July 15, 2019 | Blog

Condition monitoring in the water and wastewater industries

condition monitoring, Condition-based maintenance

The water and wastewater industries are responsible for everything from supplying your house with drinking water to cleaning the water used in a power plant before it’s released back into the sea.

The systems and processes behind the movement and treatment of water, as crucial as they are, are still susceptible to downtime events. Many of the processes rely on AC motors to run, which are themselves susceptible to faults and failures. Downtime events in the water and wastewater industry can be hugely expensive.

SAM4 condition monitoring uses Motor Current Signature Analysis (MCSA) to analyse the current waveform of a motor and detect a developing fault. This means that when a pump is beginning to show signs of a fault, it can be repaired or replaced before that fault causes a downtime event.

SAM4 condition monitoring can help with:

Underground pumps for drinking water
Extracting drinking water from underground is thirsty work. Powerful pumps are needed to transport drinking water from underground wells to the surface. These pumps can operate anywhere between 10-100 meters underground.

Traditional vibration based condition monitoring requires attaching sensors to the actual pump motor, which is difficult if the motor is located 100 meters underground. SAM4 measures motor signals from inside the Motor Control Cabinet, which is significantly easier to install.

Typically, underground pumps for drinking water are preventatively maintained every 24 months. The price tag for the preventative maintenance of a pump such as this is around 1,500 Euros. The main downside of this type of maintenance strategy is that motors are replaced before they show any signs of actual faults. If you have a high number of these underground pumps operating, then the costs of preventative maintenance can quickly add up.

SAM4 gives insights into the actual condition of the pump, and can detect a developing fault up to 4 months in advance. This means that motors only need to be replaced when they show actual signs of a fault, meaning you save on unnecessary maintenance costs.

As mentioned, these pumps are crucial in maintaining access to clean drinking water, and as such, downtime can be costly. Although reservoirs can be used to mitigate the cost of unplanned downtime, a downtime event that lasts for longer than 48 hours could cause a drought. SAM4 provides your maintenance team with insights into the actual condition of your motor, therefore warning your team before a developing fault causes unplanned downtime.

Low pressure submersible pumps
These pumps are tasked with transporting water to the treatment plant. As the name suggests, the pumps are placed underwater, which makes attaching sensors directly to the asset a no-go. This in turn also makes MCSA the perfect condition monitoring companion, as MSCA sensors can be installed inside the Motor Control Cabinet (rather than traditional vibration based monitoring which requires installation directly on the asset).

These machines ensure that oxygen is continuously supplied to the waste eating bacteria which are used to treat the water.

These waste eating bacteria are quite delicate; if they don’t receive a continued supply of oxygen, then they will die. If the Blower breaks down, then replenishing the bacteria levels and restoring the system to full functionality can take 2 or 3 days.

SAM4 will alert your maintenance team as soon as your Blowers start to develop a fault; meaning you can repair or replace the Blower before it fails - keeping your Production Manager and bacteria happy.

Sewage pumps
Sewage pumps are used to transport sewage to the treatment plant. Although sewage pumps may not mechanically break very often, they can often become clogged, which renders them unusable.

There are two future changes to the use/function of sewage pumps which may make them more susceptible to failure:

  • Wet wells are getting smaller, this means that pumps are at a higher risk of contamination.
  • Rain water is sometimes separated from the sewage, which means that sewage going through the pump is thicker, which causes greater friction inside the pump.

An increasing likelihood of clogging/mechanical failure makes the benefits of condition monitoring even more apparent. SAM4 can detect 93% of failures up to 4 months in advance, helping your maintenance team to prevent unplanned downtime.

Sewage pumps are often submerged, and are located in potentially hazardous environments. This makes monitoring these assets from the Motor Control Cabinet the best option - something that is easily achievable with SAM4.

If you would like to learn more about how SAM4 condition monitoring uses Motor Current Signature Analysis to help water and wastewater organizations to avoid downtime, contact René Wellens - Business Development Manager by filling in our contact form.

