Dear Maintenance, Select Smart.

The Maintenance Engineer is supposed to be Sarva-guna-sampann — the omni-present Bob-The-Builder, who makes the ‘hurt’ a.k.a outage go away in a jiffy — better still he does not let it occur only! He is Mr-Know-it-all, who understands it all, whether it is engineering or the properties of the components; whether it is the science or the controls in the processes, whether it is the design specification or how to operate the plant and equipment. He continuously strives to make the Plant reliable; to ensure that the Plant’s life between outages increases manifold. He is the Blue-eyed Boy of the CXOs if he manages without any Shut Down for Maintenance (scheduled or unscheduled)!

The Maintenance Engineer is an embodiment of knowledge of multiple disciplines — mechanical, chemical, process, control, metallurgy, including an understanding of electrical engineering. He must possess the mathematical capacity to analyse process control and power systems such that he can model and engage in condition monitoring of probabilities likely to occur during plant operation.

In an ideal situation, the Maintenance Engineer desires and believes in “Prevention is better than Cure”! In reality however, his team has the tough job of running to stay at the same place resorting to corrective rather than preventive maintenance! Analysis and use of data play a significant role in ensuring the effectiveness and efficacy of the Maintenance Team. It’s about time to step back and ponder about whether the rapidly growing number of sensors, embedded devices, that produce humongous quantity of data, are at all used in an adequately structured manner by the Maintenance Team! In fact, the ability to analyse the large volumes of data have critical use particularly in energy-intensive industries.

It’s time for reality check.

Is adequate data being collated and compiled scientifically?

Is the data being analysed meaningfully?

Is there scope for automation /digitization of processes and assets, and has it been addressed adequately?

Even if the replies to any one of these 3 is a tepid ‘No’, then it’s time to introspect! One could blame it on lack of focus of CXOs on the Maintenance activity; or use of archaic methods for collation and compilation of data (to a large extent it is still done manually); or lack of means to take an informed decision with respect to strategy and Maintenance protocol.

By formulating the National Manufacturing Policy, with special emphasis on “Make in India”, the Indian Government has set a growth target for the manufacturing sector from 16% of GDP to reach 25% of GDP by 2025. Under the Policy, the Government has mooted the idea of inter alia, introducing ‘Industry 4.0’ to the Manufacturing diaspora.

Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution is emerging globally as a powerful force and is characterized by the increasing digitization and interconnection of products, value chains and business models. It is driven by an amalgamation of emerging technologies like data volumes, computational power, Internet of Things (IoT), business analytics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, elemental design, simulation, advanced robotics and cyber-physical systems. The intervention of Industry 4.0 would mean the convergence of real and virtual worlds; bringing together the conventional and modern technologies in manufacturing, thereby leading to “Smart Factory”.

Especially in the wake of dynamic globalisation, with international markets being open to India like never before, it is about time for CXOs to revamp their Housekeeping / Maintenance Strategy with effective use of the available IoT platform and Predictive Maintenance solutions. A Smart Factory, a Smart Commercial Building, a Smart Machine or an Asset can reap the benefits of digitalisation in more ways than one. Some of the benefits would be data collation in a scientific manner; integrated analysis of data & reduction of redundancies; identification of defects and faults on predictive basis; capacity building of industries in their ability to solve complex optimisation challenges (it would be possible to consider several parameters like the demand, availability of raw materials, process parameters and ascertain economical batch sizes). Effective data management and improved data analysis on real time basis shall significantly reduce the error rate in manufacturing and increase the productivity of the plant.

Diwali, the Festival of Lights is celebrated for varied reasons by people all over the world, albeit the underlying principle remains the same — learn from the experienced and move with times — discard the Evil (old and obsolete) and embrace the Good (innovation and technology, which is current and relevant)! Wishing Everyone a Very Happy & Safe Diwali!

Vidya Bhaskar

Head — Regulatory & Process,

Ecolibrium Energy Private Limited