MRO Magazine

Maintenance: What Does the Future Hold?

Technology moves at a fast pace, and companies need to adapt quickly if they want to stay competitive in the new marketplace. Maintenance is no exception. What was once an industry that saw maintenance professionals using metal tools and wearing a hardhat, are now more likely to use a tablet to check on their assets.


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MRO reached out to a cross section of the maintenance industry to get their views on what they see the future of maintenance looking like. They included industry experts, associations, and companies.

Without further ado, here is what they see the future of maintenance looking like.

PEMAC Asset Management Association of Canada
Asset management will focus on development of new assets, use and upgrading of existing assets (including 100+ years old infrastructure assets) to minimize operations and maintenance, lifecycle costs, improve operating performance through better design, asset selection and optimization, and construction. The result will be more effective operations, reduced maintenance requirements, and focus on effective proactive maintenance tasks to reduce failure consequences, and reduce lower value reactive maintenance.

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Technology will continue its accelerating changes, and our new generation of maintainers will be expecting and embracing it. The current world of “drowning in data and starving for useable information” will continue to evolve. Real-time connectivity and other data gathering systems will increase the incoming data flow. Machine learning, analytics, AI, and other technologies promise relief to allow better, more
timely decisions.

With the rate of change continuously accelerating, life-long learning will be the norm. In addition to understanding of the assets and how they operate, operators and maintainers will need to understand the operating technology (OT) used to the extent required to operate and maintain the assets, and understand what the real-world impact of the information provided by the OT. Given current scarcity of skilled maintainers, and the increased understanding required, it will be an interesting future.

Nigel D’Souza, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board
Data collection in many organisations has been occurring for quite some time manually and through automation; IIoT and predictive tools available today are amazing and establishing industry 4.0. The future maintenance focus will be integrated information, processes with solutions to support asset management, and business decision making for total enterprise portfolios. With this will come new risks, and an increased focus on the alignment of information technology (IT) infrastructure reliability, and cybersecurity as part of maintenance planning.

Due to the change in how information is collected, collated, and used; roles within maintenance operations and its leadership are poised to require more analytical and interpretive skills related to data science. With this will come the need to better understand IT systems as integral to the overall business operation and maintenance strategies employed, while processes will be more interdependent requiring emphasis on understanding design and measures for decision making.

Doc Palmer, Richard Palmer and Associates
The future of maintenance will have more technologically complicated assets and will require more attention to hiring and training of crafts persons. The level of our crafts is going more toward being a professional, like a doctor who opens up the patient, and may or may not follow an established procedure to accomplish a certain operation. The patient came in a for a single bypass; it is okay for the doctor to deviate from the plan and perform a double bypass?

We should invite crafts persons to exercise their judgment. On the other hand, management will lag behind in updating their hiring and training strategies in trying to save money by cutting back on wages and training. This opposite strategy will devastate some companies and lead to more outsourcing of maintenance (a core competency) with mixed results.

Photo credit: Getty Images / nanostock

Martha Myers, MaRTHA Myers Consulting Services
Maintenance will be thought of as an investment, not a necessary evil. When equipment breaks down unplanned (which will rarely happen because of the preventative and predictive tasks being done), management will ask “why” instead of “when will it be back up.” Maintenance plans will be in place before new equipment is put in service, and all industries will be sharing information to prevent recurrences of incidents. No longer will we see headlines that say, “due to maintenance.” Call me a dreamer, but that is what I believe can happen.

Richard Beer, TRO Maintenance Solutions
With the rise of the Internet, mobile technology, AI, and IIOT, it’s no secret that maintenance management is changing. When I first started as a planner the focus was on preventative maintenance, both time and usage based. Over time the focus has evolved to predictive maintenance. Technology is now and will be moving us forward to a concept of prescriptive maintenance. Not only will the technology predict the onset of failure it will tell us the root cause and action required. Every industry and every professional from maintenance technicians to maintenance supervisors, planners and schedulers, are affected.

Chris Beaton, eMotors Direct
There’s no question – the industry has changed over time. However, we expect a period of rapid change in the next five years, triggered by the normalization of automation. Large corporations have already adopted automation in maintenance, but as more SMB’s adopt the technology, there will be a shift in the industry. The relative cost of real-time data capture and analysis will decrease as it becomes commonplace. Proactive maintenance costs will decrease, empowered by low-cost sensors and Wi-Fi data transmission. Data collection will be automated, and algorithms will flag abnormalities months before a human could. Equipment will be monitored at all times of the day, sending data to the cloud to be measured and interpreted by algorithms.

Most importantly, people will work in safer environments, with better-maintained machines. Maintenance will become more accurate, proactive, and cost-effective. Ultimately, we’ll see less downtime as a result of the normalization of automation in maintenance.

Hugues Therrien, ABB
A 2019 MRO survey found that downtime is what the majority of maintenance professionals want to reduce (and ideally eliminate). And 28 per cent of respondents said they did not know how the IIoT could help improve maintenance. The purpose of digitalization and using sensors is to prevent and predict failures. Digitalization helps better manage shutdowns and failures; the goal is to adjust your maintenance and increase the performance of your assets.

As an example, if you know your drive or motor is working at 80 per cent, you know you can extend its life; if it’s working at 125 cent, you know it may shorten its life, and you’ll need to replace or repair it sooner. This is planning to prevent unnecessary shutdowns.
Safety is another important aspect of digitalization. When some of your equipment is in hard(er) to reach locations, being able to see how it is performing on your phone or computer will prevent unnecessary maintenance.

Ashley M. Larrimore, Eruditio, LLC
Advanced technologies, a heavier focus on reliability practices, and a resilient workforce are a few things that come to mind when considering the future of maintenance. 2020 has proven that regardless of what the world may throw at us that maintenance and reliability teams across the world will continue to adapt and keep manufacturing facilities open. Training people on how to use these advanced practices, how to read data collected, and what to do with the data will be critical. MRO