June 21, 2019 | Blog

IHC Merwede and Semiotic Labs develop smart solutions for the dredging industry

Condition-based maintenance

20 June 2019

Leiden - IHC Merwede and Semiotic Labs have announced a collaboration on the development of smart solutions for the dredging industry. The parties signed an agreement at Shakedown, the PortXL closing event. As part of the collaboration, the two parties are combining knowledge in the field of shipping and the dredging industry with smart Internet-of-Things sensors and artificial intelligence, which together will increase the availability and reliability of production resources.

Jan van de Wouw, Director Digital Business IHC Merwede: “As a market leader in the field of dredging vessels, we are constantly looking for innovative solutions to further increase the reliability and availability of our ships. Digital Transformation plays an important role in this: The combination of sensors, artificial intelligence and smart applications ensures that our customers gain insight into the condition, performance and energy consumption of machines on board. Which in turn allows them to optimize their use. The collaboration with Semiotic Labs allows us to combine our industry knowledge with Semiotic Labs’ specialist technical knowledge. The agreement is a direct result of our ambition to be at the forefront of the development of digital tools on board ships. ”

SAM4 from Semiotic Labs is a Condition Monitoring solution that consists of sensors, artificial intelligence and a dashboard that displays information about the condition, performance and energy consumption of electric motors and rotating assets, such as pumps, compressors and conveyor belts. Unlike traditional systems that measure vibrations on the asset in the field, SAM4 measures electrical signals from the Motor Control Cabinet. This is relevant for shipping, because many assets are placed in hard-to-reach places on board the ship. The Motor Control Cabinet is easily accessible, making it possible to remotely monitor the condition of assets.

Simon Jagers, founder of Semiotic Labs: “IHC Merwede has been on our dream partnerships list for a long time: The company has a clear Digital Transformation vision and is the leader in their industry. Together we share the conviction that innovative solutions must primarily have a practical application. The collaboration allows us to benefit from IHC’s domain knowledge and helps us to focus on developing tools that provide value in day-to-day operations. We certainly hope to return the favor by adding our data science and software development skills to the mix”.

About Semiotic Labs: Semiotic Labs was established in 2015 with the aim of making maintenance 100% predictable. From Leiden, 22 Data Scientists, Software Developers and Technical Specialists are working on SAM4 - the Condition Monitoring solution for AC motors and rotating equipment. Semiotic Labs is active in various industries and works with customers such as Vopak, Nouryon, ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, Schiphol, and Engie.


About IHC Merwede: IHC Merwede is focused on the continuous development of its design and construction activities for specialized shipbuilding, including dredging and offshore. IHC Merwede is the world market leader in the construction of specialized dredging equipment. IHC Merwede is also recognized as an outstanding builder of complex, customer-specific ships for the offshore market. IHC Merwede's clientele includes large dredging companies, oil and gas companies, offshore contractors and governments. IHC Merwede has around 2,800 permanent employees spread over company locations in The Netherlands. There are also branches in England, China, India, the Middle East, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia and the United States.


About PortXL: PortXL was established in Rotterdam in 2015, with the aim of boosting innovation in and around the port. PortXL consists of an ecosystem of startups and scale-ups, corporate partners, and mentors. During an intensive program, the parties work together to develop, implement and test innovations for the maritime sector.


June 21, 2019 | BlogNews

Vopak and Semiotic Labs expand collaboration

Condition-based maintenance

20 June 2019

Leiden - Vopak and Semiotic Labs have further expanded their collaboration in the field of Condition Monitoring. To this end, the parties have signed a Letter of Intent during Shakedown, the PortXL closing event. The Condition Monitoring solution SAM4, developed by Semiotic Labs, monitors the condition of electric motors and pumps and raises an alarm as soon as damage is detected. Based on this, Vopak can improve its preventive maintenance and prevent machine failures.

Simon Jagers - founder of Semiotic Labs: “As a market leader in the field of energy and chemical storage, Vopak invests in technology and Digital Transformation in order to continually improve services to its customers and further improve the sustainability of its services. With SAM4 we contribute to this by, on the one hand, increasing the reliability of production resources and, on the other hand, collaborating in the development of functionalities that reduce the energy consumption of pumps and compressors. The intended expansion to a few new terminals demonstrates confidence in our technology and in our company.”

