducing the time and effort spent in creating additional success. However, gaps must be accounted for and become part of the go-forward plan in phase 2.

Once a good picture of the organization is exposed through the assessment, it’s time to take the successful aspects of the organization and set them as best practices for new documented standards. A good Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS solution should have a thorough and robust digital document control capability. The best systems have intelligent document association (IDA), which allows for digital documents to appear in the system only when needed and applicable. For example, PM checklists, standard work and drawings appear in the system when a PM launches on a particular machine or when an event is entered as a safety incident.

Phase 1 is also a great time to assess the technical capability of the machine integration infrastructure. Through integration, machines can tell SaaS systems when failures occur, what scrap counts are being kicked off the production line, and when temperatures and tolerances are reaching critical levels.

Phase 1 is also the appropriate time to assess the readiness of sensor equipment to collect and communicate this data to the software. This is best done by carefully identifying the key locations on equipment that require new sensor hardware or systems to collect critical data. However, do not jump headlong into the purchase of sensor hardware for every identifiable point. The roadmap leads you along the path of appropriate integration, meaning that as you travel down the improvement road, you will discover situations where integration is necessary.

To predict these early in the journey is impossible. Only when these moments are realized and specific actionable outcomes are identified should you purchase and install sensor hardware to capture data. There are both good and bad reasons to integrate machines; make sure you are doing it to improve the business and not just to check the integration box.

Phase 2 – Identifying the Problems

Phase 2 of the Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap is choosing and implementing your SaaS solution. Once the opportunities for improvement within the factory have been identified in Phase 1, you should match those opportunities with the features and value delivery of a SaaS solution. A solid solution should incorporate all of the needed features into a single platform that allows for data to be collected, stored and easily retrieved for your problem-solving efforts.

Key to the features in any SaaS solution is its ability to be mobile within the workplace. With most companies are fully Wi-Fi connected on the shop floor, SaaS solutions are extremely powerful because mechanics, operators and quality technicians all have access to standards, drawings and spare parts at their fingertips.

For many manufacturers, capturing data usually means tracking downtime. Maintenance teams have been improving processes since the beginning of modern manufacturing, but as the maintenance department knows all too well, there is more than downtime that impacts process efficiency. Therefore, any cloud-based CMMS must be able to capture the reactive maintenance process in real time.

A real-time cloud CMMS eliminates long lines of mechanics at a single terminal waiting to put end-of-day times into a static CMMS system never to be seen or used again. With a Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS solution, downtime, response time, resource time, wrench time and uptime are captured as they occur when the mechanic interacts with the mobile device on the plant floor.

Once your reactive maintenance process is in place, it becomes much easier to direct maintenance resources into predictive, preventive and condition-based maintenance. In other words, if you do not know the time your mechanics are spending on reactive events, how will you ever know the time to plan for preventive maintenance?

Cloud-based CMMS software is more agile than old, on-premise software because of the ability to add and connect synchronized features such as work orders, document control, planning and scheduling, and spare parts, giving maintenance managers the ability to coordinate their resources, manage their events and oversee their costs toward improvement as never before.

Additional advantages to a cloud solution occur if the software has the capability to serve as the manufacturing execution system (MES) that creates a single data source. A single source of data must include five factors that allow any production metric to be calculated: product demand, production actuals, labor headcount, scrap and downtime.

With these, any standard measure of manufacturing performance can be calculated. The ability to weave production features such as real-time dashboards, digital hour-by-hour boards, product scheduling and daily operator standards together with maintenance data will give plant leadership the ability to track and measure top-level metrics from a single data set.

Finally, one key value a Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS allows is real-time access to all the data. Unlike static software, SaaS solutions constantly push data to display monitors, desktop PCs and mobile devices. A good SaaS presents visualized data in custom charts and graphs, which allow production teams to quickly identify priority issues and make adjustments immediately.

Phase 3 – Solve the Problems

In Phase 1, we assessed the business looking for strengths and opportunities to improve. In Phase 2, we used this knowledge to identify the features of a Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS solution that address current system weaknesses and optimize data capture and reporting. In Phase 3, I’ll show you how to put that data to work and begin to resolve production problems.

By now, it’s difficult to find manufacturers that have not introduced some type of lean, kaizen or problem-solving improvement initiative. Most manufacturers have failed with these initiatives because of the inability to sustain initial gains. With a cloud-based Manufacturing 4.0 platform, manufacturers are able to track implemented actions within the software because of the real-time visibility implemented in Phase 2.

Additionally, teams can manage each improvement action and have visibility, accountability and closed-loop follow-up to sustain the project and its outcomes. Visible actions are then the focus of daily tier meetings. Visibility within the Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS means the system can escalate issues in real time up the leadership chain until the appropriate level is reached to solve the problem or remove the barrier to completion.

Another giant leap forward that SaaS solutions have made is with the ability of front-line employees to become an integral part of the improvement process. As stated above, many manufacturers have attempted kaizen programs only to have them fail due to low visibility, lack of follow-up or apathy. With Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS software, individual kaizens are digitally input, recorded and tracked. One facility using a cloud solution increased “near-miss” safety incident reporting by 800 percent simply by setting up a SaaS system to be easily accessible to the front-line workforce. With data this powerful, near-miss numbers can then be charted and problem-solving efforts launched.

