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How predictive analytics can
optimise asset maintenance
BADRINATH SETLUR explains how to use data to address key strategic objectives.

ollecting and distilling digital information ● Oil change: This involves oil replacement at a fi xed
and extracting meaning from it holds great schedule because real-time oil quality analysis is not
potential to enhance customer satisfaction, possible.
reduce total cost of ownership, optimise ● Intercooler cleaning: This involves intercooler cleaning
resources and improve compliance. at a fi xed schedule because real-time analysis of coolant
Little wonder then that predictive analytics – a process and intercooler efficiency is not available, even though inlet
of using statistical and data mining techniques to analyse and outlet temperatures are measured.
historic and current data sets, create rules and predictive ● Bearing replacement: This involves bearing
models, and predict future events – is fast becoming a vital replacement at a fi xed frequency because no scientific
instrument to realise asset life cycle cost reduction and way to determine bearing life left is deployed even
improve the speed and accuracy of decision-making. though lubrication oil temperature, viscosity and bearing
vibrations are measured regularly.
Predictive analytics for assets ● Major overhaul: This involves a major overhaul of the
Assets are seldom standalone. They exist as a system of assets equipment at a fi xed frequency, usually more than that of
where they feed off each other. Between asset procurement/ the aforementioned procedures, because the manufacturer
commissioning and decommissioning/salvage lies the has prescribed it, even if all vital parameters look all right.
productive life of an asset. Regular upkeep or maintenance is All this entails avoidable downtimes, unnecessary
needed to maximise this life. There are two perspectives on maintenance expenses, lots of collected yet unutilised data,
how predictive analytics can help optimise asset maintenance: additional Capex (capital expenditure) for back-up equipment
● Individual equipment perspective: Typically, and complexity of operations due to the need to accommodate
maintenance frequency is defined based on various multiple downtimes, coordinate with downstream and
parameters such as asset age, asset criticality, operating upstream customers, and so on.
environments, risk of failure and so forth. As a result, more That can cost a lot of money; however, the maintenance
frequent maintenance would mean higher maintenance requirements are real. Operating equipment close to failure
expenses. Often the risk of failure forces over-maintenance thresholds may be riskier than we think. Why then are we
of assets. Over-maintaining can mean replacing lubricants talking about predictive analytics? Primarily, predictive
or bearings that still have life left. The ability to predict a analytics can help to determine failure thresholds, identify
failure can help move maintenance activities closer to the buffer zones and quantify risks in operating equipment
real need for maintenance and reduce over-maintenance. within known buffer zones. That’s also how predictive
● Productivity perspective: As can be imagined, a analytics can help optimise equipment maintenance.
system of assets, designed and scheduled for maximum
productivity, can benefit immensely if a failure of an event Power of predictive analytics
requiring maintenance is known in advance. Alternative Let us reimagine the same scenario with predictive analytics
schedules or plans can be prepared to ensure maintaining capability. Predictability does not mean the maintenance
productivity levels. software will tell you to replace a certain bearing on a certain
Ironically, in almost all common maintenance scenarios, piece of equipment in a certain process on a certain date at a
the ability to predict failures and move maintenance certain time.
procedures closer to failure exists. It is just that the risk of But it would indicate the probability (for example, there
failure keeps many organisations from taking those steps. is 89 percent chance) of a bearing failing at a given time.
Let us consider a multi-stage centrifugal air compressor. Business rules can be built to instruct a bearing replacement
Some of the typical maintenance procedures carried out today above a certain threshold (for example, when there is a more
on centrifugal equipment include: than 70 percent probability of failure). Evidently, this allows