SAM4 from Semiotic Labs is a Condition Monitoring solution that consists of sensors, artificial intelligence and a dashboard that displays information about the condition, performance and energy consumption of electric motors and rotating assets, such as pumps, compressors and conveyor belts. Unlike traditional systems that measure vibrations on the asset in the field, SAM4 measures electrical signals from inside the Motor Control Cabinet. This is relevant for the petrochemical industry, because many assets are located in explosion-hazardous areas. The Motor Control Cabinet is located away from these hazardous areas, making it possible to remotely monitor the condition of assets.

About Semiotic Labs: Semiotic Labs was established in 2015 with the aim of making maintenance 100% predictable. From Leiden, 22 Data Scientists, Software Developers and Technical Specialists are working on SAM4 - the Condition Monitoring solution for AC motors and rotating equipment. Semiotic Labs is active in various industries and works with customers such as Vopak, Nouryon, ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, Schiphol, and Engie.


About Vopak: Royal Vopak is the world's largest independent tank storage company. Vopak operates a worldwide network of terminals at strategic locations along important trade routes. With more than 400 years of history and a strong focus on safety and sustainability, Vopak provides safe, clean and efficient storage and handling of liquid bulk products and gases for their customers. In this way Vopak enables the delivery of products that are vital for our economy and daily life, ranging from chemicals, oils, gases and LNG to biofuels and Veg Oils.


About PortXL: PortXL was established in Rotterdam in 2015, with the aim of boosting innovation in and around the port. PortXL consists of an ecosystem of startups and scale-ups, corporate partners, and mentors. During an intensive program, the parties work together to develop, implement and test innovations for the maritime sector.


June 19, 2019 | Blog

SAM4 has a fresh new look

Condition-based maintenance, SAM4

After gathering your feedback, we have made some changes to the SAM4 dashboard that we think you’ll love.

Instantly actionable failure analysis

The new traffic light warning system gives you an instant heads up when something is going wrong. SAM4 will also give you an idea of what is causing the problem, and recommend next steps, meaning you can fix or replace your motor faster.

Real-time performance & trends over time

See the data you need as soon as you need it. Our real-time performance module will show you the metrics you need to see, while they are being recorded.

For the bigger picture, our Trends over Time module will also show you Running Time, Energy Consumption and Starts on any motor over time.

Understand what makes your motor tick

Want to see how Power Factor and Current are linked for a specific motor? We’ve got just the ticket. Our new dashboard helps you to understand the relationship between various motor metrics by comparing them all on one plot.

Curious to see if motor performance is decreasing over time? Our Performance Timeline will show you key metrics over a time period of your choosing.

Like the look of our dashboard?

If you are looking for a Condition Monitoring system that allows you to get the most out of your data, book a SAM4 demo with one of our consultants.

June 17, 2019 | Blog

What is Condition Monitoring?

Condition-based maintenance, Predictive Maintenance, Unplanned downtime

Modern brewery production line


  1. What is condition monitoring?
  2. What are the benefits?
  3. Who is condition monitoring for?
  4. Selection guide: Which solution is right for your plant?
  5. Further information/training

1. What is condition monitoring?

Condition monitoring is an important tool in the predictive maintenance of machines. By collecting and analysing certain signals from motors, developing faults and inefficiencies can be identified, and unplanned downtime can be avoided.

There are a number of different signals that can be taken into account when monitoring mechanical assets. Traditional condition monitoring was mostly based around vibration analysis, but more modern, innovative techniques focus on MCSA (Motor Current Signature Analysis). To find out which technology is right for you, download The Condition Monitoring Comparison Guide.

2. What are the benefits?

Simply put, condition monitoring uses a number of signals to predict three things. First, if a motor will break. Second, how it will break, and third, the time you have to fix or replace the motor before it functionally fails. Armed with this information, you can schedule maintenance at a time that suits production.

