Lightening the Load on Heavy-Equipment Maintenance and Lean Operations; Digital Work Management

Asset-intensive industries such as oil and gas, mining, metals, and power production, have been turning to new technologies to increase the reliability and availability of critical equipment in the supply chain. The adoption of digital technology provides an opportunity for companies to promote efficiency, resilience, and agility.   

In addition to keeping maintenance costs under control, using digital and analytics capabilities alongside traditional lean techniques, are increasingly effective at preventing equipment failures, increasing labor productivity, and streamlining the management of external contractors. 

When resources and heavy industries companies get all of the measures right, the results can be significant. The most successful have adopted the use of digital tools in reducing unplanned outages while boosting maintenance-labor productivity. The resilience that businesses can develop in the face of disruption provides fresh avenues for growth—leaders that seize the moment are able to to build a more-efficient workforce and increase profitability. 

The Big Three; Ingredients for Success. 

Many companies, however, have implemented digital maintenance and reliability solutions with little measurable impact. The most successful digital maintenance and reliability implementations share three common traits:  

  1. The companies take a holistic view of the new equipment, building digital technologies into a clearly defined vision for the functional future of maintenance and reliability.
  2. They focus on two proven categories effective in heavy industrial applications: predictive maintenance (PdM) and digital work management (DWM). 
  3. They support their use of digital tools by ensuring optimised workflows, a reliable data infrastructure, and the upskilling of their people.

The Challenge of Cost Efficiency and Resilience.

To achieve their goals for cost efficiency and resilience, companies must work to become more agile in responding to demand and supply shifts. The need for agility has also made it essential for operations functions to connect more closely with commercial teams. In this way all departments can heighten their visibility into demand, assess scenarios, and respond accordingly. 

Traditionally, much of the complexity of maintenance within organisations arises from tackling a wide range of tasks with different frequencies, goals, and work requirements. Often the timing of maintenance interventions can be predetermined—or could be variable based on data from monitoring systems and analytics tools. Between these variables, planners juggle regular preventative-maintenance activities, emergency repairs, and intermittent upgrades.  

Getting the Work Done Faster, Cheaper, and Better; Digital Work Management. 

DWM covers a range of systems to enhance maintenance work; everything from work identification and planning through to scheduling, materials management, dispatching, and execution. DWM is generally built into, or on top of, an organisation’s existing enterprise resource-planning (ERP) platform. The ERP system acts as a source for much of the baseline data used by DWM. This includes structured equipment data, spare-parts inventory, people data, and preventive-maintenance schedules. 

An effective DWM system optimises job prioritisation and planning activities based on constraints, such as personnel competencies and parts availability. These systems also provide execution support in the field, with mobile devices or augmented-reality systems guiding staff in task completion.  

Successful DWM systems deliver value by increasing the efficiency of both internal and external maintenance labour. By reducing planned downtime through shutdown and outage optimisation, it also gives an opportunity to upskill the maintenance workforce. With enhanced inventory visibility, additional benefits include increasingly effective purchasing decisions and working-capital management. 

Getting the Most From DWM. 

In the design and implementation of new systems and processes, organisations that get the most from them, take an equally value-centric and user-centric approach. While the overarching outcome desired from DWM is to reduce waste and ease pain points for the business, adoption must be a focus. On this basis, successful systems must also make life easier for users, such as maintenance and operations staff or external contractors. This requires a thorough understanding of working practices, challenges and pain points. 

Successful companies build tight, two-way integration between their DWM tools, their other systems, and especially their people. This means ensuring they have skilled contractors who can integrate with the new technologies. In this way, data captured in the field becomes part of the organisation’s master data, and can be accessed and analysed to provide root-cause analysis of reliability and efficiency issues. 


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