If there’s one good thing to be said about the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that it exposed major vulnerabilities in the global supply chain. Though that might not seem like a win when taken at face value, it’s important to remember that you can’t fix something unless you know it’s broken. To that end, COVID-19 has enabled suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, shippers, and carriers alike to identify and resolve long-standing issues and create a stronger supply chain for the future.

With all of that said, COVID-19 is far from the only major threat to the global supply chain. In fact, one of the biggest threats is internal. Unplanned downtime — that is, downtime that occurs unexpectedly, often due to equipment failure — can bring manufacturing production to a screeching halt, which can, in turn, have downstream effects on the entire supply chain. Fortunately, thanks to major technological advancements and the emergence of the smart factory, smart maintenance has made it possible to predict, plan for, and even avoid unexpected downtime.

Table of Contents

The State of Maintenance in 2021
What is Smart Maintenance?
9 Benefits to Implementing Smart Maintenance Technology
9 Tips to Start Your Smart Maintenance Initiative
Build a Smarter Supply Chain with Hitachi Solutions & Microsoft

The State of Maintenance in 2021

The manufacturing industry underwent some major changes in 2020, in no small part due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Ali Aksut, the worldwide lead for Dynamics 365 supply chain and manufacturing at Microsoft, “Manufacturers are increasingly looking at assets as customers rather than cost centers to improve overall equipment effectiveness and other metrics.”

In a recent podcast interview, Aksut also stated that the pandemic has shed new light on the importance of remote monitoring and diagnostics, leading to an uptick in manufacturers using industrial internet of things (IIoT) and telemetry to engage in proactive maintenance and make more informed decisions.

Making Industry 4.0 A Reality: Two Experts’ Insights >>

Craig Berg, CTO of Presales for the Dynamics 365 practice at Hitachi Solutions, added that the pandemic has brought maintenance departments to the forefront of people’s attention.

“[Maintenance] has a really vital part to play because companies need to ensure the uptime of their equipment and plants,” said Berg. “And so, manufacturers and CPG brands are seeking to integrate maintenance more intentionally into their supply chain.”

Smart maintenance provides manufacturers with a unique opportunity to optimize maintenance management, increase supply chain resiliency, and better navigate unexpected disruptions.

“Smart maintenance uses telemetry and sensor data from equipment to align and optimize maintenance schedules in conjunction with productions schedules,” said Aksut. “As a result, you don’t cause self-inflicted disruptions in your own supply chain, you minimize equipment downtime and maximize its availability, and you can ramp up production without any issues.”

What is Smart Maintenance?

So, what is smart maintenance, exactly?

Smart maintenance pairs wireless IIoT devices, such as sensors and gauges, with an end-to-end supply chain management application that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to remotely monitor, analyze, and assess equipment performance. In doing so, smart maintenance enables manufacturers to proactively administer maintenance to machinery at the first sign of a problem, rather than after the problem — and downtime — has occurred. Smart maintenance allows for greater control over maintenance management, which, in turn, enhances equipment productivity and performance.

Best of all, smart maintenance can optimize any maintenance strategy from time-based preventative maintenance to run-to-failure, where equipment is deliberately operated until breakdown before maintenance takes place. With this degree of visibility and insight into equipment performance, maintenance managers are able to better predict asset failure and identify next steps to prevent unplanned downtime.

9 Benefits to Implementing Smart Maintenance Technology

There are myriad benefits to introducing smart maintenance technology to any manufacturing facility. Smart maintenance can:

1. Prevent unplanned downtime. By using smart maintenance to access data-driven insights into equipment performance, managers can more accurately predict whether a machine is likely to malfunction and administer the necessary repairs to prevent downtime. In fact, according to McKinsey, smart maintenance can reduce equipment downtime by 30%–50% and increase equipment longevity by 20%–40%.

2. Eliminate unexpected costs. According to Aberdeen, unplanned maintenance downtime costs manufacturers an average of $260,000 per hour — that’s over $4,000 per minute! By enabling manufacturers to avoid unplanned downtime, smart maintenance can significantly reduce overall operating costs.

3. Maximize equipment availability and efficiency. Being able to predict when a piece of equipment requires attention makes it possible to automate self-healing or proactively initiate work orders, saving on repair-associated time and costs. Based on research from Supply Chain Dive, smart factory strategies improve asset efficiency by 20% on average.

4. Improve workplace safety conditions. COVID-19 has accelerated the need to monitor operations and provide remote assistance. Smart maintenance enables maintenance managers to safely do their job without ever having to go onsite. Post-pandemic, smart maintenance will help facilitate better safety, faster training, and higher quality workmanship with intelligent tools and applications.

5. Increase production, quality, and uptime. According to Supply Chain Dive, smart factory strategies such as smart maintenance have been shown to improve indirect value drivers like product quality by 30%.

6. Act as a competitive differentiator. Again, according to Supply Chain Dive, 86% of U.S. manufacturers believe that smart factory initiatives — including smart maintenance — will be a main driver of competitiveness over the next five years.

7. Align maintenance schedules with production schedules. Too often, maintenance is isolated from production. Smart maintenance breaks down silos between the two, creating opportunities to plan maintenance around production demands. This enables manufacturers to more consistently meet deadlines and prevent supply chain disruption in the process.

8. Uncover asset performance and reliability insights. The ability to view an asset’s usage, issues, and repair history improves maintenance management and enables manufacturers to optimize spare parts inventory management.

9. Be scaled over time. Smart maintenance investment doesn’t need to happen all at once. In fact, gradually building a smart maintenance foundation enables manufacturers to better manage investment costs and build a solid business case for investment.

9 Tips to Start Your Smart Maintenance Initiative

For any manufacturer interested in taking advantage of smart maintenance, here are a few tried-and-true tips from the experts to help you get started:

  • Develop a new mindset in which you treat maintenance and key assets like customers.
  • Commit to moving from a break-fix or reactive maintenance model to a proactive one.
  • Create a roadmap that aligns maintenance to your Industry 4.0 vision. This will help you develop an initiative that generates quick wins and additive capabilities and that secures execute buy-in.
  • Implement IIoT-enabled sensors and start collecting data on equipment performance.
  • Invest in condition-based or basic IIoT telemetry to improve remote monitoring and diagnostic capabilities.
  • Adopt composable architectures from Microsoft to build a proactive maintenance model over time.
  • Use the Microsoft Power Platform to enable real-time data gathering and streamline equipment maintenance.
  • Utilize data to improve production scheduling, inventory management, quality, on-time deliveries, and other objectives.
  • Leverage Dynamics 365 guides, machine learning algorithms, and Microsoft templates to create predictive maintenance capabilities.

Build a Smarter Supply Chain with Hitachi Solutions & Microsoft

Ready to kickstart your own smart maintenance initiative? Take the next step by meeting with Hitachi Solutions at a Microsoft Catalyst workshop. Microsoft Catalyst is a powerful, proven approach to innovation, one that uses creative ideation to help you identify and prioritize supply chain and smart maintenance transformation strategies.

During your one-day Catalyst workshop, you’ll work with a team of experts from Hitachi Solutions and Microsoft to review your business objectives, visualize solutions, and develop a clear action plan that will help you solve key challenges and attain your goals. Say goodbye to unplanned downtime and start planning your future — sign up for Catalyst today.

For even more industry insights and support across the entire Microsoft suite, talk to the experts at Hitachi Solutions.