41959_42-43_asset manage.indd 42 10/07/2015 12:09 pm

For example. span). a provider of information technology. risks one is willing to take to be quantified (for example. Logistics. there is an 88 percent chance that 70 percent is the risk threshold). Manufacturing. This can then help to answer the question: is there time. others. ● to be applied with business insights to derive benefits (for example. www. consulting that a unit will operate successfully at a particular point and business process outsourcing services. ● Reactive maintenance: In this. an emphatic ‘no’. Capex. plotted to predict with a degree of confidence what the oil ● Probability of failure given time: This indicates the quality (oil viscosity or decomposition) will be at a given probability that a unit will fail at a particular point in time. because the saving (fewer maintenance dollars. criticality and so forth. equally the related process changes and change management. given point of time and whether or not there is a need for ● B(X) life: This indicates the estimated time when the maintenance. in time. increased ● RCM: This emphasises the use of predictive maintenance operational efficiencies) are immense. This delta over a period of time can be plotted This metric is often referred to as ‘mean time to failure’ to determine statistically what the value will be at a (MTTF) or ‘mean time before failure’ (MTBF). RCM provides companies KPIs to monitor assets with a tool to achieve lowest asset Net Present Costs (NPC) KPIs (key performance indicators) are different for different for a given level of performance and risk. fewer spares. create and use data to address their strategic Data and statistics will provide quantification. the 70 percent risk quantification mentioned earlier). Reliability of bearings has to be predicted life is four years. spares utilisation and so on) outweigh the equipment in order to predict when maintenance should cost of building those capabilities (software. optimise asset operations. This is also known as ‘unreliability’. techniques in addition to traditional preventive measures. Badrinath Setlur. the benefits through direct asset-related routine. but will need objectives.indd 43 10/07/2015 12:09 pm . While data and distilling data are the predictive and reliability-centred maintenance – are working fi ne. time-based preventive maintenance. consequently. Once done. is intact. individual components – such as intercoolers and bearings preventive. There is always a sweet spot where savings ● Predictive maintenance: In this. predictive and RCM approaches are the ones decision on the need for a major overhaul should be that best leverage predictive capabilities. maintenance practices are classified as reactive. The author. However. longer life tasks are performed only when warranted. capture. For example. When properly implemented. No actions or efforts are maintenance activities closer to when needed and taken to maintain the equipment. Does building predictive analytics capability cost lots of detection and correction of failures either before they occur time.fmmagazine. among important is the way in which organisations instrument. assuming everything else in the population are expected to operate before failure. probability of failure will reach a specified point (X ● Bearing replacement: Predicting bearing life can be percent). Due Predictive analytics is the process of moving from hindsight consideration needs to be given to the role of statistics and to insight. and organisational saving (optimal teams. practice statistical from predictive capabilities (reduction in maintenance techniques are used to determine the condition of in-service expenses. But if Traditionally. Energy and Utilities at ● Reliability given time: This indicates the probability Cognizant. making a judgement or qualitative (RCM). This approach promises cost-savings over etc). ● Preventive maintenance: This involves activities carried out for the purpose of maintaining equipment in It’s not difficult or expensive satisfactory operating condition by systematic inspection. operating conditions. required to build a predictive maintenance culture. then the B(10) endurance lives. a significant difference in the quality of oil supplied by a 12 percent chance that the unit could potentially fail different vendors? after three years of operation (probability of failure or ● Intercooler cleaning: Temperature delta between unreliability) is the same as an 88 percent chance that it inlet and outlet for coolant water and air is a good way to will operate successfully (reliability). is assistant vice president – Here are a few commonly used KPIs: Consulting. human resources be performed. money and effort? The answer to this big question is or before they develop into major defects. For example. measure efficiency. A lower delta would mean less heat ● Mean life: This indicates the average time that the units taken away and lower efficiency. This can help figure a trend. push allowed to run until it breaks. straightforward. as identical bearings tend to display different expected to fail by four years of operation. asset types. if 10 percent of the products are tricky. based on the installed population of bearings and analysing failure data to identify patterns. Predictive analytics and ● Major overhaul: Something like this will be difficult to maintenance practices predict statistically (or there may not be a need).au AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2015 FM 41959_42-43_asset manage. practice equipment is All this can help widen maintenance intervals. the product will operate successfully after three years of ● Oil change: Oil quality over a period of time can be operation.