Full availability and reliability of machines is crucial for many companies. Malfunctions due to a broken electric motor are not common, but the failure of a compressor or pump can have significant financial consequences. A lot of time and money is being spent on preventive maintenance. However, the necessary technical experts are becoming scarce and expensive. By supporting the professionals with sensors linked to artificial intelligence, mechanics can be deployed much more efficiently and in a more targeted manner.

The sensor can take over the mechanic’s many regular jobs. Sensors make it possible to measure and monitor 24/7 the condition of electric motors in pumps, compressors, and conveyors. This is impossible for a maintenance technician to do. By having the sensor give the first signal when an asset breaks down, the mechanic can outsource a lot of control activities and unnecessary work and concentrate on the motors he knows there is something is wrong with.

Condition-based maintenance

In the absence of information on the current condition of assets, periodic maintenance is the most commonly used maintenance strategy. Time-based maintenance is aimed at carrying out work well before it is necessary to rule out possible engine failures. Using this method most of the maintenance is carried out much earlier and more often.

In many industries, the shortage of technicians is increasing: within five years, between 20% and 40% of technicians will retire. This makes a time-based maintenance strategy no longer feasible. Condition monitoring as the basis for condition-based maintenance enables companies to prevent unplanned downtime by detecting damage in good time and performing maintenance work efficiently: intervene before the machines fail or when their performance declines, but not before.

More challenging work

For the maintenance technician, working with sensors does not lead to less, but more challenging work. There are approximately 5 million industrial electric motors in the Netherlands. Large industrial companies sometimes have as many as 10,000 motors, pumps, and conveyor belts on their premises. In practice, the most critically situated motors are periodically inspected. Not because they often fail, but because the costs of an incident are very high. The mechanic often inspects the machine while nothing is wrong. Sensors can take over the first inspection.

In this way, sensors support the craftsman by indicating which machines to look at. The skilled craftsman eye can detect much more than a sensor can. More importantly, the mechanic can identify the cause and suggest structural improvements. Solving the damage is great, but preventing it is even better. This is difficult when you have to check 20 to 30 machines per day, but it works with 3 or 4 machines that you inspect in a targeted way.

Monitored Assets per Professional

As industries grow and scale up their processes, the maintenance engineer is not scalable. There is already a shortage of skilled workers, and this problem will grow with an aging population. It is therefore essential to increase the productivity of the professional, expressed in the monitored assets per professional.

A specialist who has to do 30 engines a day and goes to a machine once a month or quarter, can take care of about 1300 to 1500 engines. He spends about 12 minutes per engine, taking into account travel time, lunchtime and other things. Due to time pressure, it is difficult for the mechanic to deliver high-quality work.

When you support him with technology, and he doesn't routinely run 30 engines, the same mechanic can take care of 6000 to 8000 assets. This leads towards spending less time on engines which have no faults and more on individual assets thus enabling him more time to better determine the cause of the failure. As a result, he can deliver better quality work per asset.

People who maintain and repair machines will always be needed.  A lot is expected from robotization, but the replacement and maintenance of an electric motor will not be done by robots in the coming years.  However, technology can ensure that professionals work more efficiently and smarter. The mechanic and the sensor form an unbeatable duo!

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