Maintenance in the boardroom

Predictive maintenance is one of the most exciting areas of Industry 4.0. Applying digital systems to prevent or reduce unplanned failures has the potential to save a lot of money for industrial businesses over the long term.

We spoke to Fabrice Brion, founder and CEO of I-care, a worldwide predictive maintenance solution provider, to find out about the technology involved and the benefits of the services they offer.

Background of I-Care

Fabrice set up I-Care way back in 2004 after working for Emerson. During his civil engineering degree course he had prepared a thesis on the application of AI to deliver predictive maintenance through vibration analysis.

I-care has grown considerably over the years and is now active in 11 subsidiaries outside of Belgium, mostly in Europe, but also in the US and Australia. They offer a predictive maintenance service which involves using analysis to forecast the useful life of industrial assets such as plant and machinery. I-Care also provides reliability engineering, also known as prescriptive maintenance, which helps customers to keep the asset in the best possible condition and extend the lifespan by increasing the time between failures.

The evolution of predictive maintenance

With almost two decades of experience in the field of predictive maintenance, Fabrice has witnessed some seismic changes. The first industrial revolution was steam, the second was electrical power, the third was digital, and the fourth one which we are living through right now is the application of data over the internet. Back in 2004, many maintenance organisations hadn’t even caught up with Industry 3.0, let alone 4.0. It is unthinkable these days to have a maintenance program without applying some form of IT.

In 20 years time, it will be the same with Industry 4.0 – it will be unthinkable that maintenance programs will run without connected data systems. At the moment, there are a growing number of industrial assets that come equipped with Industry 4.0 solutions and an increasing number of companies like I-Care that offer digital maintenance services.

Recent increase in predictive maintenance

Over the past 5 years interest in predictive maintenance has grown, with board members and managers keen to implement solutions that will extend the life of their industrial assets.

Managers are most interested in the benefits that come from in-depth data analysis. With a digital Industry 4.0 predictive maintenance solution in place, maintenance decisions are based on hard, real-life data and life cycle evaluations, rather than estimates.

I-Care has recently completed a study on more than 200,000 assets worldwide and found that 26% have failures running at any time. Of these 26%, the top failure reason at around 16% is bearings. The second most common problem is lubrication, accounting for around 10%. The data results are particularly useful for board members as they help to support investment plans, lubrication schedules, bearing replacement schemes, training, etc. In other words, digital predictive maintenance helps managers to make the right decisions and save money over the lifecycle of an asset.

Changes on the shop-floor

In most industrial settings such as factories or mills, you have a range of different people involved with machinery and plant – maintenance managers, reliability engineers, technicians, machine operators, etc.

For maintenance managers, predictive maintenance helps them to justify the quality of work and ask for budget increases based on real data. They can adapt the maintenance budget each year rather than using linear increases. For example, one year the budget may go up, whereas the next it may go down depending on predicted failures. This makes budget management much easier to carry out.

I-Care data helps companies to improve productivity. For example, one company realised that they were only using a particular asset to 50% of its capacity. The board decided to try and find a way to reduce the amount of redundant equipment and increased the production capacity to approximately 90%. This increased the number of unplanned failures slightly, but the increased output made up for it.

Subscription based predictive maintenance

When you think about it, most industrial machinery and assets are leased with all-inclusive maintenance, upgrades, refurbishment, etc. as it makes life easier for companies. I-Care decided to introduce a similar all-inclusive predictive maintenance service for convenience.

We-Care is a service that includes hardware, software, and updates. All CAPEX costs are included within a full solution chain that offers IoT sensors, connectivity hardware, software platform, AI diagnostics, etc. all on a monthly fee.

We-Care operates on a three-monthly subscription, which means that companies can become more proactive when it comes to maintenance without investing a large amount of money upfront. The subscription costs just 20 Euros per month (per asset). With such a low barrier to entry, any size of organisation, no matter how small, can now afford to protect their critical or semi-critical assets.

What digitization methods should plant managers focus on?

The first thing to focus on is improving safety. Industry 4.0 results in less maintenance, resulting in less people going close to machinery, which in turn reduces accidents.

Plant managers should also plan to roll out Industry 4.0 initiatives, especially predictive maintenance, across multiple machines. They should look to implement systems that can be copy and pasted across various assets if it proves to be a success on one. In other words, they should focus on wide-scale implementation.

Now is the time to invest in predictive maintenance solutions

Industry 4.0 is in full-flow. The problem is, Europe is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to applying digital industrial initiatives. The USA, Asia, and Africa are all ahead of Europe in terms of applying digital technology that connects data in the manufacturing industry.

To avoid becoming the third world of digitized industry, Europe needs to act now and act fast.

Discover how I-Care can help to digitize your maintenance programs

If this article has whetted your appetite for predictive maintenance and you want to find out how to get ahead of the game and be an early(ish) adopter of Industry 4.0 predictive maintenance techniques, then make sure to watch Fabrice Brion’s keynote presentation at the Asset Performance 4.0 Conference on October 27.

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