How Asset Management Saves in a Down Economy

Plant Asset Management systems let you
squeeze more out of your industrial equipment by reducing unplanned
stoppages and unnecessary maintenance tasks. Estimated savings in the
U.S. could exceed $60 billion.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know something was going to break before it
actually brought your production line to a grinding halt, killing
productivity, throwing off schedules and possibly compromising delivery
deadlines? Now think about how nice it would be to be able to put that
precognition to use and apply a little predictive maintenance to not
only keep things running smoothly, but to keep them that way for longer
before having to replace expensive equipment.

This is the promise made by Plant Asset Management (PAM) systems.

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PAM
systems provide timely information to help maintenance and operations
improve asset availability, reducing the time required to maintain
equipment and optimizing their efficiency. PAM systems rely on a
combination of diagnostic software and hardware tools that perform
automatic, real-time monitoring and alarming of asset-related key
performance indicators. If something starts to fall out of acceptable
parameters — such as a pump starting to vibrate more than it should —
you are notified and can take predictive rather than preventative or
corrective action. “Many people think PAM is a maintenance
function, and it is that, but it’s also much, much more,” says Chuck
Cotton, a spokesperson for Siemens Energy & Automation where he is
deeply involved with the company’s PAM offering. “PAM enables you to
squeeze a lot more blood out of your rocks.


“In addition to a
higher return on assets,” he adds, “you can reduce the number of
unscheduled stoppages, you can react more quickly when you do get a
disruption that translates into a lower mean time to repair, you get
decreased maintenance costs and ultimately improved productivity out of
your plant and improved ROI from your assets.”

With many
manufacturing operations freezing capital investments until the economy
rebounds, it has never been more important to get more out of your
existing investments, a contributing factor to remarkable market growth
for PAM solutions. 

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According
to Wil Chin, a research director who follows PAM at ARC Advisory Group
in Dedham, Mass., the global market for PAM systems grew by an average
of more than 13 percent a year since 2006, eclipsing the forecast of
10.8 percent.

“Today's PAM systems offer end users a solution
appropriate for both good and bad times,” says Chin, the primary author
of  the recent PAM study, Plant Asset Management Systems Worldwide
Outlook. “The value proposition for PAM systems remains intact and –
when combined with safety and other drivers associated with the decline
in the workforce – PAM adoption will not fall off nearly as much as
other automation investments.”

Chin believes that this
resiliency is founded on PAM’s ability to help manufacturers do more
with less. “By providing information at the right time and in the right
context, workers work smarter.” 

Despite this prediction, things are not necessarily all rosy for the PAM vendors. 

“End
users understand that PAM can help them to predictively diagnose the
health of critical assets, but don't always make the connection to how
this can help improve profitability when resources are scarce and
demand for their products is declining,” says Chin, who adds there is
still a lot of confusion around PAM systems for end users and even
where there is a clear understanding a deployment requires significant
domain expertise. “Suppliers and end users need to educate themselves
about the benefits that PAM systems offer to help them survive the
economic contraction.”

That said, the impact can be profound. 

In
his book An Introduction to Predictive Maintenance, Keith Mobley claims
that, depending upon the industry, maintenance costs can run anywhere
from 15 to 60 percent of the cost of goods produced. He also suggests
that up to a third of all maintenance expenditure is wasted because of
poor or unnecessary maintenance. When he wrote this book in 2002, he
estimated this translates to a loss of more than $60 billion per year
in the United States.

“Predictive maintenance is really the ideal
since it schedules specific tasks when they are actually required by
the equipment rather than when someone estimates they will be
required,” says Cotton. “Preventative maintenance, on the other hand,
is about scheduling work whether it’s needed or not based on hours of
operation or number of operating cycles. This leads to equipment being
replaced while it still has some life left and pulls your skilled human
assets off other more productive tasks.”

In the past, operations
and maintenance teams have each had their roles to play in helping
companies get the most out of their plants, but they have traditionally
come at the problem separately. PAM brings them together, unifying and
organizing their efforts. 

“Traditionally, the maintenance
organization was primarily concerned with asset availability, while
operations was most concerned with asset utilization,” says Cotton.
“These two functions are often at odds with each other. PAM enables you
to manage both these factors in a holistic manner, which is more
effective from a strategic business perspective. PAM systems provide
the intelligence required to help you balance asset availability with
asset utilization, helping you get the maximum possible productivity
out of your plant.”

Getting started with a PAM strategy
isn’t as complicated as it may seem. There is no need to launch into a
plant-wide revolution right away, says Cotton. “Start with a
criticality analysis. Look at what has the most impact on environment,
production and safety. Start small, focus on a couple of projects, then
expand, hopefully, to plant-wide strategy.”

At the core of any PAM
strategy, adds Cotton, is integration. “It is important to integrate
all the major components so they can be monitored and you can draw
meaningful diagnostics from them. At Siemens, our Totally Integrated
Automation approach delivers these elements — tying all the individual
pieces together through networking then providing simple visualization
and alarming through HMI tools, ultimately giving you more control over
your operations.”

For further information on products within the Siemens Totally Integrated Automation approach, please click here.

::Design World::

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