Maintenance Work Orders in the Age of Industrial Internet of Things

For decades, maintenance managers relied on paper based work orders. From late 90’s Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) or Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAM) automated the process of creating work orders. Inspite of the automation, work orders were created manually and assigned manually to maintenance engineers. The automation provided by software tools relied on humans inputting asset, maintenance and people related information in the software. Over the 5 to 7 years, the basic concept of entering information is becoming redundant. Most modern machines can now monitor their own condition and send out information to maintenance teams if their operating parameters have breached. Industrial Internet of Things offers is changing how maintenance work orders are created, executed and completed.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things?

The term Internet of Things, illustrated below, was first coined in 1999 by the director of MIT to describe the idea of all electronics devices and objects being networked, connected, and tagged with information important to those objects and devices. It is now used as a term today to describe that same idea of connectedness but in a real-world environment. In other words, the Internet of Things is the network that connects mobile devices, servers, and other computers to each other over a wireless internet connection. However, there are still differing definitions of what IoT is.

The definition used by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has two parts, one each for small and large environments. The definition for small environments is a network that connects unique objects, with potential programming capabilities, to the Internet where

information about the object can be collected and the state of the object can be changed by anything at anyplace and anytime. For large companies, the definition is it’s a complex network of objects interconnected through the use of standard protocols to the Internet. These objects have sensor or actuator capabilities, are represented in the virtual world, are uniquely identified, and are programable. They offer services through the use of data capture and communication, unique identification, and actuation capability, with or without human involvement. The representations include the object’s location, identity, status or any other relevant information. When applying these definitions for small and large business IoT to predictive maintenance, it can be seen that the two are intertwined.

Machine to Machine communication helps with accurate work order creation.

One of the benefits of integrating these two technologies comes from the ability of machines to talk to one another. This is called machine-to-machine, or M2M, communication and data from these communications helps maintenance managers know when a piece of equipment is underperforming and how long it’s been since a work order has been created or performed. This data can also help companies predict when down times occur or plan down times, so they don’t impact productivity.

Work Orders are linked to Inventory Systems to understand spare parts availability

Another benefit comes the ability to plan and organize business expenses, asset inventories, and replacement parts. Warehouse managers can connect to stockrooms to track inventory and orders, incoming shipments, or send alerts when there’s low inventory of products sold. Some systems can even automate the reordering of stock, provide inventory reports, and keep track of ordering costs. This helps managers stay on top of budgets and avoid product and supply shortages.

The quality of work orders improves as machines communicate more objectively.

The last benefit to using IoT integrated devices and sensors is to improve preventative and predictive maintenance. The data received from the countless M2M communications, and the embedded sensors on the equipment and devices track abnormalities and wear on each piece of equipment and, when used with a CMMS, can schedule downtimes, generate work orders, and send notifications when repairs are needed. All of this data, along with the countless amount of data created from all of the M2M connections, can be organized, managed, and analyzed by a connected CMMS. Maintenance managers can use this analysis to create a more intuitive and robust preventative maintenance schedule for their company.

Why Industrial Internet of Things and CMMS Systems are complementary – Review from medical, retail and infrastructure industry

Connecting IoT services and work order maintenance has been applied in medical retail and distribution centers. It has been especially productive in cold supply chains consisting of products that needed to be held at certain temperatures. IoT connectivity predicts and avoids failures of refrigeration systems so medical store managers know when products have been kept at the right temperature and when they need to be thrown away because they were kept at the wrong temperature. This cuts down on the time and money spent to keep track of valuable foods, medications, or any other product that requires temperature management.

Infrastructures assets such as roads, bridges, railways are another good examples of integrating CMMS and Industrial Internet of Things. Sensors are installed in the infrastructure that requires monitoring and these sensors can record vibrations in that infrastructure constantly. This monitoring can tell maintenance managers when a road has too much vibration and needs maintenance before a failure even begins to happen. These monitors can also show when there are numerous cars or people causing an increase in vibrations because they are moving all at once indicating a possible emergency situation.

Growth Projections for Interconnected CMMS and Industrial Internet of Things.

According to McKinsey & Company, IoT applications and devices could impact small and large businesses by $11 trillion dollars by the year 2025. In addition, these same businesses will invest over $70 billion in purchasing and implementing IoT devices by the year 2020. All this money spent on IoT integrated solutions are warranted given the improvements these systems can make in tracking, collecting, and organizing maintenance work order data for any business. With the use of these systems, businesses have seen an up to 25% decrease in maintenance costs and up to a 50% decrease in unplanned downtimes making IoT integrated solutions the answer for maintenance managers who want to run their business operations successfully.

by Prasanna Kulkarni, Founder & CEO, Comparesoft  

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