Avoid unplanned downtime

The ability to plan downtime in an industrial environment is hugely beneficial, as the true cost of unplanned downtime due to a failed motor is often wildly underestimated. There are a number of cost factors which are routinely ignored, such as:

  • The true cost of an unplanned delay in production.
  • The need to pay overtime to maintenance staff to replace the motor.
  • Depending on the severity and type of machine break, other machines may be damaged as a result of the motor fault.
  • The cost of needing to store large numbers of spare motors in case any one of your motors breaks. Condition monitoring means you will be forewarned of any motor break (sometimes up to 4 months in advance); meaning backups for faulty motors can be bought when needed.

Apart from the avoidance of downtime due to machine breakage, condition monitoring contributes to a well run plant in a number of other ways:

Maximise ROI

Predictive maintenance using condition monitoring allows you to maximise the return on investment in your mechanical assets. By monitoring the actual condition of your machine, you can inspect, fix or replace the machine only when it’s necessary, and not before.

Conversely, preventative maintenance requires the replacement of all machines after a certain period of time, (or running hours) regardless of whether they have started to show signs of a fault. By keeping your machines in action until it is necessary to change/replace them, you can get more out of your machine (improving TCO (Total Cost of Ownership)), and maximise initial capital ROI.

Maintenance engineers can act more efficiently

In a scenario where there has been a breakage, maintenance engineers are able to act faster using condition monitoring. Different motor signal patterns are indicative of different developing faults. So condition monitoring will help the maintenance engineer to focus on the right fault, and not waste time checking parts of the motor that are not broken. This ultimately makes the maintenance engineer faster and more effective at his/her job.

Safeguard employee safety

By being able to determine when an asset will break, the maintenance personnel can ensure safer work practices. Depending on the nature of the asset, a breakage could be quite destructive, and could pose a threat to the safety of employees working around the asset. So using condition monitoring, the maintenance personnel can plan maintenance before a motor break poses a potential threat to safety.

Improve motor efficiency with MCSA

SAM4 by Semiotic Labs uses Motor Current Signature Analysis, meaning that it can also detect when a motor is beginning to run less efficiently. As a result, you can focus your efficiency improvements on specific motors.

Future proofing your plant

Statistically, 20-40% of your maintenance personnel are likely to retire in the next 5 years. So your ability to react to future unplanned downtime could suffer. SAM4 helps your maintenance team to avoid unplanned downtime and maximise plant productivity in the future.

3. Who is condition monitoring for?

Condition monitoring is an important part of any industrial maintenance strategy, and has a wide range of uses in a range of different environments, including:

  • Oil and Gas
  • Transport
  • Food and Beverage
  • Healthcare
  • Local communities
  • Water and wastewater
  • Airports
  • Pulp and paper industry

The specific assets that condition monitoring is used for include:

  • AC induction motors
  • Pumps
  • Compressors
  • Conveyors
  • Blowers and Fans

To find out how SAM4 by Semiotic Labs could benefit your maintenance strategy, book a demo today.

condition monitoring conveyor

4. Selection guide: Which solution is right for your plant?

The best way to learn about a solution is to book a demo with the supplier. Below are a list of questions and topics to discuss with the supplier during the demo to help you identify whether the condition monitoring software in question is right for you.

Part A: How does this system work?

Systems can differ in a number of different ways depending on the use case. Ask the supplier the following questions to get a better idea of whether this solution is the right one for you.

Which type of data does this system collect?
Condition monitoring involves the analysis of motor metrics. But the type of metric measured can vary from supplier to supplier.

Before the demo takes place, consider making a list of the types of motor metric data your plant could generate. This will give you an idea of whether this system will work for your plant. Data types often used include: current/voltage, vibration patterns, motor acceleration and thermal data.

How will this system collect that data?
Different systems collect data in different ways. For example, MCSA allows sensors to be installed in the Motor Control Cabinet, whereas hand held thermal sensors require the maintenance professional to physically inspect the machine (which might not be an option if the asset is located in an ATEX zone).

Think about how your plant could collect data, and discuss this with the supplier.

