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Improving Maintenance With The Internet of Things

Key Takeaways:

  1. Internet of Things (IoT) technology can be used to improve maintenance activities via predictive and preventive maintenance plans. 
  2. IoT technology helps improve the quality and amount of gathered data, as well as asset reliability and optimization of maintenance resources.
  3. An IoT implementation should start small, roll out at a slower pace, and begin gathering very specific and singular data channels. 
  4. IoT implementations can be expensive and overwhelming, but these costs can be offset with new technology.

Overview

Increasingly, Internet of Things (IoT) technology finds a home in maintenance. Sensor setups can create a communicative link between a facility’s assets and allow for a real-time understanding of asset health. Predictive maintenance (PdM) and preventive maintenance (PM) plans most frequently use Internet of Things technology to improve the facility’s understanding of its assets. However, a facility doesn’t necessarily need an existing PM or PdM plan to utilize IoT technology.

Tip: UpKeep is one of the many CMMS softwares for maintenance and facilities looking to improve their preventative or predictive maintenance program. If you’re interested in starting a free trial, click here.

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How Internet of Things Can Improve Maintenance

IoT allows users a high degree of information gathering. In a household environment, this could be something as simple as checking the temperature of the HVAC system while you’re out at dinner. This ability to view asset data remotely has a huge variety of applications for a maintenance team. 

IoT tech has a many differing benefits for maintenance activities. For instance, we can improve data gathering by: 

  • Setting up smart sensors that automatically log data (anomalous or otherwise). 
  • Creating an automatic upload link between data gathered and analytic algorithms for PdM plans.
  • Displaying gathered data in an easy-to-read way via dashboards and graphs. 

Once we’ve got data gathered through IoT, maintenance teams can then: 

  • Set up auto-dispatch and auto-work-order systems for data gathered by sensors. 
  • Improve asset reliability by analyzing common failure modes and fixing equipment prior to failure. 
  • Optimize maintenance hours by scheduling only necessary maintenance efforts. 

How to Start Using Internet of Things Technology to Improve Maintenance

An IoT technology implementation can be tricky, so it is important to know common places to fail and how to avoid them. A successful implementation guide to follow when introducing new IoT technology in your facility is:

Start with a single example asset

Much like a CMMS implementation, it’s important to prove initial value of an IoT technology implementation. Starting with an example asset can be helpful for a lot of reasons: 

  • Helps fix growing pains prior to official implementation. 
  • Allows you to fine-tune data gathering.
  • Gives you a history of data to present. 

The third point here is critical, especially if you are having trouble obtaining managerial buy-in: starting with an example asset allows you to create a history of data. You can present this data as value itself, as well as using the data to draw insights on where maintenance efforts could be improved. 

Monitor a single data channel 

A common place that IoT technology goes awry is in the actual monitoring of data. For some applications it’s simple, but for many pieces of equipment in an industrial environment, there may be hundreds of different variables to measure. That’s why it’s crucial to figure out one specific data channel you want to monitor in the testing phase. 

For example, you might want to start with a non-critical motor. Motors have a lot of things you can measure: vibrations, noise, and heat are all viable conditions. In this case, choose to monitor the condition that most accurately allows the maintenance team to diagnose issues. From there, you can gather a large amount of data on the motor and create a maintenance plan based around common failures from that data. 

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Roll out slowly and purposefully 

In addition to data overload, trying to simultaneously interconnect every asset in a facility is a sure plan for failure. Ultimately, a facility will probably never network everything. The sheer amount of data gathering would just be noise at that point, eliminating the purpose of sensors in the first place. 

In an IoT implementation, it’s important to roll out technology at a slower pace so that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Doing this allows you (much like the example asset) to work out kinks early. 

It’s equally important to roll out to specific pieces of equipment. Not every asset needs a sensor monitoring heat and vibrations – in fact, for some pieces of equipment, it’s actually inefficient to gather that data.

Tip: Figure out critical pieces of equipment that would benefit from constant monitoring and condition analysis and roll out to those assets.

Challenges of Transitioning to IoT Technology

As with any new maintenance plan, IoT implementations can suffer in a lot of different ways: 

  • Cost: IoT sensors can be somewhat expensive, which makes it even more important to only roll out to purposeful pieces of equipment (as opposed to trying to monitor the entirety of a facility). More and more sensors are becoming affordable as the technology advances, so keep an eye on cost in the near future! 
  • Data Overload: Data gathering is great, but only if the facility can make sense of that data. If they gather too much data or cast too wide a net, it can be impossible to actually make use of the raw amount of data. This makes learning analytical algorithms that can digest a key part of any IoT implementation. 
  • Security: IoT seeks to add a networking capacity to everything, which comprises a fairly serious security risk. With such a large volume of equipment, there are sure to be some holes. Luckily, network security can be improved via new IoT cybersecurity (like monitoring for compromises in security just like it monitors for data). 

Despite these issues, Internet of Things will surely see more use in maintenance as time moves on and as the need for specific, detailed data drives maintenance efforts.