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Generating Value Through Predictive Maintenance—Part Three: Predictive Maintenance for Asset-Owning Organizations

Predictive maintenance can be highly valuable for asset-owning organizations to reduce downtime and maintenance costs. This includes large complex systems used in extractive industries (e.g. mining systems, oil platforms), manufacturing plants, warehouses, transportation fleets, and facilities.

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This article is an excerpt from the report The Value of Foresight: Generating Value Through Integrated Predictive Maintenance. A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.

In Part Two of this series, we discussed what it means to take a holistic, integrated approach to Predictive Maintenance (PdM).  Here in part three, we look at use cases and the types of systems where PdM can generate high value within asset-owning organizations.

Predictive Maintenance (PdM) for Customer/End User Organizations

Predictive maintenance can be used within asset-owning organizations to optimize maintenance for extractive industries’ systems (e.g. mining systems, oil platforms), manufacturing plants, warehouses, transportation fleets, and facilities management.

Extractive Equipment PdM (oil, mining, lumber, agriculture, fishing)

Extractive industries—such as oil and gas, mining, lumber, agriculture, and fishing—have unique maintenance requirements. Their equipment is frequently in remote locations (such as offshore oil platforms, logging trucks in remote forests, mining equipment in the middle of vast deserts, etc.). This remoteness makes bringing in repair resources (technicians, repair equipment, parts) especially expensive and time-consuming. Some of these assets are very large, complex systems, such as oil platforms, autonomous mining equipment, and advanced autonomous planting/harvesting systems. These are usually mission-critical for the business—when the asset is not working, production stops and the business stops making money. In some cases, such as agriculture or fishing, there is a limited time-window for harvesting, and downed equipment results not just in a delay of income, but the loss of the harvested resource1 for that portion of the season.

Thus, predictive maintenance has extremely high value in extractive industries. It compliments remote monitoring and allows for repair and maintenance to be scheduled much further in advance. This allows for much more cost-effective staging of the necessary resources and scheduling of the scarce skilled technicians. More importantly, any reductions in downtime can prevent substantial lost revenue. Offshore oil platforms can pump over a million dollars of oil a day.2 The world’s largest mining machine3 can excavate about $5M worth of lignite per day. Large (24-row) cotton planting machines can plant 20+ acres/hour and large (6-row) harvesting machines can pick eight acres/hour.4 When one of these machines goes down, it can cost thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour in lost production. Predictive maintenance can dramatically reduce losses from unplanned downtime and the high expense of emergency repairs.

Manufacturing Plant and Warehouse PdM

Manufacturing plants contain some of the most complex equipment systems in the world. They can eclipse even extractive systems in the value per hour being produced. Downtime on a semiconductor manufacturing line can cost millions of dollars per hour. A single automobile assembly line can produce over 100 vehicles per hour, equating to $2M to $4M per hour or more depending on the vehicle. Large oil refineries5 produce a million or more dollars’ worth of oil per hour.

While downtime prevention is a key driver of value for manufacturing plants, PdM technologies can also be used to improve quality, productivity, and safety. Predictive quality algorithms use the same technologies as PdM (machine and IoT data fed into machine learning engines) to provide early warning of impending decreases in quality.

Predictive Maintenance, Not Just for Large Manufacturers

Nobel Plastics is a family-owned contract manufacturer of injection molded parts. They are a small company (~$5M in revenue), yet have implemented a high degree of automation, connectivity, and instrumentation in their two injection molding presses, and about a dozen and a half robots (mostly six-axis robotic arms) that are automated enough that they run a completely lights-out third shift.

They have been developing applications using Oracle IoT Cloud to enable better process monitoring and PdM. This warns them of pending quality issues that they can address before making any bad parts. It also increases uptime. Higher quality and equipment utilization has provided the ROI to more than justify the investment. (For more detailes, see Noble Plastics gets proactive, predictive with Industry 4.0)

This allows adjustments to be made before quality is compromised, rather than catching it after substandard or out-of-spec parts have been produced. Productivity is improved by PdM primarily by reduction in downtime, but it may also be used to predict when machines will be running at less-than-full performance, before their performance actually degrades, thereby allowing corrective actions to be taken ahead of time. Safety is improved by predicting and averting catastrophic failures that could potentially result in injury or death.