Is this an online or off-line solution?
Not all condition monitoring solutions are online. Some systems are based purely on-premise, where the maintenance information does not leave the premises.
Although on-premise solutions may sometimes be the only option (think about ships, where network connectivity is limited), online systems are beneficial in most other ways. For example, if you have a company with plants in multiple locations, a central maintenance crew can monitor the health of any motor from any location. Discuss with the sales consultant whether offline or online would suit your use case best.

Part B: How effective is this system?

Once you have established if this condition monitoring system will work for your plant, it’s time to find out how effective the system is. By asking the sales consultant the following questions, you will gain an understanding of how effective the system is.

What is the failure detection rate?
If the solution routinely misses failures, the ROI of your condition monitoring project will suffer. Anything above 90% detection is considered to be high.

How does the system identify a fault?
How the system will actually identify a fault is an important question. Traditional condition monitoring required manual data analysis to determine a developing fault. But more modern systems (such as SAM4) use AI and Data Science to automate the analysis and automatically determine if there is a developing fault.

How much detail can the system give on the type of the developing fault?
Advanced systems can not only identify a developing fault, but can also identify the specific type of fault and the severity of the fault. Ask the sales consultant if this system also has this functionality.

If a fault is detected, how will the system alert the maintenance team?
This could be completely manual, completely automated, or a mix of both. Often a mix of both can be beneficial, as a set of human eyes can double check that the fault is really a fault before the maintenance team are alerted and maintenance is scheduled.

Part C: Installation

Installation is your first real interaction with the tool. A painful or long-drawn out installation period can kill your team’s enthusiasm for a new tool or new way of working. So a quick and simple installation period can help build support for your tool.

How easy is installation?
This might seem like a subjective question, but different condition monitoring systems can differ significantly when it comes to ease of installation.

Is installation support offered?
Depending on the complexity of the installation, you might require support. Support can come in the form of on-site consultancy, over the phone support or online support materials and documentation (for example see our quick video on how to install SAM4).

AI training time
More modern condition monitoring systems will contain an AI element, which will usually take some of the data analysis burden away from the maintenance engineer, allowing the maintenance engineer to focus on conclusions and actions.

However, the AI system will often first require a learning period so that it can learn how your motor behaves, and the different workpoints the motor typically runs at. Once the system has captured this information, it can determine changes in future performance metrics which are indicative of a developing fault.

The aforementioned AI training time will vary depending on the system, however it is important to ask for an indication of how long this learning period will be. SAM4 typically requires only 2-6 weeks before the AI system has learnt what it needs to learn in order to effectively monitor your system.

Part D: Continued ease of use

Does this system have an easy to use interface?
The only way to really get a feel for this is to ask about it during the demo. Maybe ask if you can explore the interface by yourself for a few minutes. Without asking the sales rep for help, see if you can find:

  • Current motor health
  • Fault history
  • Is there a way to compare assets (possibly useful when comparing motor energy efficiency)?
  • Is there an in-dashboard tour? (For non-tech savvy users, an in dashboard tour can be very useful when demonstrating basic functionality.)
  • Does the user interface integrate with your existing CMMS system?

Ease of on-going system maintenance
Depending on the make-up of your system, on-going maintenance can become expensive.

As mentioned above: if your sensors are installed in difficult to reach places, then on-going sensor maintenance can be more costly and can take longer. Additionally, if your sensors are installed on motors which themselves are situated in hazardous environments, they are likely to be damaged and break more often, which in turn increases the costs of on-going maintenance.

Sign up for a condition monitoring demo

The best way to see if a solution is right for your organization is to book a demo.
If you are interested in learning more about our specific solution, sign up for a SAM4 demo today.

5. Further information/training

The amount of training required will depend on the condition monitoring vendor you opt for.

SAM4 has an intuitive dashboard which helps you to visualise performance data in a helpful way, and take action faster. By making our dashboard as intuitive as possible, very little training is needed to use SAM4, meaning you can start monitoring your assets as soon as possible.

Semiotic Labs also offer installation and technical support if needed. However we find most of our clients are able to install SAM4 without any problems.

