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Do you consider predictive maintenance (PdM) to be a reliability program? Do you believe PdM is a reactive or proactive approach? For most people, the answer to both of these questions is yes. For the longest time, I would have included myself in this group, but I was wrong.
After more than 35 years of being a PdM practitioner, program manager and service provider, I was a strong advocate of predictive maintenance and its deployment being a main component of a facility's reliability effort. You couldn't tell me any differently. I just wouldn’t open my mind to other ideas. Change is hard, and we all are creatures of what we know. But a light went off one day when I was researching the definition of reliability.
Reliability is defined as the ability of an apparatus, machine or system to consistently perform its intended or required function or mission on demand and without degradation or failure.
The approach to predictive maintenance has been successful in identifying impending failures, as PdM technologies effectively measure the current asset condition, including any deterioration or degradation. However, while a well-functioning PdM program efficiently manages failure, it does not necessarily improve overall equipment reliability. Understanding and managing failure is unquestionably a beneficial goal of a PdM program, but for typical facility operations, true reliability improvements and hard cost savings would be a more desirable outcome.
Maintaining assets on condition (condition-based maintenance) has proven to be preferred over alternative maintenance approaches, such as run-to-fail or time-based tactics. These alternative approaches still have a place in an overall maintenance strategy when you consider the asset's criticality and the individual failure mode's predictability or lack thereof. In general, the PdM approach is reactive in nature. You react to and then manage current failures and failure modes only after the failure inception. A proactive strategy focuses on failure elimination as well as failure management. Failure elimination is the key to providing true reliability gains and cost savings.
In most PdM programs today, two critical items do not exist, and their absence is likely the reason many programs score only satisfactory or less on PdM surveys. First, you need to focus on reliability improvements and loss elimination within the facility. The program must be managed by metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) that align closely with the overall plant’s goals and not as much on completed PdM tasks or the effects of failure management.
Second, your PdM approach must be an integral part of your reliability strategy within the facility. In many cases, this is a standalone effort, which may be fairly effective but separate from other reliability initiatives. Additionally, you need a better understanding of how PdM results can help fuel reliability improvements.
Where do you go from here? Your existing PdM program may require adjustments or enhancements to transition to a true reliability initiative and provide more value to the plant. A program assessment can be used to evaluate the current state of your program and identify areas where redesigns, enhancements or improvements are needed. It can also assess the key elements of your program's deployment, routine workflows, technologies, frequencies, reporting and management.
Another benefit of a PdM assessment is the development of a solid program for migrating to a next-generation strategy, including Industry 4.0, the industrial internet of things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
Once the program's enhancements are identified and optimized, data analytics, KPIs and metrics will reveal areas where recurring failure patterns can be eliminated. So, supercharge your plant’s reliability efforts through enhanced predictive maintenance and take advantage of a PdM assessment and its proactive benefits.
John Pucillo is a reliability, predictive maintenance and operations consultant with True Reliability. He has 38 years of experience successfully executing best-in-class delivery and project strategies to achieve business objectives. John can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.