6 July, 2022

Flying the flag for Maintenance 4.0

23 June, 2022

Maintenance processes have always been critical within manufacturing and engineering from a plant and asset management perspective. The methodologies have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, and we are now hearing more and more about Maintenance 4.0 – part of the Industry 4.0 ecosystem concerning greater levels of automation and data interconnection.

The UK’s take-up of Industry 4.0/Maintenance 4.0, is sometimes regarded as rather sluggish compared with some of our foreign counterparts – the US and Germany, for example. However, based on comments from contributors to one of DFA Manufacturing Media’s recent Talking Industry online panel discussions – addressing the theme of Plant and Asset Management – the view of the UK lagging behind can to a large extent be debunked. Sally Sillis, technology centre manager at Schaeffler UK Ltd, the multinational bearings and condition monitoring solutions provider, maintains that the UK is on the whole mature vis-à-vis Industry 4.0/Maintenance 4.0 adoption. “We have a lot of specialists when I compare with my colleagues in other countries and I think we are very far advanced,” she said.

In her view, much of this advancement stems from the oil and gas industry, which spurred greater levels of condition monitoring knowhow. However, she believes one of the main problems when we talk about genuine Industry 4.0 and Maintenance 4.0 is that we have quite old infrastructure in our plants in the UK. “Quite often when we are consulting with customers, they'll say all of this is really interesting to us but we’re too busy fixing things and I don't have time to look into the being proactive,” she said. “So, I think we have to get the absolute basics of plant management right before we can move to the next phase.” Sillis also believes it is easier for companies to implement if they are building new factories from scratch. However, she qualifies this by adding that there aren’t many new factories being built in the UK.

During the debate, Tony Coughlan, managing director, Turck Banner Ltd, said his company has enjoyed considerable success in the UK implementing its condition monitoring solutions. “Customers are dipping their toes in the water a lot more now,” he said, adding that during the pandemic and ongoing raw material shortages, firms are seeing maintenance and the capturing of the right type of information as even more important. However, in terms of how companies consume this information and use it to be more proactive and to identify how to put in place improvements around quality and make major cost savings etc, Coughlan considers that there is still some way to go. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we’re definitely on the journey,” he said, adding that the UK stands up well to what companies are doing in Europe. Coughlan also made the point that many UK companies are now trying to be less reactive and more proactive to maintenance issues.

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