Industrial equipment, machinery and building technology are associated with high acquisition costs. Therefore, regular maintenance of the equipment is mandatory. However, many companies use maintenance schedulers that do not take full advantage of the latest technological possibilities – and do not provide optimal support for work processes. An overview of challenges and best practices can be found here.
Machines and plants are often in use day and night for many years. In order for the purchase to be profitable, they must be in perfect working order for as long as possible and contribute to value creation. Every unplanned shutdown lowers sales.
The checking of wear parts, the preventive replacement of individual elements and the overhauling of machines is of great importance in manufacturing companies from a business management point of view. Maintenance avoids major repairs and higher costs.
However, maintenance is not only essential for cost reasons: Especially in complex industrial plants, even minor damage can lead to malfunctions that endanger the safety of employees. Extending maintenance intervals to save costs is therefore short-sighted. After some time, companies pay for these attempts to reduce costs with all the higher additional costs.
The aim must be to carry out maintenance to an appropriate extent and at appropriate intervals, and to organize it in such a way that it fulfills its purpose efficiently. To achieve the goal, the maintenance plan (also: service plan) is used as a tool. Read here how you can use a maintenance plan efficiently and what role augmented reality plays a role in this.
A maintenance plan serves as a roadmap according to which inspections of plant and machinery are carried out. It determines both the interval and the scope of the test. Often, the maintenance plan is also referred to as the checklist that lists the individual maintenance inspection points. It ensures that maintenance work is carried out correctly, completely and quickly. With the help of the maintenance plan, training can be shortened and even inexperienced technicians can perform tests safely.
The maintenance plan also serves companies as evidence vis-à-vis third parties, for example to clarify liability claims.
How a maintenance plan is designed has a direct impact on the quality of maintenance results. As a rule, manufacturers prepare the maintenance plan for their machines and equipment. Technicians identify which components require maintenance and at what intervals. However, operating companies can and should supplement the plan after initial practical experience to ensure that it works best as a tool for their organization.
However, some basic information belongs in every maintenance plan.
The maintenance plan shows in detail which components are tested in which series. The priority of individual checks should also be noted in the maintenance planner.
Once the maintenance work has been completed, the results and any replaced parts are documented in the maintenance plan.
Especially in complex industrial plants, technicians cannot know every maintenance handle by heart. Detailed instructions should be included in the maintenance plan, also so that inexperienced service technicians can be deployed more widely.
Standardized step-by-step instructions also ensure a consistent level of maintenance quality.
Not every technician is capable of performing every type of maintenance. Some maintenance requires specialized knowledge or several years of practical experience. When the maintenance plan notes required skills or task difficulty levels, field managers can more easily create schedules.
If maintenance intervals are too long, there is a risk of malfunctions and machine failures; if intervals are too short, operators incur unnecessary costs. Here you can Smart maintenance applications provide a remedy: With the help of sensors and software, machines indicate when the ideal time for maintenance has come.
Learn more about Smart Maintenance here.
Communication processes between the operator and the manufacturer are important for efficient maintenance – all the more so when maintenance intervals are digitally controlled and specified for a year in advance.
To prevent service technicians from discovering at the plant that they lack special tools to perform tests, special features of machines or equipment should be noted in the maintenance plan. In the optimal case, a checklist for required tools exists for each maintenance order.
The completeness of the content of a maintenance plan says nothing about its effectiveness.
ClearMaintenance plans must strike a balance between comprehensive information and clear presentation. When technicians miss important information because of the details, the benefits of the plan are sabotaged.
Dynamic: Machines are overhauled, receive new components or software updates. This may change maintenance requirements. Maintenance plans are therefore “living documents” and must reflect these changes.
Integrated: Planning and execution documents should be integrated so that changes to one document automatically affect relevant other documents.
Companies often still use paper-based maintenance logs on which technicians document their work. Later, they must then transfer the results to digital systems via laptop.
Other companies have developed the processes for maintenance fully digitized, but use different and generic applications: They create maintenance planners in Excel instead of using specialized maintenance software They create maintenance planners in Excel instead of using specialized maintenance software, do personnel planning via their own portal, and even keep digital driver logbooks in a separate app.
It stands to reason that these processes are inefficient: The more analog or digital interfaces information has to overcome in the process, the greater the risk of errors – not to mention the time delay. This creates costs for companies that are avoidable. After all, digitization now offers better solutions.
Modern maintenance plans are integrated platforms that map all maintenance processes. How can maintenance software simplify the daily work of field managers and technicians? There are a number of possible functions:
Technicians receive a notification of a new maintenance call in their app. With one click they open the order and see which location and machine it is. If there are special features to be observed by the customer, these can be viewed as comments.
To ensure that he has the necessary tools available when he goes into action, he checks his equipment using a digital tool checklist. On the day of operation, he calls up the maintenance software on his tablet, opens the current job and starts tracking his trip with the push of a button.
On site, the technician calls up the application on his smartphone to be guided step by step through the test. Since he must explicitly confirm each test step, errors are virtually impossible. Depending on the result of a test, the app automatically adjusts the next required actions. For infrequent maintenance operations, service technicians can also access help videos via the maintenance app.
Since the work is accompanied digitally, the application can transmit in real time to the control center how much time a technician needs for each step of the work.
Once the work is completed, the service technician documents the results in the digital maintenance log. In addition to text, he can also use images and video for this purpose. Acceptance protocols are digitally signed by the customer in the application. Should it be necessary for spare parts to be ordered, this can be done without delay. This is because the information is automatically forwarded from the app to the purchasing department in real time.
Seamless digital process control creates a sufficient data basis to use advanced analysis technologies. In this way, those responsible can identify potential for optimization and efficiency problems more quickly than before.
Maintenance work becomes even more efficient when technicians make use of data glasses. While maintenance software optimally organizes the process, data glasses – used correctly – increase process speed.
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Technicians will no longer have to interrupt their work on machines to operate the maintenance software on their tablet: The data glasses display the application in their field of vision and they can control results and next steps by voice command.
If technicians need assistance at the machine, they can request remote support via the data goggles. Experts from the manufacturer or experienced colleagues are then able to look at the machine through the technician’s data glasses. Depending on Remote software they can draw instructions (arrows, markers) in the field of view or send missing documents to the glasses. In this way, some tests can also be carried out by the customer entirely on his own as a Remote maintenance can be executed.
The digital transformation challenges industrial companies, but also opens up opportunities. Those who question established processes and open up to new technologies can benefit from massive cost savings.
Digital maintenance plans simplify collaboration between plant engineers and production companies, speed up maintenance work and, unlike many other innovations, are generally received positively by those involved immediately. Because not only does the company balance sheet benefit here, but each individual service technician is relieved. For forward-looking companies, there is no reason to do without digital maintenance platforms and data glasses in maintenance.
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