Sweating your assets’ might sound a little left field – or like a lot of hard work – but in fact, it’s one of the most important strategies for hardware-heavy businesses that want to drive efficiencies and keep costs to a minimum.It involves maximising the use and (useful) lifespan of physical assets as far as possible through scheduling and clever maintenance. So far, so good. However, too many organisations read ‘clever maintenance’ and think that means ‘maintenance every other day’ or ‘replacing spare parts every other week’.
In some cases – sure. Sweating your assets might look like that. But equally, that might be a very laborious, costly and ultimately wasteful way of looking after them – which means, conversely, that you’re not maximising their lifespan at all. You’re putting them out of action unnecessarily when carrying out checks and replacement, so you’re not getting the most useful, effective working hours out of them that you might. Furthermore, because you’re allocating unnecessary time and money on looking after those assets, you’re actually making them far costlier to run overall.
So, outside scheduling, sweating your assets is about balancing day-to-day functionality, maintenance and repairs – making sure they take place early enough that small problems don’t escalate into larger ones, and cheap repairs don’t turn into drastically expensive replacements – but equally, that they don’t take place so early that you could have got more useful action out of said asset in the meantime.
How do you achieve this?
One of the great advantages of the Internet of Things (IoT) era in terms of asset management is that IoT applications attached to physical assets can automatically collect a vast amount of useful data on how that equipment is performing. What are the levels of oils, lubricants and other consumables that asset requires? How many units is it producing every hour, and when is it busiest? Is a potential mechanical, electrical or hydraulic failure developing, that could be easily fixed before it becomes something more problematic? Is a part nearing the end of its life? And – crucially – how does this asset link to others in the organisation? If it fails, which bottlenecks will it cause in your processes? What are its dependents – and what does it depend on?
Clearly, since this information develops in real time, manually collecting and examining it would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. But because the nature of the IoT means that all assets are connected, that information can be fed into a centralised, cloud-based system – which then carries out all that onerous analysis automatically.
The next step is to set up pre-determined factors or statuses that will enable you to carry out maintenance at the optimum point – before a small flaw has become a big one. Once again, all of this can be automated using machine learning to build a picture of “Estimated Time to Failure”. The system digitally identifies when those statuses have been reached, and sends you an alert – it’s then down to you as to how you deal with it. You might choose to send out a maintenance engineer immediately, or you might schedule a maintenance window over the next few days.
Timing, indeed, is another crucial factor in sweating your assets effectively. It’s not enough to know that you need to carry out maintenance – you also need to choose a time to carry out that maintenance that will impact the least on your operations. And, happily, the data collected by those IoT sensors can help you make this decision too. Once you have a clear ‘map’ of how your assets interrelate, and a series of trend maps explaining when your asset is working hardest, it is far easier to make a strategic decision in terms of scheduling maintenance.
In short, an asset-monitoring platform, powered by the IoT, is the gateway to far more intelligent and effective use of your physical assets – among the most valuable elements in your business infrastructure.