The Impact Of Digital Transformation On Asset Management

With tech companies continuing to research AI and machine learning, we can expect to see more significant changes and innovations in the recent future, leading to smarter assets that can learn and communicate with one another.

Mnet 193614 Digital Transformation
Bryan ChristiansenBryan Christiansen

As digital transformation continues to sweep across the business and manufacturing world, all areas of operations are being affected - maintenance management included. To stay competitive on the market, asset managers need to know how these transformations will affect, and potentially improve, the ways in which companies are managing their assets.

In its report from 2017, the International Data Corporation predicted that, by the end of 2019, spending on digital transformation (DX) would go up to $1.7 trillion worldwide. That figure represents a 42 percent increase from 2017.

Off course, the implementation of digital transformation can take many different forms, depending on the industry in question.

In light of that, let’s explore what kind of impact does digital transformation have on asset management, an integral component of every manufacturing facility.

Analytics and IIoT 

Traditionally, maintenance technicians have relied on routine physical inspection as a key factor for monitoring the condition of assets and identifying irregularities that could lead to failure. Unfortunately, these inspections are manual, time-consuming, and commonly leave room for costly human error.

The need for more proactive maintenance techniques that could predict when assets would breakdown resulted in the emergence of Predictive Maintenance (PdM).

More updated applications of predictive maintenance rely on continuous condition-based monitoring and use IIoT-enabled sensors to monitor machine parameters like:

  • Temperature
  • Vibration
  • Current
  • Ultrasound

The above parameters are then combined with historical maintenance data, and service reports to determine equipment health and predict potential failures more accurately. In addition, some systems include an analytics module that will also provide prognosis in real time.

This kind of digital transformation means that technicians can run analytics themselves and significantly cut down on the time that would otherwise have been spent on manual inspections. PdM also keeps maintenance costs lean by eliminating unwarranted servicing and minimizing machine downtime.

In a study conducted by McKinsey & Company Inc., they propose that asset productivity could increase by up to 20 percent and overall maintenance costs could reduce by up to 10 percent using IoT enhanced predictive maintenance.

The Collaboration of Modern Maintenance Software and Mobile Technology

It would be safe to state that up to 90 percent of workers have access to at least one mobile device. With that in mind, this seems like a perfect time to use mobile maintenance software to manage your assets, inventory, and maintenance operations.

Lately, we are seeing a big shift from reactive to preventive approach to asset maintenance as the need to decrease overall cost of operations to stay competitive on the market is higher than ever.

That shift is also partially happening because of the ability to use maintenance software on mobile devices. This brings many appealing benefits, with one of them being a simpler and more effective way to schedule and oversee preventive maintenance work.

Additionally, maintenance personnel can also use mobile maintenance software for:

  • faster communication and easier cooperation on bigger team projects
  • view the progress of all work orders and quickly assign new task
  • prioritize work on critical assets
  • improve response time and decrease asset downtime
  • have access to all maintenance operation information without being tied to the desk

Here are some other instances where mobile technology helps out with asset management:

  • Multiple Functionality and Durability. Their flexibility, ease-of use, low entry price, and multiple functionality means they are quickly replacing many older tools like jotters, cameras, alarm clocks, and so on. For technicians in particular, there are several brands of tablets and smartphones that are designed to withstand the often-hazardous conditions in industrial environments.
  • Faster Emergency Response. It’s easier than ever to speed up your ticketing response time.  A requester can within less then a minute submit a problem to the maintenance team with exact details including pictures.  The maintenance team can then immediately send the correct technician to resolve the issue depending on it’s severity level.  The technician, from their phone, will automatically have all of the information needed to quickly troubleshoot and fix the problem.  
  • Real-time Reporting. Technicians on the service field can use their smartphones to capture and relay information on the go. Rather than taking out a sheet of paper and pen, a service technician can take pictures and videos of equipment and report a failed component or other situation immediately.

Cloud-Based Technology

Instead of having to report back to a physical location for information, cloud-based technologies allow maintenance teams to access such information regardless of their location through “on demand” software.

These cloud computing apps are accessible through secure internet hosted servers. The apps can manage data, store information about assets, procedures, etc., and present information for specific uses as required. The aim is to create a ready platform for the mobile service technician. All the technician has to do to access the needed information is to log into the specific application (using an internet enabled device), get the data, and quickly attend to the situation at hand.

Another angle that should be of interest to asset managers is the flexibility of subscription-based software that cloud technology allows. Also known as SaaS - Software as a Service - subscription payment plans can help companies reduce heavy investments in software upfront.

A perfect example is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that offers companies access to a robust but affordable solution.

Virtual Reality (VR)

One emerging technology that is trying to find its place in the asset management field is VR,  mainly used for virtual maintenance training.

This training method involves the use of interactive 3D simulations of equipment to replicate real life situations. The aim is to create a safe but realistic environment where technicians can learn the exact procedures to maintain, service or repair certain equipment that are hazardous or currently unavailable in real life settings.

Virtual training for asset maintenance is becoming increasingly popular in the aviation industry where almost 90 percent of inspection and maintenance training being of a visual nature.

However, there is also increasing interest in the many benefits and the possibilities that this kind of training can offer in industrial settings.

Some of the cited benefits include:

  • more engaging training programs that result in a better skilled workforce
  • ability to learn safety procedures in a controlled environment
  • ability to train more people in a shorter amount of time
  • technicians can learn how to operate/maintain expensive assets without the risk of damaging them

While the benefits might seem appealing, many are still worried about potential costs. Even though virtual technology is become cheaper and more accessible by the day, the application themselves could prove to be an insurmountable challenge as the costs of building a virtual world your team can use to train in can be very high.

Telemaintenance

Telemaintenance is a system that provides maintenance technicians technical support by allowing an expert to access assets from a different location no matter how small or distant the technician’s site may be.

When the service personnel is facing a challenge, they can send the information to a predetermined specialist, usually at a support desk or service center. After getting clear details of the situation, the specialist can work with the technician to resolve the problem. This exchange of information takes place using a combination of sensors, converters, and data loggers, among other instruments.

Essentially, telemaintenance eliminates the need for an expert to travel down to the location and consequently minimizes equipment downtime and can potentially save you a lot of money.

Final words

What we have covered here are just some examples of how digital transformation is changing asset management.

With tech companies continuing to research AI and machine learning, we can expect to see more significant changes and innovations in the recent future, leading to smarter assets that can learn and communicate with one another.

What we can say now is that all of these changes, when implemented properly, will translate to improved processes and higher productivity, all at lower cost of operations.

Bryan Christiansen is founder and CEO at Limble CMMS.

More in Industry 4.0