The future of maintenance: A guide to Industry 4.0

Industrial maintenance is an essential part of any business. A breakdown can be catastrophic because it does not only involve a large outlay of money; it will also stop the industrial production process, with all the inconvenience for you and your customers. Therefore, a detailed industrial maintenance plan is essential for your business to succeed.

What is industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is a new way of manufacturing goods. With the development of technology, the way companies produce things has evolved and now manufacturers attempt to get the most out of their equipment and people. 

Now, computers are connecting and communicating with one another all the time. Advanced systems and technologies, combined with greater access to data, are making Industry 4.0 possible. 

Industry 4.0 is a name given to the current trend of automation and data exchange in industrial technologies. It includes the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT), wireless sensors, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. 

Industrial maintenance of industry 4.0: predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is considered the most advanced of the types of industrial maintenance due to its predictive nature. You do not have to guess when the tear will appear; by using certain objective parameters, you can measure variations in the way the equipment works and detect irregularities before they turn into a bigger problems. With a predictive maintenance program, a failure will never take you by surprise.

Predictive maintenance in industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is based on the fact that machinery is already connected to the internet. In other words, each part of the industrial production process interact with the other parts to adapt to the circumstances and achieve an optimal performance at all times. This means that it is not necessary to make interventions in the machinery to be able to take measurements of these physical parameters; the machines already communicate between each other. This is the big advantage of industrial maintenance 4.0.

Maintenance 4.0 includes a holistic view of sources of data, ways to connect, ways to collect, ways to analyze and recommended actions to take in order to ensure asset function (reliability) and value (asset management) are digitally assisted.

The most suitable type of industrial maintenance is predictive maintenance. Thanks to some software, you will have access to data regarding the state of your machinery at all times. The computer system will help you predict issues and to decide when it is the ideal time to make a repair or replacement before a breakdown occurs. Furthermore, thanks to the particularities of Industry 4.0, the rest of your machinery will be able to adapt to the circumstance and achieve the optimal performance while some parts are under repair.

Key components of Industry 4.0

Here is a brief description of these key components:

Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)

A cyber physical system is a system where there is cooperation between a computer system and physical machines. The computer system controls the machine, and in return gets sensor data or other status back.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

AI is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. Using these technologies, computers can accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.

Machine learning (ML)

Machine learning is teaching a computer to learn to find patterns in a large amount of data and make conclusions based on these patterns. It is a quicker way to uncover new insights that can be used to improve processes.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The Industrial IoT connects machines, data, and people. First, it takes a network of industrial devices, like sensors and maintenance software, and allows them to share information with each other. This provides a platform to track, collect, exchange, access, and analyze large amount of data more efficiently. The insights obtained from this data are then used to improve manufacturing procedures.

IoT provides accessibility to different systems so you don’t have to collect data from several sources separately and try to connect the dots, IoT does this for you. 

Internet of Services (IoS)

Online forecasts of the weather by reputed meteorologists is just one example of a service provided through the internet. The idea behind “Internet of Services” is that a system should be able to go online to use services that are useful in its domain. This requires that services are developed with a focus on interoperability, i.e. that the service is structured in a way that it can easily be used by other systems. It also requires that the services are open to all, or at least set up with an access system that allows qualified users to use them.

In short, the Internet of Services and Internet of Things are two basic concepts that should be implemented in factories as a precondition for the smart factory of the future

Big Data

Big Data describes the huge amount of information you are can be able to collect, analyze and use to find trends and associations in the way we live. Big Data is often characterized by the way data is used, its ability to determine causes and effects, and its implications for decision-making.

When manufacturers get and use insights from Big Data, they can identify causes of inefficiency, reduce costs and streamline processes.

How maintenance is dealing Industry 4.0

There are many ways asset management will be changed thanks to Industry 4.0, from how technicians complete day-to-day tasks, to the way plant managers use their facilities.

Industry 4.0 is very extensive and includes measurements that span the entire value chain for a product, from the IoT at the factory floor level to smart industries at the top. These changes will take time.

For most companies, the challenge will be to look at what they already have and then, make adjustments to take advantage of the new technologies.

Product features phase: The purpose of this phase is to equip the products (machines and components) with Industry 4.0 features so the product itself could be able to generate data relating to its status and operation, process this data on a product level, and to take any required action.

Data analytics phase: The purpose of this phase is to extract new insights from the accumulated data by applying data analytics on the data stream that is generated by all the connected items. This provides a useful basis to assist in developing new services.

New services phase: The goal of this phase is to introduce new, useful services. The knowledge acquired in the previous phase can be used on new services for customers. This could be, for instance, a live KPI monitor to give workers or management useful insights. 

Maintenance and Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the goal for everyone in industrial maintenance, but getting there takes a lot of time, money and effort. Integrating elements of Industry 4.0 into your maintenance operation is not a matter of buying new technology or making few changes. You have to take the time to put all the right tools, processes and systems in place. Fortunately, right now, there are some steps you can take to move toward Industry 4.0. Here, we have selected few of them.

Mastering preventive maintenance

The habits, processes and tools of a well-built preventive maintenance program increase the chances of successfully transitioning to Industry 4.0. There are few steps to create a solid preventive maintenance program that cover everything from defining your goals to getting the right technology and measuring success. This process will help you fine-tune your maintenance practices whilst giving you the know-how to build and implement a strategy for Industry 4.0 with fewer effort.

Focus on collecting good-quality data

Data is the cornerstone of Industry 4.0. Advanced technology cannot do its job without detailed, accurate information. Having high-quality data makes it easier to use the systems of Industry 4.0 to their full potential. Therefore, now it is the time to start building that inventory of intelligence.

Create a reliability culture

Industry 4.0 is a big change, which involves many aspects. However, implementing new technology starts with people. Besides an exceptional job at training and organizing maintenance staff, but you must also prepare them for the changes that will come with new systems and processes. The best thing you can do is to start building this culture of continuous improvement at your operation now.

The first item on your list should be to establish guiding principles to support maintenance best practices. The next step is to create official procedures for every process from work orders to purchasing in order to reinforce good habits and ensure data integrity. It is also important to prioritize good communication to build trust and accountability. Lastly, it is relevant to recognize and reward those who embrace change so the rest of the staff can get motivated to learn new ways of doing things.

The bottom line

Unlocking the true potential of Industry 4.0 will not be easy for you and your maintenance team. It is not just about buying a bunch of new technology; it is about using these tools to build a better maintenance organization. However, adopting a new way of planning, completing and measuring maintenance is a journey that will bring many improvements to your company. To see real changes to your maintenance strategy may take time, but it will help empower your team and unlock the awesome potential of Industry 4.0.

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About the author

Sandra Melo
Sandra Melo

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