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Modern Maintenance Matters

29 October 2018

Welcome to Modern Maintenance Matters, a regular monthly blog that you can read online and in each of the monthly newsletters we are publishing in support of Maintec 2018, all the way up to the exhibition in November 2018.

In these articles, I will explore many of the changes and challenges facing maintenance personnel in the modern era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, taking Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things away from marketing buzz-speak and towards direct relevance to our audience of production engineers and operations directors. The majority are not yet at that point, so we will also discuss how more traditional maintenance activities are evolving.

It will be a big part of our new Maintec experience to offer help and guidance in all these areas, both through this blog and through conference presentations at the event itself. As the conference agenda takes shape over the next 12 months, we will keep you informed about the topics on offer, the speakers and more detail about the issues that will be covered.

The fourth Industrial Revolution will usher in a new approach to maintenance activities, offering as it does, the ability to measure parameters at the coalface, and pass that data, remotely if needs be, for analysis. How digital technologies will underpin the concept of continuous maintenance. The more data is obtained over time, the more confidence there can be in the predictions made, and this helps with planning maintenance schedules and the logistics of having spare parts available at the right time.

But like all good things, it comes at a cost: the application of digital technologies across factory settings can be a complicated and expensive activity. But its value to a business in terms of manufacturing efficiency and maintenance improvement can make it a hugely worthwhile investment.

Another dimension of the cost are the huge amounts of data - so-called "Big Data" - which need to be stored and managed. What software systems are available to help with the analysis? Is it safe to store such data in the cloud? What are the security implications of opening up industrial networks in this way to engineers who may be using laptops, tablets and smartphones as part of their armoury?

These changing roles for the maintenance function has wider implications too. The skillset required for the maintenance engineer has changed, with new skills required, and some older ones - arguably - less important. As in all engineering disciplines, and in the light of proposed changes in the political landscape, the UK faces acute skills shortages.

Other issues to be addressed over the next year or so will include maintenance in hazardous environments, how to build a maintenance strategy, and how complex, trans-national supply chain influence the maintenance function. These will be illustrated by interviews and case studies, across the spectrum of market sectors in manufacturing and processing, including automotive, aerospace, energy, food, pharma and others.

In this regard, readers are welcome to make contact with questions, ideas for topics and offers of case studies. The more interactive we can make the dialogue, the more valuable it will be for us all.

In November, we will get underway a detailed consideration of Maintenance in the Smart Factory.

Andy Pye
Consulting Editor