What Is Predictive Maintenance And Is It right For Your Team?

By Curtis Bird
18 Jun 20

So you ask yourself, "What am I going to do?" There are many different maintenance programs out there that you could focus on like preventative maintenance, corrective maintenance, and proactive maintenance, to name a few. But the question I want to answer here is: What is Predictive Maintenance? (Or sometimes called Condition Based Maintenance.)

One of my first experiences with Predictive Maintenance was when I was in an auto shop class back in high school. I saw the teacher hold a screwdriver to his ear, and then he placed it on the valve cover of the engine. He said that he could tell the health of the engine by listening to it through that screwdriver.

Now, I thought that seemed crazy. I was sure he was playing a joke on me, like the one he played on me the previous week. He sent me over to the wood shop to go and find the Skyhook to pull the engine out. The Skyhook wasn't there. And then I had to go on to the electronic shop. The Skyhook wasn't there. And then I went over to the machine shop, and then I ended up in the principal's office. Everybody seemed to have loaned it to a different department. But to make a long story short, like the screwdriver, those were the methods that were used back then to predict coming problems. Today there are many more choices to use for predicting downtime.

Oh, by the way, I used to like to send the newbies out to find a pipe stretcher, so there is another one you can use to welcome your new teammates. 😊

There are three phases of the Predictive Maintenance process that you need to be aware of. They are as follows.

What is Predictive Maintenance: Phase I 

Inspection: monitoring the condition of components of the machine. Those could include frequent inspections like: 

  • Vibration analysis 
  • Temperature analysis 
  • Oil analysis 

These are things you might do on a regular basis to check the condition of the components. Another approach might be monitoring in real time using devices attached to the equipment that are taking measurements. For example:

  • Pressures 
  • Flow Rates 
  • Temperatures 

What is Predictive Maintenance: Phase II 

Detection: Once you have the data you've collected during inspections and collections, you need to understand what the predictive maintenance data is telling you.

Can you make a good decision based on the information you've collected? You will need to know what your failure criteria is based on established parameters.

You can establish those parameters by reviewing past equipment performance history, using manufacturer recommendations, and by doing Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), to determine your inspection criteria and at what frequency intervals.

Once you understand and have established what those parameters need to be, you have a baseline to start from and you are ready to move on to the last phase.

What is Predictive Maintenance: Phase III 

Corrective actions: Based on analysis of the data and the parameters you've defined to protect you from failure, you've decided that it's time to take action and change some things. Now, you've got to put the planning in place  and execute the work that must be completed during planned downtime for the equipment.

But before you commit to spending the time, money, and effort required to put a Predictive Maintenance program in place, you first need to consider some Pros and Cons. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Well the ugly really are just those doing the work.

Predictive Maintenance is not the silver bullet that will eliminate all the unplanned downtime events, so you need to be smart about where you start.

What Are Predictive Maintenance Pros & Cons

First let's touch on some Cons:

  • You need to have highly trained technicians or engineers who can read and interpret the data.
  • Testing takes time and inspection equipment costs money.
  • Money when you need outside analysis
  • Money when you have to bring manufacturers in to help with data collection and make recommendations.
  • Procuring and maintaining monitoring devices connected to machines costs money.  
  • This inventory takes up real estate and liquid cash 

Now that the unpleasantries are out of the way, there are many Pros to consider as well: 

  • Saves cost by prolonging the life of the asset component.
  • Saves time because you are only doing the work when it is needed based on the condition of the part. 
  • Inspections usually can be performed during runtime or are monitored in real time saving labor costs.
  • Saves costs on storing spare parts in your warehouse. When your inspections detect a problem, you can plan ahead and get the replacement parts in to and have them ready before the machine breaks down.
  • It can increase your energy savings for your plant as electrical parts heated up can cost money.

What is Predictive Maintenance: Launching Your Program

There are many things to consider before you launch your Predictive Maintenance program. My advice is to start small. Let the machine history data tell you where to start spending the time and money for your inspections and monitoring. Continue to grow and learn as you go.

To wrap up, we talked about the three phases of Predictive Maintenance:

1. Inspections to monitor the condition of the components.

2. Detection to understanding what the condition of the component and the data are telling you.

3. Corrective actions which is putting a plan in place and executing before equipment goes down.

In closing, you're obviously going to need some kind of a Digital CMMS system like L2L's Next Gen CMMS that helps in collecting and storing that data. L2L can  help you analyze and manage the equipment history so you can make better decisions and reach your downtime reduction targets.

If you’re not sold on the ideas of Predictive Maintenance yet, then if nothing else, there's always RTF maintenance (Run to Failure) as a strategy. Who changes the windshield in their truck every year anyway? What’s a few chips and cracks? 

Hmm, maybe RTF sounds like another great blog topic.

Until next time, Stay Safe, think things through, and remember to use the right tool for the job! When Predictive Maintenance is the job, L2L is the right tool! 

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