No unplanned downtime – new concept or old?

manufacturing transformation

Seven whole years since the last gathering of like minds! That was my thought as I signed in at the GE Intelligent Platforms User Summit 2014 in October. I was excited about reconnecting with customers and colleagues, and hearing the latest ideas.

The first thing I noticed was that the hunger for something new was palpable in the air. All the attendees, surfacing from the doldrums of the last recession, seemed eager to embark on new adventures.

No unplanned downtime – a new concept or an old one?

GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt had a lot to say on the concept of no unplanned downtime. He painted a vision of an interconnected world that will bring humans and machines together through the industrial internet. Which of course is not a new concept, but a new iteration of an old one.

Twenty years ago, we were already promoting the concept of no unplanned downtime at the machine level. But back then, the concept was light years ahead of technology. We were using MS Access and SQL Server and a custom-built editor for downtime, coupled with an early release of GE-IP’s Proficy for Plant Applications. Gathering downtime data and creating downtime reports was bothersome, cumbersome, and slow.

Rolling the downtime data upwards

Time progresses. Technology advances. The downtime data keeps rolling upwards, from machine to line to site to enterprise. Machines sensors, we were told, can now pump data to a cloud repository; software can analyse this data to spot deviations and alert data analysts. The concept of no unplanned downtime is taking on a new life and a new meaning.

But by far the best part was that so many of the terms and the concepts discussed were so close to my Factora heart. Deviations from predictive patterns. Narrowing the deviation. Finding anomalies in data. Moving away from acting on feelings and individual experience. Moving towards using big data to find out where the real problems lie.

In order to generate real efficiencies, in time and materials. Having access to predictability translates into significant savings.

The new buzz on predictive maintenance

With the advent of the industrial internet, plant operators will be moving away from gut feel and guesses and tired maintenance schedules, and moving towards making informed decisions based on deviations from patterns. Letting data from the equipment tell them when maintenance is needed, so that catastrophic events don’t do so.

Takeaways from the User Summit

The User Summit did a great job at motivating us all about the new possibilities for improved productivity. A lot of it centers on timing: with better data and better analytics, we’ll pinpoint the real problems on the shop floor, which means we’ll catch problems earlier. Particularly with maintenance, we can be more preventive, less reactive.

Exciting times ahead!