In sum

Condition monitoring is a crucial part of a well run plant, as it allows you to optimize your maintenance schedule and minimize unplanned downtime.

To find out more about the strengths and weaknesses of the most commonly used condition monitoring technologies, download the comparison guide.

If you would like to learn more about our specific solution, sign up for a SAM4 demo.

May 28, 2019 | Blog

The 5 step guide to Condition Based Maintenance

Condition-based maintenance

stappen naar condition based maintenance

As the name suggests, Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) involves performing maintenance based on the condition of the asset. Organizations actively monitor the health of each individual asset by collecting real-time data. AI is then used to interpret that data and determine when the asset is likely to break/fail. Armed with this information, maintenance personnel can schedule maintenance just before the asset fails.

The following 5 steps will help you determine whether CBM is right for your organization, which type of CBM you require, and the things to look out for when implementing CBM.

1. Choose the right assets

The first step is to determine which assets are most suitable for this maintenance strategy. Not all assets are suitable for CBM. For example, a non-critical asset where a component can be replaced quickly might be better served by a different maintenance strategy.

To begin with, choose an asset for which it is fairly easy to quickly achieve positive results. This will help to grow confidence in CBM within your organization.

2. Measure, measure, measure

Once you have decided which of your assets are suitable for condition based maintenance, you need to determine how you will measure the condition of those assets. As mentioned, CBM often requires the use of sensors, which can measure a variety of metrics including temperature, vibrations, CO2 content and electricity.

Two of the more widely used sensor types are vibration and current sensors, which themselves differ in terms of application and effectiveness. For example, current sensors can detect both mechanical and electrical problems, while vibration sensors are mainly limited to the mechanical aspect.

One other significant difference between these two sensor types is that vibration sensors must be placed "in the field", while current sensors can monitor the assets from within the Motor Control Cabinet. The latter is quite attractive for many organizations, as sensors in the field can be subjected to a variety of conditions; for example, extremely high or low temperatures, which can cause sensors to fail or to provide unreliable data. Sensor modules installed inside the Motor Control Cabinet are usually located in a fairly stable and dry room; ideal conditions for collecting reliable data. To learn more about the differences between these two types of sensor, click here.

3. Choose the right business model

In addition to the choice of assets and tools, the underlying business model is an important factor to consider. There are usually two distinct options: either a one-off fee, or a subscription model.

The most significant downside of the one-off purchase model is that the customer will probably not receive future product upgrades (unless they pay for it). In an industry like condition monitoring, where technology is constantly improving, restricted access to future product improvements can severely hamper your ability to establish a competitive edge. Conversely, a subscription model will usually afford product updates for no added cost, helping your operation to stay competitive.

Subscription models also usually require a smaller short term investment than one off purchases, which in turn makes it easier to get your CBM project off the ground.

4. Create support within the organization

Implementing Condition Based Maintenance may require some change in the way the maintenance team operates. That’s why it is important to generate support for the change from all parties involved. Innovation Leaders need to explain how the technology will directly benefit the KPI’s of each specific party.

For example, if talking to a Maintenance Manager, the Innovation Leader should emphasize the fact that CBM will help the maintenance team to schedule maintenance more effectively. If talking to the Production Manager, the Innovation Leader should emphasize the fact that CBM will reduce the number of downtime events, and therefore boost productivity and OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).

5. Get started

CBM provides several benefits including: The reduction of unplanned downtime, less frequent motor inspection required by engineers and the optimization of inventory planning through accurate insights into which new parts are needed and when.

Not investing in CBM on time could leave your organization at a disadvantage. A reported 20-40% of maintenance engineers will retire in the next 5 years, and the supply of new engineers into the job market cannot keep up. So any tools that can help your existing maintenance professionals to work more efficiently will stand you in good stead for the future.

Want to learn more about Condition Based Maintenance? Book a demo today.