Finally, for manufacturers with multiple sites, data and best-practice resolutions can be easily shared across all locations. This allows them to tap into “yokoten” or sharing sideways. Communication between sites and support organizations become seamless in a process centered on reviewing and implementing ideas and improvements across the enterprise.

Phase 4 – Strengthen the Maintenance System

Phase 4 in the roadmap is a tollgate for the maintenance improvement process. During the first three phases, all aspects of the maintenance system have come into play. Identification of problem areas, downtime issues, resource tracking and spares consumption have all been scrutinized through the problem-solving processes. In a machine-heavy factory, the outcome of improvement initiatives such as Six Sigma or lean often result in finding machine performance or maintenance to be a root cause of abnormalities. In Phase 4, it’s important to ensure that both problems and solutions are disseminated throughout the entire organization.

You must understand the maturation of the maintenance team from a reactive organization to becoming proactive. When the maintenance process is broken and in an entrenched reactive mode, the first thing to do is stabilize the reactive process, as outlined in Phase 2. Then, using collected data, identify issues that are causing the greatest amount of resource drain and customer pain and apply data-based problem-solving processes, as explained in Phase 3. The next step, now that you have reduced the reactive resource drain, is to concentrate your efforts on improving the proactive maintenance processes.

This is where the PM maturity process is essential. The first step is to set the PM process on a time-based cycle, such as weekly, monthly or quarterly. Gaining discipline around this time-based method will help maintenance teams better understand the frequency at which to schedule PMs to launch within the SaaS. Once established, move to a cycle-based PM process and then to a condition-based model. A good CMMS system will be able to handle all steps of this maturity process. It should also allow the planning and scheduling process to become less cumbersome for the maintenance department.

A cloud-based system does this because it can incorporate linked drawings and schematics, repair standards, spare parts, photos and even videos showing how to repair a machine. All of these features should be at the mechanic’s fingertips on a mobile device at the jobsite. If not, it’s not a true Manufacturing 4.0 platform.

You can’t improve maintenance without addressing spare parts. Spares management through CMMS systems is nothing new, but Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS systems provide features previously unavailable to front-line mechanics and crib attendants. Not only does this new generation of features provide instant notification of consumption, it also replaces the archaic practice of the spares crib logbook.

Integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and one-click parts checkout makes the consumption-to-order process seamless. Mechanics should be able to select the parts needed from their mobile devices, creating maintenance efficiency. The selected part is decremented from inventory, and the ERP is signaled to purchase new parts when the quantity falls below predetermined minimum levels.

Phase 5 – Training and Skills

Phase 5 of the Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap is another tollgate check to ensure that the training and skills process is not overlooked. Most manufacturers have some type of training program, but in most cases these systems are centered on minimum audit and regulatory compliance.

They rarely focus on the application of skills for the job. Instead, the documentation process is often limited to a sign-up sheet at a training session or class. During an audit, the requisite sheet is produced to prove training, but all that is truly proven is there was someone in a seat who could sign his or her name.

On the other hand, a Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS digitizes documents, including standard work, instructions, daily checks and total productive maintenance (TPM) tasks. When an operator logs into the system, the SaaS solution cross-references the operator’s skills and those required for the job. It then flags any deficiency in training or compliance. This flagging process delivers notifications via text or email to those who can help bring the operator into compliance.

Phase 5 concludes with the introduction of leader standard work. All the systemic process improvements made throughout the previous phases lead to the need for consistent follow-up. Follow-up is the essential and exclusive responsibility of factory leadership. With mobile access, scheduling and digital document capabilities, a cloud-based solution is prime to be the home of leader standard work.

Leader standard work is configured first in the digital document center as a standalone checklist of duties and tasks each level of leadership must perform on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. These tasks may include simply greeting each employee daily at the start of the shift to complex tasks such as leading a kaizen or root cause problem-solving event.

These checklists are scheduled to launch directly to the leader at the required time interval. The accountability quickly becomes visible to the entire organization and is a best practice in Manufacturing 4.0.

Upon completion of a standard work task, the event is recorded and archived. If the tasks are not completed and the event is not closed, the SaaS system records the work as past due. It then can be charted and graphed, thus creating a closed-loop system of holding plant leadership accountable to their constituents as well as holding constituents accountable for the processes and initiatives to continuously improve the business.

Moving Down the Road of Success

Instead of introducing systems that have no application or buy-in from the frontline plant worker, Manufacturing 4.0 SaaS platforms include easy-to-use features that can make a difference. Additionally, as we move further into the Manufacturing 4.0 age, these solutions offer simple connectivity and integration to machines and other manufacturing software systems that eliminate delayed and redundant data entry. Cloud-based CMMS and MES systems also break the chains from old systems that have become data black holes.

Used in conjunction with a cloud-based SaaS system, the Manufacturing 4.0 roadmap can become a guide for business leaders, plant leaders and shop floor managers, bringing together decades of improvement systems into a single effort to move down the road of success.

This article was previously published in the Reliable Plant 2019 Conference Proceedings.

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