Warehouses and distribution centers increasingly have sophisticated material handling equipment and/or robotics. With the surge in ecommerce, Amazon and its competitors have invested in robotic systems to aid in pick, pack, ship operations. PdM can provide these facilities with many of the same benefits as manufacturing plants, i.e. reduced downtime and improved performance and safety.

Transportation Fleet PdM

Transportation fleets are diverse,encompassing a huge variety6 of automobiles, trucks, ships, aircraft, and rail vehicles. The motivations and drivers for implementing PdM programs for different types of vehicles will thereby vary, depending on the type of fleet and what it is used for.    

For aircraft, safety concerns and regulatory compliance reign supreme. Anomalous instrument readings or non-functioning subsystems can ground a plane.7 If passengers are on the plane or at the gate waiting, it can have a terrible impact on their flying experience. PdM can help avert many issues, by providing early warnings, so that preemptive action can be taken at an opportune time before the fact, rather than once passengers are onboard or waiting to board.

Today’s large ships are complex platforms containing many interconnected machines, piping systems, pumps, electronics/computers, and other subsystems.8 Breakdowns at sea can cause delays, drifting, and/or danger of running aground or collision. Predictive maintenance allows issues to be fixed before they become issues. It also can prevent expensive fines levied by port authorities for malfunctioning equipment.

Fleets of trucks can benefit greatly from PdM. Loss of power, braking, or steering while the vehicle is in motion can be extremely dangerous, resulting in tragic loss of life, destruction of cargo, reputational damage, and increased insurance costs. Breakdowns cause delivery delays, furious customers, expensive repairs, towing expenses, and lost driver productivity. PdM can not only prevent these accidents and breakdowns, but help identify poorly running equipment, thereby improving fuel economy (fuel costs are most fleets’ largest single operating expense), improving safety, and extending equipment life.

Facilities Management PdM

Office buildings, high rise apartments, retail, and other buildings have lots of equipment and systems to provide comfort, safety, and convenience such as HVAC, people movers (escalators and elevators), fire systems, lighting and power systems, and access control/security systems. Outages in these systems can cause reduced productivity, compromised safety, or in extreme cases make the facility unusable. PdM can be an important part of an overall building management strategy and systems, to ensure uninterrupted full value is being generated by these expensive assets.

In the Fourth and Final installment of this series, we examine how PdM can be used to transform manufacturer’s business models and service offerings.


1 Even forgiving crops, such as bell peppers, have a harvest window of only two to five days. Finicky crops, such as blueberries and strawberries, are almost worthless if not picked on the optimal day. During harvest season, farms are working at full capacity. Any interruptions (such as breakdown of a pre-cooling system or harvester) will result in crops going to waste in the field. Similarly, international fishing agreements limit fishing of specific species to specific dates. Once those windows are missed, no more fishing (of that species) is allowed. -- Return to article text above

2 A typical offshore platform produces about 200,000 – 250,000 barrels per day. At historical average oil prices of $40-$60 per barrel, this is about $1M/day. -- Return to article text above

3 The Bagger 288 can excavate 240,000 cubic meters per day. At $20/ton, that is about $5M worth of lignite. -- Return to article text above

4 See Planting and Harvesting Capacity in Cotton Production -- Return to article text above

5 The world’s largest refinery has a capacity of 1.24 million barrels per day, which equates to $2M - $5M per hour, depending on the current price of oil. -- Return to article text above

6 For example, trucks can include box trucks, flatbeds, tractor-trailer, dumpers, tankers, concrete, heavy haulers, etc. Ships include container ships, tankers, bulk cargo, RORO, cruise ships, aircraft carriers, destroyers, fishing vessels, etc. Aircraft may be commercial passenger jets, cargo planes, fighter jets, helicopters, etc. -- Return to article text above

7 A typical commercial passenger jet generates about a million dollars of revenue per hour while in flight. -- Return to article text above

8 These include the engine(s), propulsion system, bow thrusters, navigation systems, control systems, bilge pumping systems, fuel system, and so forth. Military vessels will also include armament handling systems, guns, radar, and much more. Aircraft carriers comprise some of the most enormous and complex mobile systems in the world. -- Return to article text above

To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.

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