May 10, 2019 | Client cases

Success Story: Honeywell

Condition-based maintenance, Installation, Internet of Things, SAM4

SAM4 detects belt looseness on a critical HVAC system

Honeywell in Delft installed SAM4 on a critical HVAC-system to detect upcoming failures at an early stage so that maintenance is performed before breakdowns occur. Because the HVAC-system was installed in a remote location, installing vibration sensors was impossible. Honeywell decided to implement SAM4, Semiotic Labs’ online condition monitoring solution that analyses electrical waveforms to detect failures. SAM4 installs sensors inside the motor control cabinet and not on the asset in the field, enabling condition monitoring for assets operating in hard to reach places.
Implementation SAM4 installs sensors and communication devices inside the motor control cabinet. The system is connected to the SAM4-platform via 4G. After 60 minutes, the system was up-and-running and started collecting data. After a training period of 3 weeks, SAM4 provided insights into the condition, performance, and energy consumption.
Results SAM4 detected a loose belt and sent an alarm - triggering an inspection. The findings of SAM4 were substantiated: Honeywell replaced the belt, thus preventing unplanned downtime.  

The data After a couple of months of monitoring, the system:
1. SAM4 generated an alarm for an increase in energy at the rotational frequency - which is often associated with a loose belt.
2. Upon inspection, a loose and dry belt was detected. In lieu of replacement parts, it was tightened, resulting in a reduction of scores for that specific failure mode.
3. After replacing the ageing belt with a new one, scores levelled out at the pre-issue level

April 25, 2019 | Blog

Maintenance as a competitive advantage

Condition-based maintenance

In the past, maintenance was mainly seen as a cost item on the budget: a necessary evil to prevent production backlogs. Equipment breaks down and must be repaired, costing money.  In addition, maintenance was often associated with a dingy image. The work was thought of as dirty and unpleasant.  A career in maintenance was not exactly exciting or sexy.

A More Positive View
New techniques and maintenance strategies have led to a different, more positive view. Good maintenance generates a high degree of availability of critical assets.  If maintenance occurs at the right time, it can increase productivity and therefore profits.

Transforming data into valuable information
With good data management practices, it is now possible to perform maintenance tasks at the right time.  Modern machines generate a great deal of data: temperature, pressure or pressure differences, vibration, voltage, CO2 content, speed, noise, and so on.  The data itself typically only leads to small improvements. However, if this data is used in the right way, it turns into valuable information.  The failure of a machine or part can be predicted with the proper analysis. This has several positive effects on the organization. First, there is more insight into the machines.  Second, an organization can order spare parts on time.  Third, in consultation with production, a strategic smart maintenance plan can be drawn up. Maintenance is therefore no longer seen as a cost item, but as a real 'competitive advantage'.

Creating support
That said, applying condition-based maintenance as a strategy is not something accomplished overnight.  As a company, you will first have to create support within the entire organization.
There are plug-and-play solutions that you can easily buy and install, but the organization will also have to learn to work with them. For example, the production and maintenance processes may have to be set up in a different way.  Production, IT, and maintenance may have to work together much more than before.  An implementation of condition-based maintenance is therefore often done step-by-step.  Employees can take some time to get used to a new approach.  Everyone will more easily understand the roadmap, and the change process will be clearer.

Go After Low Hanging Fruit First
The first important step is to identify which assets are critical and require high availability. Also, a clear analysis should be completed on the type, number of failures and their impact on production and on the company (such as financial impact).  In this way, a company gets an accurate picture of the machinery, failure modes, and knows where the largest profit can be achieved.
From this initial picture, the company can determine which asset is tackled first.  For this asset, the data necessary to predict failures is determined.  To gain momentum, it is wise to choose an asset where success can be achieved quickly.  Realizing immediate value will foster a broader acceptance in the organization.

Cultural change
Maintenance managers must accept data driven maintenance decisions, even if their intuition may be different.  They will have to learn to trust the data.  By starting small and achieving success immediately, trust will grow.  The benefits of condition-based maintenance will be understood better and better. Maintenance is transformed from a cost item to a competitive advantage.


Want to know more about how maintenance can lead to a competitive advantage? View our solution, follow us on LinkedIn or
schedule an appointment.